Scarcity and Creativity in the built Environment

2 Oct

Contemporary global socio-economic conditions and climate change pose an uncertainty regarding future development of the built environment. It is urgent to shift towards more resilient

strategies for the urban development where an investigation into retrofitting the existing inhabited landscape is central. New spatial connections and programs at the level of the building, the block, the neighborhood and on the level of the city can be identified, and alternative approaches can challenge the unfruit

ful processes of the past decade.

Mapping recent developments adds to our understanding of the challenges we face and the urgency to rethink the decision making processes and management of the manmade environment.


The case of the Reykjavik Capital Area (RCA), illustrates how the global economic climate in a boom can produce severe challenges for mobility, resource flows and habitation on the local level in a developed western society. The deadlock of rapid transformation (2000-2008), with the emergence of partly fragmented urban landscapes represents a burden for the environment and the people.

The new (mostly residential-) developments under construction in the last 6 years before the crash represent ca. 25% of the footprint of the city. And they are located on the fringe where the city most clearly meets the elements.

Climate, soil and water represent potentials and limitations for agriculture, build up, sea harvesting and forestry. More knowledge about the local ecological potentials and their application in the built environment can give insights into new opportunities: Opportunities for closing the cycles of resource flows as near as possible to the bottom level and reducing the dependence of the RCA from external (from abroad or far away) resource supplies.

It is important figure out the potentials of these half-developed environments built with plenty of resources in the years of the boom, many of which are badly or not used at all. In a extended perspective it would seem fair to argue that this should be done before new plans are proposed. However brand new masterplans open the way for new residential developments close to the center which put pressure on open spaces inside the city with little regard to the outlined subject. The cult of the center, a political system made up of 4 years perspectives and the rather bleak image of an abandoned halfbuilt suburbia, make a serious job with this urgent issue a rather distant dream within the current planning system.

All this underpins our decision to make these evironments central to this research project.

We investigate challenges and opportunities in the Reykjavík Capital Area through the themes of DWELLING, FOOD, WATER and MOBILITY


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