70°N arkitektur + Berit Steenstrup, with STATEX collective
Tromsø Waterfront Laboratory (TWL) & Open Day
Tromsø, Norway
Ways of living, ways of sharing
Naturehood – wilder and greener
Rethinking processes and governance
Image: Open Day by Statex and 70°N: Merzbau, concerts – here Mari Boine, plan exhibition and workshops, food served by Tromsø Folkekjøkken, (soft) drinks along the breakwater. Photos: Ingun Alette Mæhlum
Use of alternative and artistic methods to emphasise and investigate planning, participation, ecology and urban development at the Tromsø waterfront.

The TWL project investigates public spaces and plans through the use of artistic methods, activities and involvement where the population through a year was invited to various events, such as workshops and festivals as well as debates, seminars, exhibitions, conversations, meetings, walks, performances, events and participation through a series of newspaper articles and the project’s own channels in social media – the digital parts of the project gained importance due to the C-19 and restrictions. All events in the project aimed to engage, provoke and motivate the population in our common future in Tromsø in general, and Tromsø city center's last central seafront area by Sørsjetéen (the Southern breakwater) in particular – by showing the place's history and potential as a public urban space and common, with special attention to urban ecology and all citizens' right to participation and expression. The TWL project took several new forms confronting and reflecting on political, democratic, economic and ecological issues connected to urban development, the importance of the sea in memory and history, and a possible regained position for the littoral ecology — not least in relation to future urban life. The project area in the southern demarcation of Tromsø’s harbour, has for a long time been under pressure from heavy urbanisation. Our engagement has a comprehensive motivation where the massive development plans stand in stark contrast to the citizens’ interests of a public common in the area — and not least are the environmental values threatened — as a complex littoral ecology, with several species of sea birds, including red-listed gulls like kittiwakes, nesting on the nearby building facades. The site’s position as a zone in transition in both space and time opened for new thinking and practices both for us as architects and the population of Tromsø taking part in the project. By involving in democratic processes — and like here, using the planning system’s own imbedded “liminal space”, made it possible to combine a new urban reality exposed by the pandemic with an open invitation for multiplicity and improvisation.
The Open Day experimented with spatial transformation by the making of temporary constructions, manifestation of immaterial heritage and reflections about what an arctic coastal urbanity should be – and invited the citizens to truly participate and give their meaning and feedback, not only as a gimmick but a real input to the planning process.


The Open Day made many rediscover the site, seeing the area for the first time emptied of cars and open for new imaginations about urban life in the intersection between sea and city. Over half of the proposals created in the feedback workshops were focusing on the ecologic and social aspects of the city — expressing the need for a new common, rather than huge hotels and shopping malls at the seafront, where nature and citizens could coexist and evolve, especially mentioning the shoreline and the urge to reconnect the city to the sea and to nature. The fact that the citizens’ feedback through the TWL have had an actual impact on the revised plan for the area is of great importance and inspiration, showing the democratic aspects and the fact that more experimental participation in planning is both needed, possible and highly relevant.

Tromsø waterfront activities and inhabitants during spring and summer 2020: collaborative construction workshops, improvised urban furniture, species in the littoral zone, dog walk performances, workout and dance groups practicing, redlisted kittiwakes nesting on the seafront buildings, food distribution, picnic at the TWL DebaTable, seabirds and kayakers, trash collecting performance.
Photo: Magdalena Haggärde / 70°N arkitektur

Ideas, proposals, wishes from the Open Day workshop, in all ca 50, were sent to the municipality as feedback to the plan proposal (merknader), and have impacted the revised plan for the area.
We need the city to be more green. More parks. I can’t breathe. There is so much concrete and asphalt desert. There are almost no trees.
Ill: inhabitants of Tromsø / 70°N arkitektur, TWL

Merzbau – collective construction of temporary sculptures using dried ‘Tromsø palms’ as an artistic performance by Lawrence Malstaf, proposing experimental collaborative construction, organic in its structure, material and cooperation.
Photo: Ingun Alette Mæhlum

Exhibition of the municipal plan proposal with remarks, comments, references, posters, articles, illustrations and analyses — over 500 pages pasted directly on the 85 meters long wall of an industrial harbour building, for a very public “public hearing” in the tradition of wall magazines and wheat paste murals, together with a feedback workshop where people could write and draw their future visions for the area and the city, to be forwarded to the municipality.
Photo: Ingun Alette Mæhlum

Newspaper articles by Gisle Løkken and Magdalena Haggärde (70°N arkitektur), published in Nordlys and, February to October 2020, highlighting issues and topics at stake on the site and in the planning regime. Creating debate and raising awareness on themes such as: property and public rights, littoral ecology, alternative planning methods, the citizens’ right to the city, arctic climate urban planning, immaterial heritage, democracy and participation.
Ill: 70°N arkitektur

70°N arkitektur + Berit Steenstrup, with STATEX collective

The Tromsø Waterfront Laboratory (TWL) is an art and urban space project generated by Tromsø municipality and KORO (Kunst i offentlige rom / Art in Public Space).
70°N arkitektur together with architect Berit Steenstrup was chosen as one of three artist teams in an international pre-qualification to try out different methods for participation and investigation with the planning process and the planning area's public space as context.
The Open Day, together with other parts of the project, were developed in close collaboration with Statex Collective, a group of artists from different fields: Lawrence Malstaf, Liv Hanne Haugen, Tale Næss, Jon Tombre and Amund Sjølie Sveen.

Architectural practice

Nordbyen possibility study: reconnecting the urban to the sea

Point of Departure thinking in Maniitsoq, Greenland. Materialization of ideas and knowledge coming from participative processes.