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The dilemma of Blok P

One of the most important housing policy issues in Greenland is the future of 'Block P' in the centre of Nuuk. The building is five storeys high and 64 apartments long, stretching more than 200 metres, right across Nuuk in an east-west direction. According to Wikipedia, Block P is "generally viewed very unfavourably by the local population and it is even presented to tourists as so depressing that it's almost an attraction in itself." Even though Nuuk is a small city central plots are attractive for shopping, offices and middle-class housing. In such a context 'Block P' inhabits an almost ideal location.

Photo: Klaus Georg HansenThe national authorities have already decided to tear down 'Block P' while the municipality has also decided to tear down a number of similar structures, the so-called Blocks A,B,C,D,E,E,G,H,I,J,K and L, which also have a central location. 'Block P' will be demolished in its entirety while blocks A to L will be dismantled more gradually. The people living in Block P will be offered alternative accommodation either in similar styled dwellings in central Nuuk or in new blocks at Qinngorput, which is near the airport and some 5 km from the city centre. Parallel to this, both the national and the local authorities have started to develop new plans for the area. The local architect-company TNTnuuk has, together with the Norwegian Tromsø-based Dahl&Uhre architects, been engaged to participate in this project.

One of the main elements of the process thus far has been a major proposal-exhibition and guaranteed public involvement. Interestingly enough, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs contributed 300 000 NOK to this part of the project. Knut Erik Dahl from Dahl&Uhre architects explains that this support relates to the 'indigenous people' dimension of this project and to the exchange of competences and knowledge on the topic of 'the Arctic City' while Norwegian efforts to develop policies for the High North are also relevant, he notes.

In total, Greenland has almost 27 000 housing-units including one- and two-room apartments. Nuuk itself has, in total, almost 7 200 dwellings. 2009 saw the construction of a total of 274 new homes in Greenland. Of these, 136 were built in Nuuk. Of the new dwellings, 179 are publicly owned. The Greenland Housing Association Ltd (A/S Inissiaatileqatigiiffik INI) manages and maintains about 12 000 public rental dwellings on behalf of the Government of Greenland and many of the municipalities. Just over 16 000 of Greenland's approximately 57 000 inhabitants live in Nuuk.

By Odd Iglebaek