The city as prism, lens, magnifying glass
The city is composed of slow masses, large buildings and heavy infrastructure that provide it with durability. Simultaneously it changes. The city is never finished, always becoming. In it are stories on what a society is, has been and can become.
With the project «Blok P – demolition as ritual?» we take as our starting point this tension between urban durability and change, between the building as an ongoing event and a historically situated form.
Designed after the ideals of Danish social housing in the 1960s and decided built by the Ministry of Greenland, populated as part of a centralization policy inflicted from Copenhagen and decided demolished by the Greenlandic government in 2009: What does Blok P represent in Greenland’s history? What types of urban life did it enable and what opportunities are there in the space left empty after it? Can its demolition be seen a break with the country’s colonial inheritance? Or does it rather represent a social regulation? Can the demolition be understood as a ritual, and if so, for whom?
In our exploration of Blok P we have chosen to consider the city’s expressions – its materiality, language and symbols – as a collection of traces that in different manners enable us to approach these questions. The city can in this sense be thought of as a prism – what we see depends on from where we view the city – as a lens – it draws our attention both to and away from specific aspects of a society – and as a magnifying glass – with its density and publics the city can force upon us conditions we would rather ignore, enhance and give force to that which we appreciate. To study Blok P thus provides us with different, but also specific ways of understanding Nuuk and Greenland.
As a starting point for our exploration we have followed the traces of the Blok P’s materiality, its becoming and its destruction: Architect drawings from the GTO archives, letters sent from Landshøvdingen to the Ministry of Greenland in Copenhagen, weekly building reports from Store Slette, the materials that went into Blok P’s construction, traces of its usage, names carved into and painted upon the walls of its common rooms, the elaborate sorting of metals, woodwork, pollutants during the demolition, the containers that transported them back to Denmark.
Put together these traces make out a sketch, the contours of a particular urban form; an urbanism constituted in colonial times in transformed by post-colonial processes. The work «Blok P – living rooms» is an interpretation of these contours and the product of a learning process that has only just begun. As visitors our knowledge is limited. Our further work thus depends upon access to the knowledge and understandings of those who have lived their lives in Blok P.
Tone Huse and Carsten Aniksdal, Tromsø/Oslo 31.6.2013