Architecture for

Cooperative Arctic Hedge Fund

Location: Kirkenes, Norway
Client: Oslo Architecture Triennale (Honorable Mention)
Scope: Research & Exhibition
Progress/Year: 2016

This research investigates the unique multiplicity of identities in the far north, where cities within the Arctic region share more in common with each other than others in their own nations. This project, which received an Honorable Mention in the open call for OAT After Belonging, proposes the creation of a new constituency of investors in the Arctic region, who act cooperatively to re-claim agency on a transnational playing board of large corporations and remote political maneuvers.

In 1999, almost a decade before An Inconvenient Truth, John Dickerson—a former CIA analyst—bet big on climate change. Dickerson accepted early-on the coming draught in the American West and established Summit Global Management, the first water-based hedge fund. The fund bought both water rights and invested in “hydrocommerce” technology. When in the coming years water became scarce, Dickerson and his clients comparatively saw a “flood of money.” Soon, big banks—whose eyes, as ever, were on the bottom line—looked to capitalize on and prepare for the the ecological catastrophes of the anthropocene: Goldman Sachs issued a report calling water the “petroleum of the next century.” Others continue looking to profit from climate change for their own agendas: Greenland secessionists are betting on increased profits from the thawing tundra to finance their independence from Denmark. Emergent businesses tap into this same game of futures: “geoengineering patent trolls, private firefighting” and more.

This proposal for the Oslo Architecture Triennale, Cooperative Arctic Hedge Fund, proposes to create a new constituency of investors in the far north. We argue that the “architecture” of the arctic is not wood and steel buildings, but rather the spatial territories of EEZs, drilling rights, logistics expertise, and the power of capital. This project proposes the establishment of the first-ever democratically-run investment group focusing on the Arctic: both rendering visible transnational exchanges and offering fiscal agency to local populations working at the fringe of global power plays in their own backyard.

The Arctic, as it stands now, is a site of multiplicitous identities: overlapping national boundaries, shifting populations, changing geographies, and flowing resources. Yet despite the lack of traditional identifiers, the cities in the arctic circle share more in common with each other than they do with cities in their own countries. Nonetheless, despite their geographic proximity, these local populations often find themselves as the backdrop of a neoliberal chess board, with far-remote governments and corporations as the players.

This proposal asks: What if arctic populations collected their “insider” knowledge on the far north to hedge against corporate and state powers acting in the region? How can the seaman, miner, and local hotelier reclaim agency against outsized movements of capital and make claim to the Arctic—through legal fiscal piracy—against the ticking clock of the melting ice?