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surface culture

history geology

eimear tynan

LANDSCAPE AS PALIMPSEST A palimpsest is a manuscript page from a scroll or book from which the text has been scraped or washed off so that it can be used again.

The concept of palimpsest has been commonly used in relation to landscape where layers of culture and nature are layered upon eachother over time. Some of these layers become mere traces of what once was while others are more resilient against the passing of time. Palimpsest may be seen in a physical sense or a layer embedded in memory. Recent (the last 50 years) city development in Tromsø has had some significant impact on the existing terrain and geology. This in turn has transformed the land use in many areas. With the high housing demands on the island, the green areas are under constant threat. The study of the 3 lakes which are often collectively reffered to as Holmbovannene will examine the site's palimpsest - the past and present uses and the plans for the future.


LANDSCAPE AS BARCODE Regarding the landscape as a complex stratified product of time one is enticed to de-code and find meaning behind the layers. Stratigraphers work to piece together clues found in layers of rock often dating back millions of years. The job of the landscape architect is not to do this to such an extent but to follow a similar “lite” process over more recent history in order to piece together what processes occurred to create the landscape we see today. This procedure allows for a complex de-coding with the view to inform a more wise design approach. It would seem a relatively simple task to examine and re-trace a landscape that is 50-60 years old - like the Holmbovannene site here. Despite the written and photographic evidence that coveys the story of an ice industry that once existed, the evidence on the landscape today barely refer to this period of its history. There are scant remains of the infrastructure that was once used and the borders of the site have suffered the attack of sprawling residential and industrial development. However, opening up and searching for dialogue with this site will bring stories and elements to the surface once again. The layers must be de-coded to understand what future development is most suited to this site and what presentday inhabitants need in their neighbouring green spaces. Inspired by a book title by Catherin Bull “New Conversations with an old landscape” ,it seems an appropriate motto to see this project through.

Examples of layers connecting and disconnecting over time




HOLMBOVANNENE - A PRT OF TROMSØ'S GREEN NETWORK As the map shows, Tromsø has a very generous area of open, green spaces on the island. It is also evident, however, that the demands of the city are increasingly sqeeezing upon the edges of these green spaces. It is then, extemely important to feed these green areas through densely developed areas and create axes to the coastline. Being on these green areas allow for very different mounatin views (see images below) in the distance in every direction but one can often forget that one is on an island. Pedestrian and cyclist-friendly routes between the developed areas and the main green spaces are lacking. The map clearly shows that the eastern side of the island lacks clearly defined green routes to the coastline. Historically, this was not the case due to the relatively low population on the island. Imagining the future of Tromsø one must consider the connections linking the coastline to the middle of the island. The links should not be dominated by traffic but should be shared.


HOLMBOVANNENE - ICE INDUSTRY - 3 SCALES MACRO The ice industry that lasted from the 1920's to the 1970's in Tromsø had extensive networks across the North Sea and Norwegian Sea. Fishermen came as far as Hull in England, for example, to collect ice, salt and coal before returning to their homeland. The fishing industry in earlier days would not have lasted without the accompanying ice industry.

MESO During milder winters a cargo vessel was sent to the glacier at Jøkelfjord. Dynamite was used to break up the ice. The ice was then brought back to Tromsø for “business as usual” !

MICRO The three lakes were used for the ice industry with additional infrastructure to link the lakes and also to connect the lakes with the harbour. Beside the harbour a large timber storage area was built to store the ice even during the summer months. A thick layer of sawdust was used to insulate the ice.

Sources of information: Diary of Einar Heimland Tromsø Library Tromsø Kommune



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1. Rundvannet - ice harvest 2. Connection from the lake leading to Langvannet 3.Langvannet - ice harvest 4. Ice gathered at this point 5. Ice was initially transported via a wooden chute and later by a cable system



The aerial photograph from 1952 shows a rural landscape intercepted by elements relating to small scale industry and farming. The jetty to the south of the image is where the ice was exported from. Further north a rather large farm holding is located. The lakes themselves look rather untouched and it is evident there was a rich network of water bodies in that area that has since been lost to urban development. The loss of these small water systems is of concern as this would undoubtedly affect the plant habitats of the area where wetland plants are replaced with more dryland plant species.



Todays situation shows an urbanised environment of residential, leisure, industry and transport uses. The meandering coastline has been replaced by angular urban fill. Although the original jetty and ice storage areas have been destroyed, the lakes still contain a few elements from the days of ice extraction. There is more development intended for the eastern side of the lake area but consideration must be given to the fragile water systems, some of which have withstood the recent threats of development.


DESIGN OBJECTIVES Analysis of the Holmbovannene is ongoing and will need further exploration as the seasons change. However, some objectives must be framed to guide the remainder of the study. These include: • Further evaluation of the site regarding its relationship with Tromsømarka (the main green area of the island) • Further research into the rich cultural past is needed as I believe this can inform the design approach at a later stage. •

Connections are needed between the site and the coast and should be explored as part of the study.

• Analysis of the plant habitats in the area needs to be mapped. Again, this will be needed in future design decisions. • A water management strategy will be developed to assess the site's vulnerability and perhaps certain habitats may need protection should future developments impact on these areas.


Urban ecologies  


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