Flat and parallel | Miguel Ángel Díaz Camacho

Ralph Erskine, Resolute Bay, Canada 1970-73
Ralph Erskine, Resolute Bay, Canada 1970-73

In occasions the man lives strange territories, inhospitable as a frozen desert, hostile as the chill wind of the glaciers. For some strange reason, we have belonged to these places and have adapted to his nature from the coat, the culture or the management of the ecosystems. The architecture means to understand in the first instance the environmental consequences of one of the most influential parameters in the determination of the cold climates:

the architecture is also a question of Latitude.

In 1970 Ralph Erskine projects a compact and self-sufficient city in Resolute Bay’s tundra, Canada. In one of the preliminary drawings, Erskine draws a strange day-night under the diminished Sun almost extinguished, put to bed on the enormous masses of the ice The Arctic1. In the low left corner it is labelled, as a chart that was offering voice to that landscape, the dizzy latitude of 74ºN: the Polar Circle The Arctic places to some 66ºN in zones furthermore hot.

A series of buildings in height protect a space within the walls in hillside of orientation South2. The colouring accession tries to integrate an Eskimoes’ community with the population of a nearby air base. Close to a series of energetic infrastructures, equipments and common protected well zones, Erskine projects a green infrastructure, an oasis indoor, an artificial landscape with flowers, trees and vegetable species imported from other places of the world.

Maybe in the white loneliness of the tundra there exists the need to restore a luck of ecological balance sheet, to overcome the dizziness of an unattainable climatology from a few minimal conditions of nature, to recover some form of dialog with the “essential pleasures”. The ice speaks the undecipherable language of the inert thing.

Expressing the latitude in a plane of architecture supposes a rarety and, nevertheless, few variables determine with so many firmness the genetics of a territory3. Expressing the latitude supposes recognizing the specificity of the solar paths in a certain place, incorporating the movements of rotation and adjournment of the architecture:

it´s visible the circular movements that transport us in extraordinary this one Spaceship Earth4.

Ralph Erskine - An Ecological Arctic Town, 1958
Ralph Erskine – An Ecological Arctic Town, 1958

The latitude supposes the reference sexagesimal to the Ecuador, as well as the exact position of the horizontal plane relates the architecture to the level of the Mar, opportunely identified by Erskine under the impressive presence of the icebreaker. The architecture is also a question of Latitude. A question of Planes and Parallel.

Miguel Ángel Díaz Camacho. PhD Arquitecto
Madrid. November 2014.
Author of the Parráfos de arquitectura. #arquiParrafos


1 The climatic conditions are extreme: winters of up to-35ºC and very strong winds with snowstorms growing worse during an endless night of approximately two months and a half; for against, the summers suppose the uninterrupted day for at least three months and a half, with temperatures that are not in the habit of exceeding them +2ºC.

2 The offer supposes the adjustment of the project “An Ecological Artic Town” (1958), realized by Erskine as a personal investigation and that does not answer to any royal order. Questions as the protection of the winds of the north, the orientation South or the disposition in hillside to obtain the maximum solar available radiation, form a part of Erskine’s great knowledge on the aspects related to the climate and the territory: form follows climate.

3 Other relevant aspects in the construction of the climate would be the altitude, the factor of continentalidad, the orography or the nature of the terrestrial surface.

4Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth“, R. Buckminster Fuller, 1968.

Miguel Ángel Díaz Camacho

Doctor en Arquitectura, Decano de la Facultad de Tecnología y Ciencia UCJC. Presidente de la Asociación Sostenibilidad y Arquitectura,  perteneciente al Consejo Superior de los Colegios de Arquitectos de España. Director de MADC Arquitectos, estudio profesional con premios en concursos nacionales e internacionales, en la actualidad desarrolla proyectos en España y Noruega. Escritor y crítico de arquitectura, es autor de los libros “Párrafos de Arquitectura. Core(oh)grafías” (2016) y “Arquitectura y Cambio Climático” (2018).

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