Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Competition for Mo I Rana Waterfront (1st place) in Norway by arkitektgruppen cubus
February 22nd, 2014 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: arkitektgruppen cubus
Mo i Rana has always had a primarily functional relationship to the fjord, which has been one of two major transport systems serving the local industries of iron- and concrete production, the other being the railway. The town is located far inland and the fjord has always served as a main connection with the rest of the world. The railway has served as the other main pulse connecting the town to the east and south, in addition to the two main roads E6 and E12. The railway track runs straight through the centre of the town and acts as a physical barrier between the town proper and the fjord, only surmounted by bridges or underground tunnels. This prevents the establishment of a physical and programmatic continuity linking the two.
The contrasting qualities of a town cut in two can be seen as a positive asset. The two halves are in many ways very different and even opposing in character, and their potential for development is also apart. You could say that this duality is precisely what consists the very identity of Mo i Rana. Accordingly each area should be developed so as to retain and develop the quality that makes it different from the other half, and at the same time establish connections between the two.
This is the main concept of our proposal in which we seek to create a dialogue between two very different areas: The big open natural landscape on the seafront and the dense man-built industrial environment on the urban side of the railway line. This duality will provide a wide and exciting range of urban and natural experiences in interplay:
Dense urbanity- open landscape
We propose the image of a dual chambered heart a fitting picture of the two halves of Mo i Rana. They share the same bloodstream and depend on each other. They have different purposes and accordingly are “designed” differently, yet interact and function as a whole. Together they provide the beating pulse that is the life of Mo i Rana.
Mo i Rana’s economy has rested mainly on the industrial processing of steel and concrete. These industries have been of major importance for the growth and identity of the region as a whole, and has had a dominating influence on the built seafront, since this is where the factories lie. The image of a powerful industrial community is central to the identity of the town as a whole.
A NEW JOINT EFFORT
Rather than impose a design strategy and products from elsewhere, would like to utilize the material, design and production knowledge of the local industry in our project for the seafront park and promenade. Our proposal involves the design of a series of large scale spatial modules that is used to transform the local terrain and micro climate at a given spot to provide places for shelter, sitting, reclining, access, connection between levels, play and sport, as well as evoke curiosity. By allowing local knowledge and technology to be a design parameter, the project will be deeply rooted in the local identity and an expression of the pride and capability of the local community.
It will also allow for innovation in the local industry by establishing a new production line for use in the seafront project. It is our aim that the use of traditional technology and innovative design will strengthen the sense of identity and pride in the project and perhaps inspire a new wave of regeneration for both the industry and the town.
GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT OF PROJECT
Our advice is not to aim to develop the whole promenade at once, but rather to concentrate the efforts to a few strategic spots where a new activity program can create a transformative dynamo and a sense of change The skating arena would be a good place to start, since the area has a good location between housing areas, the town and the seafront, and entails a programme that is dynamic and rejuvenating.
The design of the new spatial modules should involve local industry, schools, designers and landscape architects, and should be thought of as a continuous local design and innovation process that develop over time rather than as a finalized series of products.
One can imagine the design and realization of one module annually, either chosen by the work group or as a result of a local competition, and each project adapted both to the chosen spot and to the desired programme. In this way the seafront will become an arena of cooperative creativity and renewal, and every walk along the seafront spur new ideas and projects. In time the seafront will be a monument not just to good local design but also to the close knit industrious community that created it.
MAIN DESIGN CONCEPT
Locally produced spatial modules developed in a local think tanks and based on local materials and production skills.
CONCEPT FOR SEAFRONT PARK
Maintain the identity of the area but infuse it with a new pulse by the careful placing of recognizable yet innovative and locally produced spatial elements on strategic places. Over time the transformed hotspots will form a continuum that offers a wide range of variation for leisure , play and inspiration.
ACESSIBILITY AND ACTIVITY
The street Søndre gate gives access to the whole seafront both by car, on foot or by bike. It runs parallel to the sea and is relatively sheltered from the harsh winds.
The seafront promenade will be retained as a mainly natural landscape with indigenous flora and fauna. The area closer inland bordering the housing belt will be developed to a higher degree of cultivation and park-like character with flowering plants forming the border to the gardens. The southernmost area will be laid out with trees, lawns, paths and lighting- a general green park landscape for strolling and play, awaiting later hot spot projects.
In order to take advantage of the natural night-lights of moon, stars and aurora borealis that is so abundant in these parts of the world, the added artificial lighting is subtle. Polycarbonate tubes with LED lighting is inlaid across the path and glows like hot iron trail in the dark, also up Havmannsaksen, under the railway tracks and connecting with the pedestrianized main street. The steel factory is lit for drama and events with effect- and spotlights.
Søndre gate street is lit by a new series of street lights produced locally from I- beams using the same aesthetic and conceptual idea as in the seafront promenade.
The basic DNA the seafront promenade consists of 3 main types of spatial modules. These are developed to cater for a wide range of terrain and programmatic situations, and can be positioned in a variety of ways either individually or as a group or sequence. They will be produced using local technology and will be instantly recognizable as such. This will create a varied rhythm of events all along the seafront, sometimes places to stay, sometimes places to play, a malleable and playful structure with soft zoning for a range of characteristics and activities.
A retaining wall made from a steel plate and a retaining net protects provides for the build up of sufficient earth and the protection of the sensitive beach flora. The retaining walls can be used as a canvas for text: the history of Mo i Rana, perhaps a continuous poem from one end to the other. The seafront will tell the story of a strong, intertwined industrial community of which it is a part.
THE 100 METER WALL
The old wall that runs along the seafront will be retained for it’s protective qualities, but is invited to participate in the series of events that takes place along the path. It can provide support for a new installation, a steel plate hung over it’s edge bent to the shape of a bench overlooking the sea, bent again to create an enclosed space- a place to envelope a moment in time.
An old wall is rejuvenated by new context. Perhaps new events and new places happen along the wall gradually as time goes by, a surprise to be along an old path.
THE STEEL WORKS
The steel works form a platform by the sea where the next actor now enters the stage: The playful skater.
The birds dive for fish as they have always done, the skater dives the half pipes and trace the trajectory of what was once here. The old bird dives eloquently, the young bird watches, tries and tries again, learning by failure.
The open space at the Steelworks is still an arena for innovation and for challenging the laws of physics- the new melting pot with room for everyone. A space for playful challenge: cycling, skating, parkour, rollerblading, scooters or climbing.
Old construction elements form new spaces: rails, bowls and bumps. As well as providing for new activities this also tells the stories of the industrial past. Perhaps inspire new tricks based on old traditions. In the winter the steelworks will provide for skiing, snowboarding and sledging, more or less challenging, and a place to rest and enjoy a break whilst enjoying the seaview.
The 45 degree walls are of corten steel which provides for a good slide summer and winter. Top plate and bowl in brushes concrete. Climbing nets for plants provide green soft zones in the lower parts.
On the uppermost level we suggest a partly insulated climbing hall measuring approximately 200 x 5-6 meters.
To the east there is room for an extension of the pump station. Additional storage for the marina could be established along the wall of the Steelworks, facing the harbour.
The roofscape is extended beyond the seafront utilizing the same concrete elements that are in use in other areas of the seafront to provide a zone of shelter on the promenade.
From the quay front to the garages we have suggested a street with benches and playful elements that supplements the activity area at the Steelworks, including ball court, sandvolleyball court and an undulating green landscape. All in all the area around the Steelworks thus offers a wide range of activity for a wide range of users, for most parts of the nordic year.
On Moholmen we suggest an activity area with invites exploration of the tidal zone. A shelter inspired by an upturned boat provides a secluded area for barbeque and picnic. provides.
A row of poles wander into the sea and invites children and grown ups to explore shallow tidal waters within their boundary. Stepping stones of steel gives easy access for crab hunting, hand netting, wading and studying the rich tidal life below. The stepping stones are perforated partly submerged discs that collect sea urchins, mussels and seaweed. As the waves wash over them they play tunes accompanied by the sounds of the Steelworks. Pulsating lights in rhythm with the sea could add to the atmosphere.
An area for reflection, research and play into the domain of the sea, visualizes the importance of the natural marine resources for a coastal town and gives first hand experience of the variations in the change of the seasons up north.
THE TRAIL TO SUNSET BEACH
The sea promenade is an open spacescape with an alternating rhythm of undulating soft edge path and spatial interventions created by the new modules. The walk is bordered by a natural habitat of wild flowers and reeds on the seaside, and sheltered inviting places to sit and play in the urban side.
On the southern side of the beach we propose a cantilevered walkway that gives easy access to the beach. The northernmost part is attached to the old wall and leads up to the Moholmen area. The concrete modules of the path are concave in flight where they span the terrain and concave where the path hugs the ground so as to protect the soil from erosion. The modules also provide seating. The new walkway provides improved access to the beach, and if it may at times be washed by the tidal waves there is an alternate route in the path behind the existing houses.
THE SCULPTURE HAVMANNEN- THE MAN OF THE SEA
The sculpture Havmannen is situated in the sea. This is a place for wide views and thoughts, where the sculpture and the sea should remain focus. The little viewing place is extended somewhat, and an opening is cut in the wall so as to allow for the full view of the sculpture. New slow steps allow for access for the public right down into the wet universe of Havmannen: The sea.
INNKREVNINGSSENTRALEN- THE NATIONAL DEBT OFFICE
Despite the official nature of this office with it’s many employees these offices are isolated from the surrounding pedestrian structure and also not connected to the spectacular landscape that surrounds it. We establish a new pedestrian connection with places for rest and socializing along the sunny façade for employees and walkers. The green lawns are thereby made accessible for everyone for activities such as sunbathing, social events and play. Sun beds based on the new spatial modules furnish the area.
At the end of the seafront promenade we suggest an open park that can constitute an area reserve for future needs. It also supplement the above mentioned projects with a more flexible and general green space with lawns, trees and lighting for walking, cycling, playing, agility and so on. The park is oriented towards the sea as being the end of the walk.
Narrow paths and movable lighting enables this park to be the venue for a wide range of activities in addition to the above mentioned, for instance art exhibitions or other important public events. In between the trees slender steel LED columns sway and light when yet another seafront wanderer ends a long and copious walk.
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