Luxury of the North

Luxury of the North was initiated as a research project commissioned by Droog Design as a part of Droog Lab Luxury of the North. The Lab took place in Canada’s Pond Inlet in partnership with the University of Alberta’s Principal Investigator Tim Antoniuk, and Winy Maas and Cynthia Hathaway as leading designers.

The Canadian North and its extreme qualities —extreme coldness, remoteness, lightness, darkness, feasts and famines— that shape people’s living practices and ways of using resources there became the central point of the research. With travel becoming more of a commodity rather than a luxury in the Western world, the North, just doesn’t seem too far out of reach anymore. Further studies about the North also remind us about issues of global warming happening right before our eyes.

The Arctic is changing. The inaccessible, icebound land once reserved only for polar bears, adventure seekers and researchers has existed as a blank spot on the map for years. Now, as the frosty frontiers loosen up, with the promise of plentiful natural resources and transportation shortcuts, the arctic is beginning to grab the world’s attention. It has become the undiscovered land of desire — rich not only in resources, but also in qualities that remain scarce in our cities. Could we recognise these features as precious and worth learning from? Could we see them as a different kind of wealth, free from the political and environmental controversies, which often overshadow the positive values that the north has to offer? Imagine we could import some of these Arctic qualities to other places on earth; could they bring novel perspectives to the way we live and build cities?

After investigating together with other researchers the local conditions of Baffin Island in Arctic Canada during Droog Lab, The Why Factory has conducted a workshop titled Luxury of the North with 18 architecture students from TU Delft. Observations and further research led us to design and visualise 5 city concepts, which reveal mental and natural qualities of the Arctic. The qualities, rooted in its extreme conditions and the way local people perceive them, are often far removed from those found in contemporary cities. Thus, our scenarios crossbred the contrasts of unique northern features with common urban standards in surprising and paradoxical ways.

HORIZON CITY celebrates the love for infinity with an ever-present view to the horizon; SILENT CITY is inspired by the silence and serenity of the arctic environment; FOREST CITY praises everyone’s nature; YOUR HALO re-imagines the city as an intense, exciting, physical experience; and with 24/7 CITY daylight can last forever.

All of the scenarios were presented internationally including: public lecture by Pirjo Haikola at the University of Alberta in Edmonton on December 8, 2011 and a presentation at Salone del Mobile at Droog +20 Exhibition in 2013. Luxury of the North will also be published in a book by Droog Design later in 2014.