Maniitsoq is an average size Greenlandic town with almost 2800 inhabitants. The town has been chosen as the possible future site for Alcoa’s planned aluminium smelter in Greenland – run on energy from melted water from the inland ice. The placing of an aluminium smelter in Maniitsoq is a part of a broader discussion - an ideological battle - taking place in Greenland at the moment concerning which economy the country should build its independence on. There are large, well known, but unexploited natural resources in Greenland. On one hand a transition from a natural landscape to an industrial landscape can lead to a long desired economic independence from their former colonizer Denmark. On the other hand opening for mining, and oil and gas exploitation, will mean a paradigmatic change for the landscapes of Greenland – a change that is absolute and irreversible, and will change forever the inhabitants possibilities to run traditional natural households and hunting, which is considered an important cultural heritage. The decisions now made in Greenland will have enormous impact on the destiny of the country.
In this context 70°N arkitektur was invited to Maniitsoq by Qeqqata kommunia, as an independent and neutral part, to analyse and discuss the latent changes in Maniitsoq, where the placement of the smelter will generate hundreds of new workers with need for housing, services and infrastructure. The municipality’s main concern is the physical impact this will have on the town and the need to examine possible models for urban growth. The process also gives rise to a general discussion on housing standards and urban development in Greenland as a whole. It is our hope that this discussion will bring focus to a debate on the technical and architectonic standards of future buildings, and also regarding the treatment of public spaces and landscapes. The work executed this far has resulted in a report and an exhibition, made in close cooperation with the municipality, the politicians and the inhabitants of Maniitsoq. Our work attempts to show the potentials of the town, and to discuss the pro and contras of different alternatives, that to a large extent advocates either an inner growth of the city based on densifying and using the existing structures in the city, or expanding the city out in the surrounding landscape. We outline possible strategies and methods for the future development of the town centre based on analyzes of the vulnerabilities present in the society and the landscape.