Inventing Greenland by Bert De Jonghe Examines the Urban Transformation of an Arctic Nation

Cover of the book 'Inventing Greenland"

A new book by doctor of design candidate Bert De Jonghe (MDes ’21), Inventing Greenland: Designing an Arctic Nation (Actar, 2022), examines the intense transformation of Greenland through the lens of urbanization. The book is based on De Jonghe’s MDes thesis at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, which was advised by Professor of Landscape Architecture Charles Waldheim, who also wrote the book’s foreword.

Inventing Greenland explores Greenland’s cultural, social, and environmental realities and recognizes an array of relationships supported and produced by the built environment. Aimed at architects, landscape designers, and urban planners, it draws attention to the island’s emerging opportunities and ongoing challenges. “By exploring Greenland as a complex and interconnected cultural and geographical space, Inventing Greenland reveals and anticipates transitional moments in the region’s highly intertwined urbanized, militarized, and touristic landscapes,” according to the publisher.

De Jonghe’s interest in Greenland began during a research trip in 2017 as part of his MLA thesis at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. He describes Kulusuk, a small town in East Greenland, where “the airport became a public space in which the community would gather to socialize, people-watch, and have a snack.” It was this observation that “spurred a design project emphasizing the relationship between Kulusuk’s community and the airport as a gathering place.” While De Jonghe’s final design is not featured in the book, the project spurred his interest in Greenland’s unique relationship with urban and infrastructural landscapes, and led him to continue the work at the GSD.

Interior spread of 'Inventing Greenland'

As a first-year DDes student, De Jonghe has been investigating the Arctic urbanization of Russia while drawing attention to emerging influences and ambitions of the “near-Arctic state,” China. Before studying at the GSD, De Jonghe worked as a landscape architect in Belgium, South Africa, and Norway. He is also the founder of Transpolar Studio, a spatial design practice specializing in landscape architecture, urbanism, and design research in the Arctic and subarctic regions.