Vardø possesses an outstanding potential to become an artistic and natural beacon both in the north and internationally. This is possible by the geographical conditions of the island and its cultural heritage. The fact that its nature is so powerful and present, but still accessible, are some of the best assets of Vardø, aspects which today are valued and sought after. Having three months of night might be a hard for the local inhabitants, but it is a paradise for international light installation artists and astronomers. Having three months of daylight, means that nature and culture activities can continue through out the day, non-stop. This is the outset of this proposal, to embrace the special conditions of Vardø and turn them into assets for its community. From the general strategy and event calendar, to the harbour path and the specific buildings, we have understood our interventions as integrated elements of the year cycle, keeping in mind its extremes, winter and summer. With this approach we aim to bring activities to engage the community and attract, and turn Vardø into a special cultural location.

The activity calendar. What are the potential festivals and venues that can take advantage of the qualities of Vardø and promote the island? This was our first design task in order to understand and discover the potentials of Vardø. An all year round event calendar was our departure point. Our suggestions range from art events which take advantage of winter, to Northern Lights and astronomy festivals and photography contests. But the real event calendar would be the fruit of the community and their inventiveness. During the summer, Pomor food days and bird watching and nature marathons could take advantage of the summer sun. This event calendar has more focus on culture than nature, aiming to protect its nature and fauna from an eventual growing tourism, a sad result known all to well in other small islands around the world. This would allow Vardø to show its best to the visitors all year round, stimulate its creativity and unite the community, while attracting visitors for longer stays than just a ferry stop. Art as a major attractor. Art and cultural events could take advantage of its three month long winter. Vardø could be the first International Light Art Biennale in the world. Public lighting and street intallations could be designed by artists, giving the public space an inviting quality and awakening international curiosity. A residency program linked to ateliers (see below on the reform of Proden building) would allow artists to stay, work and exhibit, allowing Vardø to become a reference when the artists are back in their local art scenes. In order to activate some of the empty small houses in Vardø, an Art Installation Project is suggested in our proposal. Using Cultural sponsorship to restore and re service the buildings, they will serve contemporary art installations, while rendering the buildings serviceable for alternative future uses, such as housing. By inviting world recognised artists to create their work for these small buildings, the installations will add to making Vardø , a valuable art residency destination. The Proden Building is renovated to house the city’s community centre and Art Residency program. The building is only transformed internally, removing part of the second floor, to create an atrium and a mezzanine in the perimeter. This double height space will serve Vardø as a gather space for the community, from concerts to exhibitions, film festivals and gatherings. The entrance to the Proden Building would house as small greenery, a space to be surrounded by green plants small trees during the long winter nights. The spaces close to the harbour edge will be refurbished as artist studios, giving the possibility to offer art residencies and placing Vardo in the international cultural circuits. Artists residencies are an efficient way to enliven the cultural life a of a region, and the special characteristics of Vardø would be an attractive element for artist. The success of Naoshima island in Japan is the result of such an art based strategy. Almost deserted after disappearing fisheries had made the island almost obsolete, the introduction of art as a venue, has transformed Naoshima into an icon at the highest international cultural level.

To activate the harbour, a recognisable path, connects the ferry dock, the millennium path, the Hotel, the Promor museum, the new City Hall Square, the aquarium, the swimming pool and the Proden Art and Community centre. This allows the citizens and the visitors, clear access to the cultural and public facilities while being close to the sea and linking the community to the harbour, which is in essence what makes Vardø so special and should be underlined. This path has a specific texture, sometimes wooden, sometimes in local black slate, and is specially lit to create a warm atmosphere during the long winter nights. Through out the path, small resting spaces will house glass pavilions which would protect the people from the wind and allow them to enjoy the surroundings. The street light project. Gathering energy from the wind, a series of colour light posts give a spectrum of light to the main streets in Vardø. The colour changes from day to day, in a very slow tempo, creating a local “aurora borealis” that lights the streets at night. This will add to the winter events, allowing the streets to be welcoming to the people in Vardø and to the visitors. The New Swimming Pool. The swimming pool is displaced from its present position next to the City Hall to the harbour area by constructing a new building, adding to the series of public buildings that will help to activate the harbour and take advantage of the beauty of the water front. This new building is clad in wood, continuing the tradition of the Vardø, housing small units for sauna and rest spaces, with a large panorama façade facing the harbour. The ceiling of the swimming pool is designed with several square skylights, allowing for framed views of the sky for the swimmers, indirect light during the day, and as illuminated lanterns on the rooftop during the night. A public plaza space allows the café inside the swimming pool to extend to the outdoors in the summer bringing social life to its perimeter during good weather. The Aquarium. The Aquarium is designed as a gate to the water world of the north. Simple in its design, it opens up to the visitor as a landscape of illuminated aquariums, almost as floating glass boxes filled with life. These aquariums are mirrored by sky lights, which are lit by the blue colour of the aquariums during the night, therefore illuminating the rooftop just like in the Swimming pool building. The visitor can walk around the exhibits and end with a view to the harbour, where a small café and shop await them.

The New City Hall Square To enhance the public life at Vardø, and offer platforms for future events, both winter and summer, the Church road is transformed into a pedestrian road, but only at the stretch north of the City Hall, allowing for the traffic flow to use the road south on the south side. The surface is treated with the same geometry as the harbour path using local stone, intertwined with lit elements. This area can provide a scene for performances and music events, with the fantastic backdrop of the harbour. On the elevated plaza, views to the north and south harbours make it a perfect spot for gatherings and summer sitting. A glass pavilion allows this plaza to be used in the winter.