February 8, 2012
arctic chrome
Arctic Fauna (source)
Barcelona Pavilion, Mies van der Rohe, 1929 (source)


It is only once animal life is snuffed out that bodies, bereft of movement, are expected to cool to the temperature of the surrounding air. While in life physiological processes and garments provide basic warmth, they do not suffice in the harshest of climates, where self imprisonment and blasting furnaces are some of the only means of comfortable persistence. The ills of cold climates are many. Infertile icy soils and short growing seasons force the importation of food from distant lands. Twenty-four hours of light or dark wreaks havoc on the experience of time, while the resulting lack and excess of ultraviolet light unhinges the body’s supply of vitamin D. More horrifically, prolonged exposure to the cold inflicts permanent damage to nerves and cells: blistering, the amputation of fingers and toes, and eventually, death.


Despite these sensible reasons to avoid the cold, there remain a few nations that ardently lay claim to vast arctic territories. Large swaths of Canada, Russia and America lie within the Arctic Circle in a perpetual state of permafrost. Unable to persuade migration into polar territories through traditional means, these nations have often relied on ethically questionable practices to populate their northern extremities.


During the 19th century, Russia sent an estimated 1.2 million prisoners to Siberia to work in forced labor camps, in order to extract resources from the mostly uncharted region. These Katorga’s would later be replaced by GULAG slave labor camps, at times located in even more remote and northerly points.


During the Cold War, Canada forcefully relocated Inuit populations thousands of kilometers, from Northern Quebec, to the distant villages of Resolute and Grise Fiord, in order to claim sovereignty over its arctic archipelagos and prevent the march of communism into the Americas.


In America, the lure of natural resources prompted migration to the cold; the Alaskan gold rush at the end of the 19th century followed by the discovery of black gold along Alaska’s Northern Slope in the 20th century. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez, charged with transporting Alaskan oil to balmy California, dumped between 260,000 to 750,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Alaska, resulting in one of the most damaging natural disasters in the history of the USA and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of specimens of native arctic fauna. Despite the local oil industry’s detrimental effect on the Alaskan landscape and its animals, government oil proceeds are redistributed to the citizens of Alaska, by the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, as a clever means of arresting out-migration while attracting new populations to the state from less resilient regions. The 2011 dividend was $1,174, while dividends reached as high as $2,069 in 2008.


E. Sean Bailey


‘Cold’ describes not only temperature but temperament. Distanced from the more ambiguous ‘cool’, it is a state that engages an extreme posture.


When architecture turns cold, it may become hermetic and defensive—at times exhibiting cruelty.


In cold weather, architectural skins often thicken and any openings are sealed, creating a limited environment, both controlled and isolated. When architecture takes on a cold disposition, as perhaps in the case of the Barcelona Pavilion with its chromed-steel cruciform columns, that reflectively tease, it allures, until the moment greasy fingerprints disrupt its surface—an indication of high-maintenance—serving to remind admirers to remain at a distance.


With its intense character, cold architecture—whatever its persuasion—remains difficult to access.


Erandi de Silva



One Response to “COLD”

  • Jack Murphy says:

    Sean’s piece traces a frigid geography that is gradually shrinking. With the complex changes wrought by global warming, tropical areas become arid and extreme latitudes are opened for settlement. Gone is cold terrain’s association with remoteness and inaccessibility. As resources are depleted in more accessible regions, economy pushes extraction to historically virgin lands. The Athabasca Oil Sands are a great example as refinement technologies and the need for fossil fuels has recently made it financially worthwhile to begin operations in the wilderness of Alberta. Infranet Lab’s “Next North” initiative explores infrastructural options for the northern part of Canada, imagining resource coupling opportunities for both indigenous inhabitants (Inuits) and new arrivals (ice truckers).

    What happens if cold disappears altogether? What does it mean for hot places when there is no climactic counterweight to make equatorial living that much sweeter?



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