Kirkeness | Culture and Non-places

Location: Kirkeness, Norway

Year: 2017

Framework:  Oslo architecture triennale



Kirkenes is on its way to become a new hub in the incoming regional development. A development that unfolds in many different aspects: transnational, economic, touristic, cultural, urbanistic… In the midst of this rapid changes, new identities may arise, and the ones already present will certainly experiment pressures and transformations. But will they take active part in the process? Or will they be mere spectators and passive agents of decisions made in distant capitals and big company headquarters?

There are already solid links in place between Kirkenes and neighbouring towns across the border: municipal cooperation is strongly present in many aspects, and given the shared past of the people in the region, one can only wonder if it truly translates into a defined cultural identity transversal to the traditional ones (Russian, Norwegian, Sami) and a new sense of belonging beyond the set frontier.

The proposed intervention, far from projecting new buildings and infrastructures, tries to identify local transborder identities and help them articulate their voices in a way that they are listened at by all the actors involved. The views of the people directly affected by any intervention should be acknowledged before undertaking or even proposing new constructions in their very own environment. The idea of debating, reasoning and respecting the environment and public spaces before any intervention is the spirit of this proposal.

Being the extraction of natural resources a cornerstone of the local economy, a design is presented in a way that resembles the extraction process, with the underlying idea of obtaining a benefit from exploring and listening to the voices on the ground, the local human(e) resources, the citizens. It´s named Cultural Extraction, and it is divided in five phases: probing-drilling-extracting-processing-profiting: because natural resources are NOT the only valuable thing to be found in Kirkenes and its surroundings.

The proposal minimizes external intervention, reducing it to a mere facilitator role in a much larger local process that aims to reach a transnational dimension, by identifying different identities; incentivizing the creation of forums, channels and platforms; assisting in the articulation of discourse and proposals, and strengthening local civil society. To this end, all the population of Kirkenes, floating or permanent, should be invited. They are the ones who must have a say in how the community has to evolve. The alliance with local institutions, specially municipalities, cultural and grassroots organizations, is essential for the success of the proposal, and the cultural aspects will be a constant through supporting cultural activities to reinforce the different stages of the process.

The implementation process will be based on participatory tools and activities, supported by cultural events and research on different relevant aspects