Monday, October 24, 2011

Law_Territory 1_Northwest Passage

Huang Nubo, chairman of the wealthy property development company Zhongkun, recently purchased a huge plot of land in Iceland, constituting 0.3% of the island's total area, to build a hotel development. Now known in the country simply as Kinverjinn (the Chinaman), he is the type of investor to help pull Iceland out of its 2008 economic slump. While the Chinese are busy "buying up the world," and despite Huang's protests, many fear that this is China's attempt to gain a strategic foothold in Iceland to capitalize on a likely opening of a navigable Northwest Passage due to Arctic ice melt.

The issues that lie in the situation is that a foreigner has acquired a large tract of land, taking advantage of a country experiencing economic turmoil that they are submitting to this exchange for financial reasons. As the world's fastest growing economy that is also not experiencing the financial crisis like many of the globe's developed nations, China has the resources and willpower for such a transaction. With the possibility of a navigable waterway through the Arctic Ocean as a result of global warming, many of the world's greatest nations will clamor to gain access to and control these shipping routes. Yet, since many of these states unable to take action now due to their poor economic circumstances, China is is a position to jump on this opportunity first. This type of control could change the face of power differentials across the world.

Case Studies (non-buildings)
Panama Canal
Suez Canal
Antarctic Treaty

"Hands off our wilderness: An ambitious Chinese entrepreneur spooks wary Icelanders." The Economist. September 24, 2011. http://www.economist.com/node/21530165

"Northern exposure: Within four years, Arctic sea-ice cover has twice reached record lows." The Economist. September 22, 2011. http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/09/melting-arctic-sea-ice-and-shipping-routes


  1. The projective project has a strong opportunity here - I can imagine an architectural project that begins to predict and presuppose conflict as a way of working on diplomacy instead of using a conflict that already exists. Perhaps this is a way to free up the work? Also, in your Disbalance description you say that Iceland is submitting to the purchase - this implies that they had the opportunity to say no, is this true? If property is for sale when can an owner say no and why would they? This could be an example where purchasing power is less important - and it doesn't seem like this happens often in world where money can get you anything. Last, I wonder how important the physical routes via sea are looking toward the future - do they become more important, less important? How does this play into the projective project?

  2. for me, this territory (of the ones you submitted thus far) has the most intriguing start because it’s political questions are so deeply rooted in a (rapidly shifting) physicality. The changes of/in the place is what has opened up new political questions. (By the way, I don’t think these political questions are necessarily around statehood. But if you are interested in governmental/sovereignty questions, perhaps looking further into the question of ownership and the areas that would be called international – do they exist here? Will they in fifty years? The projective project lies in this area.)

    Zooming in a bit may help you get stronger footing on other completely different (non-state) aspects. Examining the most recent areas of thaw and the specific conditions of the freeze-thaw cycle itself will shed light on the means of passage in more detail to understand more of its capacities. Is there a possible project in simply looking at the ways in which architecture may (diplomatically) span two physical states (in liquid/in solid… or free-floating/fixed… and their in-between states?)

    Because of your topic here I started a little search online for other territories undergoing rapid (geographic… topological) change. Like what happens when a river that is a political boundary suddenly shifts due to catastrophic or abrupt natural events? I was remembering Ysleta, Texas a city that used to be in Mexico but shifted to the US in182something. There were ultimately a series of treaties that attempted to project a solution, but eventually the river was engineered into a more fixed position… fixity seems at odds with diplomacy, no?