The geographic region around the North Pole is a raw and exotic area of untouched nature and inescapable beauty. Unique among the Earth's ecosystems, it includes both a vast, ice-covered ocean and a treeless region of tundra. Building in this extremely cold climate requires an advanced degree of ingenuity and resolve. Ecological conditions including high winds, snowdrifts, and permafrost, combined with periods of little or no sunlight, present seemingly impossible logistical hurdles. Recent years have witnessed an explosion of resident and invited architects creating buildings above 60 degrees latitude. The time has come for a new definition of a northern building one that isboth extraordinarily responsive to place and aesthetically provocative. In Modern North, author Julie Decker presents thirty-four of the most compelling and far-ranging possibilities of contemporary architecture in the North. These buildings located in northern Canada, Scandinavia, and Alaska are united in the way they embrace extreme conditions. Rather than shut themout, these conditions are welcomed and often formed into the buildings' structures and materials, as in the way architecture is employed to mediate the harshness of the low-lying sun without replacing it with the harshness of artificial lights. The architects of Modern North exploit the natural topography to provide visual stimulation in places that sometimes offer little more than a whitescape. Modern North includes innovative institutional and residential structures by both established and up-and-coming architects, including a-lab, David Chipperfield, Jarmund/Vigsnaes, Studio Granda, Shim-Sutcliffe, and Snohetta. Essays by Brian Carter, Juhani Pallasmaa, Edwin Crittenden, and Lisa Rochon place the projects in the context of a new architectural response to the North."
Julie Decker is a director of the International Gallery of Contemporary Art in Anchorage, Alaska. She is the author of Quonset Hut (Princeton Architectural Press, 2005).