Arctic, Barents Sea, Hammerfest

This thesis builds on the proposition that the ocean is both an urban and social space. Therefore, marine planning needs to consider socio-cultural risks and opportunities to be deemed sustainable. This reconceptualisation is especially relevant for the Barents Sea, where retreating sea ice leaves the ocean more accessible to marine traffic and resource extraction every year. However, the current practice of marine spatial planning (MSP) responds predominantly to geopolitical and economic demands for resources like gas and oil – only the monetary value of the ocean is considered. It fails to provide an understanding of the ocean as a space of cultural values, memory, and meaning. As a result, the socio-cultural impacts of offshore development remain alarmingly unmapped and unknown. As an interplay between research and design, urbanism can understand human-sea relations and employ this understanding in spatial interventions, where MSP cannot.

Following this hypothesis, I aim to approach the Barents Sea as an urban and local project. What does it mean to be at sea, to be changed by the sea, and to change it in return? How is the local economy of life dependent on conditions of marine space? And how can urban designers use this knowledge to affect change. In the first place, this is a theoretical work. I hypothesize what offshore urbanism should entail, propose entrances of design, and compose design principles in the Barents Sea.

The theory is tested in a case study: the coastal community of Hammerfest. The current network composition of the Hammerfest maritory shows a system that is overdependent on petroleum activity. The project proposes two pathways of change towards a future where Hammerfest depends on a variety of alternative marine industries. As such, the community becomes more resilient to changes in offshore petroleum. Particularly after 2035, when the current production fields are depleted and extraction moves seaward, away from Hammerfest.

Network analysis forms a key point of entrance for the maritorial design. The project regards ships as islands that are inhabited, occupied, and built by humans. They are urban nodes at sea. The maritory can thus be read as an interdependent network of nodes (islands, platforms, pipelines, ships) connected by the movement of goods and people. I use marine traffic density data to analyze the nodal patterns of movement. From it, we can read the organization of marine uses and their spatial relation to Hammerfest.

I then select one node from the current network, the island Melkøya, to redevelop as the root of the proposed transition. The prospected departure of the gas industry established on Melkøya provides an opportunity to repurpose the island. Through the act of deconstruction and rehabilitation, the gas processing island is repurposed as a public port, harbouring local marine industry and recreation. From the island Melkøya, a new economy of life is allowed to grow seawards.

Ultimately, the purpose of this research is to actuate academics and urbanists to use design as a means to inform and inspire MSP, and to open the discourse on offshore urbanism.

Collective memory and the (re)construction of Melkøya as a turning point. The initial construction of Melkøya as a gas processing plant in 2003 triggered the revival of the shrinking town of Hammerfest. Providing jobs and livelihood, this event is embedded in local collective memory and underlines the perceived dependency on petroleum. After 2035, the extraction field is depleted and the reconstruction of the same island will trigger a new transition towards local marine industry.
Local marine industry substitutes petroleum industry. Activities such as community-led mariculture, mussel farming and seabed restoration offshore provide jobs and products that can be sold to on the local market, in restaurants and shops. Melkøya has the potential to become a regional attractor.
Spatial transformation of Melkøya. Natural topography, rock formations, abandoned industry and port facilities compose the unique character of the island. Through the act of removal, rehabilitation and re-naturalisation Melkøya is made accessible as a public port, harbouring local marine industry and recreation. Deconstructed materials are used to make a simple pathway along the shore that grants access to the water.
Alternative network compositions for the Hammerfest maritory. The current network composition of the Hammerfest maritory shows a system that is overdependent on petroleum activity. As an active node in the network, Melkøya is redeveloped as the root of the proposed transition. From it, a new network composition is allowed to grow seawards. Depending on the desired level of dependency on petroleum (independence or codependency) two pathways of change can be imagined. Pathway A: reaching out for petrol, and pathway B: letting go of petrol.
Patterns of movement. The new network composition manifests itself in the context of the Barents Sea as a field of movement. The maritory can be read as a network of urban nodes (islands, platforms, pipelines, ships) that are connected by the movement of goods and people and are interdependent. Marine traffic density data1 is used to analyse the patterns of movement of these nodes. From it, we can read the organisation of marine use and their spatial relation to Hammerfest. The reconstruction of the Island Melkøya triggers the current network to change and thus affects the urban morphology of the Barent Sea.