Arctic Design Group Visits Alaska

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - A group of students from the University of Virginia School of Architecture toured Alaska to develop design strategies for extreme climates in the Arctic. Amanda Brennan reports.
From September 22nd to October 2nd, 14 students of architecture and landscape architecture traveled around Alaska to learn about the intersections of climate, technology, culture, and man-made surroundings. The point of the field trip was to explore innovative design strategies for buildings and landscapes, in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Minto, and Utqiagvik. Co-Director of the Arctic Design Group and Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Virginia, Matthew Jull discusses the history and purpose of the ADG.

Matthew Jull, PhD; Co-Director - Arctic Design Group>>"We started the Arctic Design Group about four years ago. Lena Cho and I have been very interested in understanding the different forces that are affecting transformation in the arctic from environment, economics, and understanding the role of design and how we can play a role in affecting positive change in terms of designing buildings, communities, and cities in the arctic and UVA is actually really looking to become a kind of global leader on issues that are affecting our planet. Alaska being one of the really important areas within the arctic, we see it as a great opportunity to look at what people are doing here in terms of design and also understand the impacts of climate change and economic development on the arctic and learn from what's happening here and also learn from what's happening in other countries, like Russia, Canada, and Europe."

One of the aspects of the tour is to not only take into consideration the climate when designing building and landscape strategies, but to also include cultural insights. The group met up with community leaders and Alaska Natives while on their tour. Students, Courtney Sigloh and Han Yu discuss what they view as the overall goal of ADG's visit to Alaska.

Courtney Sigloh; ADG Undergraduate Student>>"I think one of the goals of this studio is to create a new image for what Alaskan architecture looks like, or what arctic architecture looks like. Finding a new identity of Alaskan architecture."

Han Yu; ADG Landscape Architecture Student>>"Thinking about the possibilities and thinking about what is possible for this area, because what we do is for design information. We are not scientists, we are not, like, super smart technicians. We could not design smart instruments - what we do is from the design perspective, so we think about the possibility for prototypes, which is what she says, possible images."
The Arctic Design Group worked in collaboration with the Anchorage Museum and is currently funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Amanda Brennan reporting.