remote, renewable energy-rich territory Flotta, Orkney archipelago, Scotland 58.8287° N, 3.1155° W
Globalisation and global urbanisation are reshaping our world. Life in Central Places is expanding; life in remote territories is vanishing. For centuries, subsistence agriculture sustained rural communities the world over; that raison d’être has now largely vanished. Cities are a celebration of our current understanding of the Anthropocene. Cities mine the territory for fuel, material resources, food and even population. Production is paramount; people are not. A small but significant influx of romantics flee the city- looking for an old, but now-vanished way of life in the remote territory. Meanwhile our globalised world now faces serious challenges as we seek to move beyond oil and to a circular economy. The remote island of Flotta in the Orkney archipelago exemplifies these themes, and offers possible visions for a future world in which the remote territory exists in symbiosis with the centralised city- because of the fact that renewable energy is not best suited to central cities- it is Energy at the End of the World.
The Bruck-Mining Saga traverses the island from the point where the subsea electricity cable lands to the remote edge of a ruined, wartime landscape by the sea cliffs. At one side, it pragmatically mines metal bruck at infrastructural scale, creating new material for export and thus a new island economy by using the locally generated renewable electricity surplus. The metal recycling plant occupies the site of an abandoned airfield from the early days of the island’s oil terminal- which constitutes a form of spatial bruck. The architecture of the plant is industrial, tectonic, above ground, efficient.
The creation of ‘new metal’ in turn facilitates the embellishment/ establishment of a craft metal working/ jewellery making tradition on the island. This brings bruck mining to the scale of the human, and indeed even to that of the wearer. These workshops inhabit a series of wartime ruins embedded in the islandscape- a form of architectural bruck. They preserve and embellish the romantic attraction of this story to visitors of Orkney. Such stories of the remote are vital to humanity: ‘Once upon a time in a land far, far away…’ The ruins are stereotomic, storied, rough, rust-stained, fragile.
Place to unite the new and old islanders (either positively or negatively) occupies a point of transition between these two spheres of production, where a subterranean spaces house the rich tapestry of Flotta stories past, present and future. Together, they form a modern monument, carved from the rock of the flat islandscape. This architecture of the senses records and enables the telling of stories that are crucial to the plural identities of the evolving Flotta community, and which in turn reflect our broader humanity. In doing so, the spaces become simultaneously a museum for visitors, a community arts space and a landmark. The architecture embraces the northern quality of light (and dark) through juxtaposition of solidity and of fragility. More permanent than any infrastructure can or ever should be, the architecture fixes a part of our humanity into this remote island territory. It says: ‘We’re still here.’ It offers the possibility for an anthropic future that is not exclusively urban.