Nordic Light- The city that never sleeps (2005)

A proposal for the development of Umeå city centre, questioning the existing exclusive plans and city-branding thinking. The project was made together with Aldís Ellertsdóttir, Fanny Carinasdotter and Mikael Näsström in collaboration with Barnaby Drabble and Hinrich Sachs

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Umeå, end of 2004: The city planning development in Umeå is taken to a new level when the real-estate company Balticgruppen presents new ideas for how the area between the two bridges in the centre of Umeå is going to be developed. Their much hyped project involved six proposals from different architect firms. Through these proposals Umeå would strengthen its position as the capital of the north of Sweden and make a name for itself internationally. The project would create an attractive environment with a high financial capacity.
The winning proposal came from the architects at Snöhetta (also behind the winning proposal of the monument at Ground zero), involving a new high rise hotel and conference centre on an artificial island in the river together with an in- and outdoor park along the riverside.
The proposal was decided upon by a jury group consisting of men with an average age of over fifty-five. When confronted with the questions of why the group didn’t involve any women the answer in the local papers was that it hadn’t been possible to find any women of the desired competence.

We perceived this vision as an exclusive, executive Umeå. And together with a rather uncritical media-coverage of the development we saw a necessity to comment, but rather than attacking the proposals and Balticgruppen directly, we began planning our own proposal. By endorsing and amplifying the development logic that we saw as problematic, we wanted to make the exclusivity visible.

Beginning of 2005: We formed a fictional research group at Umeå university called Ny stad (New City), consisting of people from the fields of ethnology, media- and communication, culture geography etc. The group held a press conference heralding a new proposal for the development of the city centre of Umeå, complementary to the existing proposal from Snöhetta. In this proposal called Nordic Light- The city that never sleeps, the city centre was about to be transformed into an all hour, Ibiza like, party zone, focusing on people from 18-25. On the central boulevard there were to be built a 78 meter high building with a snowboard half pipe on top, hosting gaming halls and MTV-studios. The town hall was going to be removed to the museum district, and in its place there were to be a huge entertainment complex with a 24 hour nightclub, icebar and a 300 seat sauna. Between the lines the Nordic Light proposal would bundle of all people over 25 years of age to the periphery of the city.

model

Nordic Light was presented as a press conference where actors played the representatives from the Ny Stad group. The actors Jessica Sjöberg, Ted Srigley and Hinrich Sachs (as a Swiss architect) where convincing and the audience took the proposal as sincere and authentic. The authenticity of the proposal was further increased with a 3D-model made by VR-lab and Per-Arne Sträng.
In the audience there were journalists from local media, the city-architect and the head of Balticgruppen, Krister Ohlsson.

The authenticity was never questioned on the press conference, and media covered it with interest (papers, radio and TV). In TV-interviews Krister Ohlsson said that it was an interesting proposal and that he wanted to get in contact with the Ny Stad group.

press conference

press conference

The day after the press conference we declared the proposal as fictional, an artistic intervention aiming to promote a discussion about power relations in city development and public planning. Through the project we were posing certain questions: For whom is the city built? Who has the possibility, power and right to put forward development proposals? When is a proposal viewed as something for real? We also wanted to illustrate how media-coverage all too easily could be exploited for strategic marketing in the realization of a city planning vision..

 
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Selected press-coverage (pdf)
 
         
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Press-material (pdf)