Maritime chokepoints are congestive waterways that define some of the world’s most frequented shipping channels. Due to narrow topography, these junctures result in the opportunity for bordering nations to act as gatekeepers of critical trade routes. The politicized nature of the passages results in unique spatial conditions that include an influx of port urbanization, global trade, and cross-border conflict. Trade demand governs planning practices and reinforces that no single spatial logic underlies development, leading to an inability to resolve a range of competing objectives for how these territories manifest beyond economic machinations. Associated coastal, offshore, and deep-sea infrastructures occur alongside rich productive zones that traditionally inhibits or eliminates ecological connectivity, compromises sensitive habitats, and age-old migratory routes.
Chokepoints, beyond logistical barriers, have potential to become sites of opportunity. The spatial extents of these passages are loosely defined, quickly expanded, and continually contested. Due to sea level rise and ice melt, the extension of disruptive trade routes through polar regions is increasing. As Arctic sea ice retreats, the Bering Strait’s emerging role as a major maritime chokepoint will threaten this fragile landscape. New pressures brought upon by the shipping industry, political investment, and global security are poised to clash with one of the world’s most productive marine ecosystems and subsistence indigenous populations. This project acts as a counter proposal to past models of chokepoint development, by a reinvention of nautical systems that wraps functions of economy, trade, and ecology around a new formulation of logistical landscapes and time – a social construct that acts as the single most important factor in the industry of logistics. The bending of the International Date Line around the Diomede Islands creates a “time-exclusion-zone” that centres activity around an arctic bioreserve. The proposed bioreserve is imagined as a ‘first phase’ datum for political and ecological innovation in this tenuous region. A series of multi-scalar landscape interventions, and big infrastructure re-imagines how shipping routes, urban development, and shifting terrain in a future Arctic could ultimately benefit the vulnerable ecological systems they transverse.
The proposal is articulated as four main nautical features: 1. Creation of coastal urban centers (static infrastructures), 2. Offshore piers (semi-static infrastructures), 3. Bridging services (mobile infrastructures), and 4. A bioreserve (absence of infrastructure). The scheme operates under a Time Exclusion Zone (TEZ) that bends the boundary of the international date line around ecological primary production zones and to the edges of shipping channels – a guideline for locating and defining intensity of development. This forfeit of time is a practice of extreme ecological restoration where, in exchange for new shipping routes, part of the land between shipping lanes, prevents people from trading and further modifying the environment of the Bering Strait.
On Thin Ice
Student: Ambika Pharma, University of Toronto
Supervisor: Fadi Masoud, Professor, University of Toronto