Parochialism and Wide Vistas

Røðan, ið borgarstjórin í Runavík helt í samband við avdúkingina av vinnaranum av Nordic Built Cities kappingini um at byggja í brattlendi.

The speech held by the mayor of Runavík upon revealing the winner of the Nordic Built Cities - The Steep Challenge.

I am delighted to address you all who have been a part of this long journey across sea and land, fields and yards. It was a great honour for Runavík Municipality to represent the Faroes and be a largish pebble in this major competition on how our citizens, living in such varied terrain, may find a roof over their heads. Some ironic soul once chimed that God, on the seventh day, when he thought he had completed Creation, found a few small stones in one of his hands. These he dropped into the northern seas, and there the Faroes have stood ever since—a mountainous country like no other. Even to find a crack between the mountains to squeeze an 1,800-metre-long airstrip is hard enough. The terrain proves to be quite the challenge for engineers, architects, artisans and labourers. The challenge is no less for those elected to govern a municipality like the one of which I am presently the mayor.

The Faroes are a young nation. We don’t know how old, but it is far younger than the birth of Christ. Only a little more than a millennium has passed since a few Vikings landed here, having fled from under a monarch’s tyranny in the western fjords of Norway. They are the reason that we today are one part of the Nordic family, that we speak our unique Nordic tongue—only fifty thousand people. That is a miracle, though we may not be one.

For centuries, life in the islands was a matter of survival. Whether out fishing, in the hills or by the hearth, it was all about getting food on the table. Nobody spared architecture a thought, even though old beautiful buildings stood there to be seen, such as the cathedral walls in Kirkjubø, which are about 800 years old. The post-war welfare society spawned a wealth of new opportunities. Faroese youth went abroad to study, and many broadened their horizons through architecture. And over the past half century this profession has left its mark on the Faroese landscape—thank God for that!

The town of Runavík has also entered the architectonic age. The town has grown up out of almost nothing since the second world war and is today the country’s third largest town. It still experiences rapid growth and good architecture is becoming more visible, both in private and municipal ventures.

And so it was a welcome opportunity to be a part of this competition, not only because this is the path we plan to tread but also because it is good for us. A small technical department in a relatively small municipality far out in the northern seas can easily grow dull and parochial, failing to see the broad vistas. Sewer systems, parcelling out land, harbours, waterways and the like  must all be done. But precisely an opportunity like this throws the doors of architecture and engineering wide open. The whole system on the other side, in the wide world, draws the entire local spectrum up into a different and more colourful sphere. And even we, the politicians, begin to sense the wind beneath our wings.

It is especially the two engineers Janus Trúgvason and Sigrið Dalsgaard who have been involved in this project. I want to thank them for that. If we receive another opportunity like this one, we certainly will take it. A whole treasure throve of good ideas and projects were submitted. Though, of course, part of the game is that by the end only one stands with the victor’s crown. This cannot quite be compared to those who competed to find the South Pole first. Nobody died in this competition! But Roald Amundsen’s words on returning home from his dangerous expedition hold true for all competitions:

Victory goes to the man
who has made all
arrangements in advance
People call it luck !

Defeat awaits the man who
has not taken the
necessary measures in time
That is called bad luck !

Now that this competition is over, Runavík town council will discuss the matter, whether the winning proposal is to be used or not. That’s up to us, to do as we see fit. The land is after all ours. Perhaps parts of projects that didn’t win will be used. All this we will hear more about in the coming days. But one thing remains, and that is to heartily congratulate White Architects for winning this architectural competition with their excellent project, “The Eyes of Runavík.”

In conclusion, on behalf of Runavík Municipality, I would like to thank all of you for your efforts.