At the moment, I’m involved with a project focusing on spatial theory, the mobile city, and “city as platform.” This is the first stage of an idea for a “Rolling Mobile City” installation/media piece.
In the Norwegian city of Åndalsnes, the architectural film Jägnefält Milton developed a concept known as the “Rolling Master Plan” for a city planning competition in 2010. Konrad Milton and Carl Jägnefält, founders of the Swedish firm, were interested in designing an urban concept that would completely re-purpose the town’s abandoned railway infrastructure, left behind from the days when it was a maritime construction town. In the town of 2,200 people, this “mobile city” concept consists of a series of individual railcar modules traveling, moving, and re-aligning themselves on the railroad depending on the season. The railcars are designed to vary in size and functionality; Milton and Jägnefält both felt that due to the city’s heavy reliance on tourism, such a concept would allow visitors easy access to hotels, restaurants, as well as a theme park during the summertime, and shopping malls, bathhouses and ski chalets during the wintertime.
This proposal involves no permanent construction or alterations, nor does it introduce new city blocks, public squares, boardwalks, etc., but instead focuses entirely on the existing industrial rail network and creates something unexpected from it. This idea, according to Wired.co.uk, “is consistent in its study of a single element’s potential to develop the city of Åndalsnes into a dense, integrated and ever changing scenography of rolling, cubic volume” (Geere). The possibilities for an entirely portable city are endless, though we must wonder why such a model was so appealing to the judges of this competition. Of course, the value of this project is not necessarily attributed to economic functionality, but rather aesthetic enchantment and urban innovation. By interchanging railcars optimized for both winter and summer activities within the same physical space at different times, the existing railroad tracks have the potential to be functional as well as efficient. Additionally, there is the potential here to reconfigure a community within the exact same physical space as a previous one without any demolition or the intention of “improving” the old with the new.
When considering the role of static space and city planning, this project aims to augment the cultural need to create new qualities linked to the historical context of the town. This small-scale “city in motion” proposes an interesting contrast by appropriating historical zones of restricted movement where the railroads were originally constructed, with the development of a mobile, transient city geared towards sustainability. By introducing a space that is both enclosed and interactive with the space that surrounds it, the “Rolling Masterplan” can change the ways in which the population of Åndalsnes engages and identifies with the town.