SNOWFALL TO MELTWATER: RE-CONSIDERING THE WINTER CITY

When it comes to cities, a shift in focus is necessary.  It is time to move away from building place-less spaces that embrace warm climate values regardless of their location and environmental realities, and start building cities that are a byproduct of the forces that act upon them. It is time to build cities that are climate responsive both functionally and aesthetically. In Northern Cityscapes, Norman Pressman defines the Winter City as a place where the mean maximum daytime temperature is usually below the freezing point (0°C) for at least two months of the year. Cold temperatures, high winds, high levels of snowfall, slush, and shorter daylight hours are the realities of these cities for part of the year leading to high energy requirements. A bioclimatic approach that deals with these unique environmental conditions can reactivate these cities and inject them with new life and economic vitality during the cold season.  This paper poses three scales of intervention as prototypes which aim to do just that. At a micro scale, the application of low cost technology to utilize the natural physical properties of snow as a cooling agent is examined. At this scale, snow is reconsidered as a raw geo-material that is renewable and abundantly available in winter cities.  This modified air conditioning system will act to counterbalance the high energy costs of the industrial sector and lower the financial burden of snow removal on the city. At a meso scale, the urban streetscape is examined in order to create local storage zones for snow removal in order to reduce the cost and energy spent on snow haulage. Creation of a system that conducts meltwater and slush away from streets to mitigation sites without allowing pollutants to enter the combined sewer system of the city. At a macro scale, the infrastructure of snow is questioned and the removal and haulage of snow is reconsidered. A proposal for large scale local storage within city limits is proposed as a means to eliminate transport costs and revitalize the city’s civic life during the winter season. The urban landscape of winter cities which experience sub-freezing conditions for part of the year should not resemble that of a sub-belt city. Urban configurations should be a direct function of social, cultural, political, AND environmental conditions which act upon them. Seasonal variations should no longer be seen solely as changing aesthetic traits. They must impact the way we live and the way that our cities function as living systems.

 

2015: Presented at Changing Cities II Conference, Porto Heli Greece