Plugged-in Territories I: Icelandic Energy Landscapes

This advanced research seminar investigates the spatial and ecological implications of the recent shifts in the cultural perception of energy exploitation in Iceland.
The Icelandic landscape is facing increased pressure in a geopolitical situation where energy policies lead to infrastructural development and ecological adaptation. The opportunities to creates new forms of integration between energy exploitation and enjoyment of the landscape are unique to this geologically active territory.
Students will be developing research divided in two groups representing the apparent extremes of the polarized arena:

  1. Islands: Penetrable infrastructures.
    The environmentalist: They propose a radical reduction in energy exploitation and slowing down the insertion of new power plants. Their argument is mainly based on the fact that for a population of roughly three hundred thousand, the existent infrastructure is already more than enough to deal with local needs. The group will work on speculating new forms in which energy production, distribution and exploitation may be successfully linked to the intense tourism received by the island. The group will try to prove that the existing possibilities of tourist-based landscape events, may generate and replace the income produced by the future power plants located in highly sensible environments.
  2. Atolls: Belts for ecological integration.
    The energy entrepreneurs: They propose new hydro and geothermal plants in order to be able to increase the aluminum melting capabilities of the country and possibly an underwater cable to link the country to the European energy grid. These will require the construction of new mid and large scale infrastructure in some of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the country.

The group will try to prove that the current plans for new geothermal and hydro power plant infrastructure can be effectively linked to new forms of public realm with the capacity to act as buffer zones between exploitation and the delicate environments.
Relevant cases: Alcoa aluminum power facilities and Kárahnjúkastífla Dam.
The course will elaborate research in the form of two products:

  1. An online platform of interactive maps aiming to open up to the public the not so obvious implication of the insertion of the new energy infrastructure.
  2. An atlas of techniques of multiple scale, speculating the way in which landscapes designers and Architects can effectively create buffer zones located at the core sites of geothermal and hydro energy exploitation process, triggering new forms of enjoyment of such a unique and ecologically sensitive landscapes.

The course will also include the participation of relevant thinkers, designers and activists that are now investigating the intersections between energy exploitation, tourism and it’s particular cultural and ecological implications in Iceland.