The community-based project Tromsø – A City as a Garden is characterized by participatory design and a concern for sustainability.

We think of the city of Tromsø as an inspiring but fundamentally fragile environment – the latest findings tell us that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as other regions of the Earth. What awaits the people of Tromsø are not only the opportunities that come from the new extraction of natural resources and increased traffic through previously inaccessible oceans, but also potential social problems from accelerated migration and development, as well as a dramatically changed living environment. At a time when the world is experiencing a backlash against globalization and looking for solutions to the questions posed by climate change, the people of Tromsø can develop the tools they need for their community and environment to be able to address the coming challenges. Following local sustainable principles, they can articulate a new culture of living, which other communities can learn from in the search for a sustainable existence.

A hundred years from now, what will life in Tromsø look like? In a scenario based on local sustainable principles, it will be a city of strong, small neighbourhoods. Here shared space – community space – will be more important than public space. The emphasis will be on collectivity and a new culture of living, as well as on the preservation and protection of the local culture and local knowledge – think of current efforts by the Sami community to reclaim their culture and territories. The city will be redefined into smaller sustainable territories operating on the community level – think of a decentralized compost system, for example, and a recycling centre where building materials can be reused for do-it-yourself construction. Another example would be a hybrid heating facility composed of a 20th-century heating plant and attached greenhouses. Any unneeded heat produced by the heating plant is captured and reused to heat the greenhouses for local food cultivation. In sustainable Tromsø, the residents’ involvement in organizing their living environment and a participatory form of governance are essential; they are two sides of the same coin. Here, too, new allegiances are forged as the local community connects with the world. In an age of collaborations, sharing ideas and practices with the world is essential.

Title: Tromsø – A City as a Garden
Date: March 4-8, 2013
Location: Tromsø, Norway
The Class of the Design for the Living World in collaboration with: the Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art and partners of UniGrowCity: Nomadisch Grün (D), The New Beauty Council (SE) , GAIA (PT) , Pari Center for New Learning (IT) and City Mine(d) (GB)
Students: Albin Andersson, Basak Gøl, Lisa Kästner, Amalia Ruiz-Larrea, Mai Shirato, Julia Suwalski, Nuriye Tohermes, Johan Romme, William Schwartz, with guests of the class Valentina Karga (UDK Universität der Künste Berlin) and Johanna Padge (Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle).
Supported by: HFBK Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg and the Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art

Relational Objects: the five felt-making machines, the yurt, the rocket stove, the marked Tromsø Commune territory, and the three maps created at the World Cafe session – Land and Water, Self-Construction, and Food.
Performative Actions: dumpster diving, marking of the Tromsø Commune territory and marking of water levels, the rocket stove performance at the Red Cannon House, felt production, the World Cafe discussions and presentation of the project at the Troms County House.

Tromsø Report (pdf)


Tromsø – A City as a Garden Blog

Exhibited at:

Self-organization Makes Up a Third of the Curriculum
Interview with Marjetica Potrč, Veronica Wiman & Amalia Ruiz-Larrea
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Tromsø – A City as a Garden

Tromsø – A City as a Garden at UniGrowCity Tromsø, March 4-8, 2013

During the UniGrowCity gathering, March 4-8, 2013, participants will enter a world of do-it-yourself building, reusing materials, and growing and harvesting vegetables. Here water is seen as a precious natural resource and a territory that is less regulated than land. We will revisit the concept of the commons at a time when public space is increasingly being privatized, and we will rethink the relationship between city residents and nature in an age we call the Anthropocene.
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DIY rocket stove: Tromsø version

Video by Valentina Karga

DIY wool felt for Yurt structure in Tromsø

Video by Valentina Karga


Relational Objects

The students of Design for the Living World understand design as the production of ‘relational objects’ (i.e. objects that establish relationships). Relational objects are used by the people in a community as tools for changing their culture of living. They are catalysts of change.
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Participatory Design

Participatory design encourages participation and foregrounds its users. For students of Design for the Living World, this means working with and sharing knowledge with local residents.
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Artists and Designers as Mediators

The practice of the Design for the Living World class is based on the production and exchange of knowledge with local residents. We create relational objects that communities use as tools to change their culture of living. We see ourselves as mediators in this process. The designer’s role is to mediate and help envision a project that articulates a new culture of living.
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Discussion_World_Cafe_food Discussion_World_Cafe_selfconstruction Discussion_World_Cafe_water_and_land


Recommendations for More Sustainable Food Production and Consumption in Tromsø
A hundred years from now, what kind of food will the people of Tromsø be eating? Will it be locally grown root vegetables? Industrially produced foods? How can traditional local knowledge be applied in the twenty-first century, which we hope will be more sustainable than the past century?
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Community 1
Residing in a world that is increasingly specialized. Surrounded by enigma machines. Without knowledge of their inner workings.
Trust is the only option; and hope, hope that the machine is on your side, and when the machine stops. The only thing that glows in the dark is the error message.
A vessel for exploring gaps in regulations, conventions and economy.
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Photo by Marco Clausen


Available Space
Caring for the commons had to be a multiple task, organized from the ground up and shaped to cultural norms.
Residents lost the connection to their space. Residents have to realise their own responsibility and start acting and organising their community by themselves.
If the opposition between humanity and nature is now suspended, how do we change our perspectives and perception? Is it still possible to think in concepts of “artificial” and “natural?-this is part of the atropocene—
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