Nouvelles Cartographies du Nord

We are happy to be invited to the Phyllis Lambert seminar at Université de Montréal February 25-26. Under the conference theme New Northern Cartographies we will present Impacts of global pressure on vulnerable landscapes and societies: planning for unknown futures in Maniitsoq, Greenland.

New Northern Cartographies
Conception and organisation : Alessandra Ponte

“Il y a tant de nords dans ce Nord” (There are many norths in this North). Thus wrote the great Québécois geographer Louis‐Edmond Hamelin in Nordicité canadienne (1975). The remark summarized his brilliant reconfiguration of the Canadian North. Hamelin graded ten geographical and human factors ‐ latitude, summer heat, annual cold, types of ice, precipitation, vegetation cover, land or sea accessibility, air service, population, economic activity ‐ on the scale of 0‐100 (100 representing extreme nordicity). The sum of the ten elements indicated the VAPO (Valeur polaires, polar values) of a region, with the North Pole reaching a VAPO of 1000. On this basis, Hamelin proposed a redefinition of the Canadian North in Extreme North, Far North, Middle North, and Near North. Thus an incredibly vast and vaguely defined geographical entity was reduced to a series of manageable regions open to transformation. Hamelin also identified and defined processes of “nordification” and “denordification”. Major technological investments could diminish drastically the degree of nordicity of a region, while a locality could undergo a process of brutal nordification when mining or other industrial activities were suspended. Hamelin’s method was inspired by the criteria applied by Russian engineers in order to better identify the regional, local, or punctual realities of the Siberian continent. In both cases, the Nordicity Index, indicating the degree of the investment of the government in a region assumed a charged political connotation and heralded the idea of a “voluntary geography”, or the radical transformation of once uninhabitable territories thanks to the technological harnessing of a previously forbidding “Nature”.

The works of Hamelin and of Russian scientists appeared at the end of more than three decades of powerful efforts of militarization and modernization of the Arctic regions. The awareness of the strategic importance of the North began during WWII and reinforced throughout the Cold War, stimulated the deployment of massive resources for the building of vast transportation networks, spectacular military installations, and ambitious permanent settlement. This vigorous activity did not escape the attention of intellectuals, architects and artists that, during the Sixties and the Seventies, produced a plethora of provoking proposals or poignant commentaries addressing the massive changes taking place in the once remote and romantic North.

During the last two decades, the end of the Cold War and subsequent realignment of the balance of powers, together with massive climate changes, have in fact redefined, once again, the map of the Arctic region and rekindled a passionate interest in the North. The proposal is that the 2011 Phyllis Lambert Seminar will take the form of a colloquium, to be held at the École d’architecture, Université de Montréal, February 25‐26, 2011. Architects, artists, film makers, geographers, and climatologists will be asked to participate.

Click for program and poster pdf:s.

No comments: