Scan Magazine | Special Theme | Visit Greenland – Business Special
– in Ilulissat, Aasiaat, Sisimiut, Nuuk and Qaqortoq. As a starting point, take two of the island’s unique social challenges. Firstly, there are no interlinking roads between towns and settlements. Materials, resources and people largely move around Greenland by boat or plane. “So if you’re young and living in a smaller town without a college, then you have to move, and it’s expensive to get home. You don’t just go home for the weekend,” explains Lennert. Secondly, the dropout rate at Greenlandic colleges is high. Around 60 per cent of the population has no education beyond secondary school, and national statistics recorded in 2020 revealed that 32 per cent of 16 to 25-year-olds eligible to work were neither in school, nor employed. Berger elaborates: “You’re picked up at the airport and parked in front of a door to a college room and told, ‘that’s where you’re going to live – there’s a bathroom, kitchen and bed’, then the door is closed, and the welcome party leaves.” Some of these students come from families of eight children. “So how do you think that goes?” asks Lennert. “It can be very lonely.” Socially conscious architecture To combat this, TNT Nuuk puts the social needs of the students at the forefront of
their design. “A huge focus was to create meeting points – a shared kitchen to learn to cook, shared lounges to watch handball, and to move away from the conventional long-corridor dorm format, which is very isolating,” says Helena. “We’re trying to create something that’s not just an institution but a home, where you’re part of a community. You make friends, maybe fall in love.”
is divided into five brightly coloured, individual buildings, each with the same monolithic form as a typical Greenlandic family home. The result is playful and understated – a homogenous institution that resembles a toybox settlement. “Because Greenland is all small, red houses, we don’t just want to build big bricks to put people in that don’t suit the environment,” says Lennert.
The result is a flexible network of four different dormitory types, which house combinations of individuals, small families, pairs and group collectives, and which can be adapted to any one of the five Greenlandic cities, and beyond.
Form and function But TNT Nuuk’s projects are about more than function. Reconciling the aesthetic traditions of Greenland with architectural innovation, the studio rebuilt the dilapidated Atuarfik Mathias Storch school on a mountain slope in Ilulissat. The school is designed as a cross with four lengths that converge at a central meeting point, and features a broken, angled roof. Aside from being highly resilient, the intersecting roofs help to break down the scale of the otherwise large building, so that it relates elegantly to the surrounding landscape. Meeqqerivik, a day care centre in Tasiilaq, is another example. The site
“The climate is another thing we contend with,” says Berger. “In the north, the climate is milder; we don’t have those big storms and downpours. It’s extreme here in Nuuk, so the biggest problem is to ensure the building is weather-tight. It can get down to minus 20 degrees sometimes, so we have to make sure every construction can be adequately heated, with no thermal bridges.” But TNT Nuuk’s biggest challenge may be yet to come. In the battle against climate change, The Green Transition is the maxim of every modern government – not least Greenland’s, which has recently announced intentions to join the Paris agreement. Concurrently, the energy costs of ocean freight and air transport are garnering increasing criticism. “But all our building materials, apart from concrete, are imported by ship,” says Lennert. “In Denmark, concrete is looked down upon because it’s not environmentally friendly, but in Greenland it’s all we have locally. We have stone and sand. So it’s cement we have to use.” It’s a challenge that’s uniquely complex for island nations, but one that TNT Nuuk faces with enthusiasm. “We have to look at the variables we can change instead of just doing what we’ve always done. It’s about asking what we ourselves can contribute to the wider cause, and that’s exciting. How can we do more to protect the environment?” Greenland’s building boom
College housing in Aasiaat.
114 | Issue 137 | December 2021
It’s a timely question. Greenland is in the midst of a grand-scale development. Two new airports are being constructed