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Europan 14: Productive Cities


City: Narvik
Title: Stitch Narvik

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Within the contemporary city, it is difficult to single out active urban centers that are not perpetuating the phenomena of gentrification at the same time. This is perhaps the great challenge facing Western cities: How to reactive urban voids with new forms of production, knowledge, and communities without increasing inequality and segregation?

The dilemma of inserting new forms of production into pre-WWII Western cities is a ubiquitous. Rarely do we make ground up cities anymore, therefore, we have to leverage the potentials of retrofitting these historic frameworks. Though the problem is ubiquitous, the opportunity to work inside of Narvik is highly specific. It’s the specificity of the urban structure, the scale and proportions of the architecture, the extreme terrain (between Ofotfjorden and Narvikfjellet), and its distorted relationship of time, between day and night, that fully pack the question: What is a productive city?

In this project, we are interested in reformatting the problem, by understanding the relationship of production and living at different levels of resolution; the territorial, the urban, and the architecture. Through these viewports, as the title suggests, the conceptual grounding for this project is simple—we stitch.

The Ofoten line bifurcates the urban fabric, separating the extreme typography from the seaside. The urban fabric responds to the rail infrastructure, operating s a series of offsets. We’re drawn to the notion of using the project site and strategic site, located between Kongensate and the rail line, as an operative thread, one that stitches together the districts on each side. This connectivity is achieved in two ways: First, in thinking of the campus as a microcosm of the city itself, we impose a grid that connects the existing but allows for the placement of the new ensemble. Second, by looping thoroughfares that bridge from the project site to the adjacent blocks.

Equally important to the question of what should be inserted at this urban scale intervention is what this new form of urbanism looks like? All too often the solution is “solved” with a superblock and monolithic structure that absorbs all variability and nuance, missing the mark when considering the urban resolution of the city’s fabric; Narvik’s resolution is largely defined by the iconic three-story house. In relationship to this scale, we create a set of self-similar pieces that, when positioned adjacent to each other—form a legible whole.