Earlier this year, Researcher Toms Kokins received funding from UMArts and Future Forests to conduct research within architecture and the timber industry in Sweden and Latvia.
Toms Kokins is an Architect and Lecturer at Umeå School of Architecture at Umeå University. He was approved of funding for his research project “Sweden’s Timber Empire: Resource driven colonisation in Baltic Sea region”. The project has been funded by UmArts Small Visionary Projects (2022) and SLU Future Forests (2023) seed money, enabling Kokins to conduct preliminary research and test various research methods in the context of Swedish-owned forests in Latvia.
Kokins explains that the research project is called “Sweden’s Timber Empire”, and has an architectural perspective on the transnational timber industry’s impact on the landscapes of material, labour, and ecologies. It is a case of Swedish forests in Latvia.
– The project aims to critically map the extent of Swedish state- and privately-owned forest land in the Baltic Sea region with an in-depth case study of territory of Latvia. Using a mix of quantitative data gathering and diverse qualitative mapping methods, it aims to reveal hidden layers of social, ecological, and economical interrelations underlying the process of acquiring productive forestry lands beyond Sweden’s national borders, Kokins says.
The aim is to expand its geography in the Baltic Sea region and to establish collaborations across the disciplines of architecture, forestry, human geography, landscape history, planning and art.
Toms Kokins working on the map of Sweden’s Timber Empire using tar and painted plywood canvas in UmArts Studio at the Arts Campus.
Image Liene Kokina
Upon the question about the background for the project, Kokins describes that the issue of resource driven colonisation and its implications has been overlooked within the context of forestry and architecture in Baltic Sea region.
– Current debates on forestry focuses within either national borders, or within the perspective of one of the corporate players, such as forestry companies. There is a lack of a transnational holistic perspective on timber resource accumulation, and a critical view towards architecture and building industry as one of the extensive timber consumption contributors, Kokins explains.
He hopes this project can contribute to, and serve, as a contextualised platform to discuss the global trend of resource accumulation that often neglects the urge for preserving biodiversity, cultural identities, and economical independencies in the affected territories. It intends to identify what is and what can be the role of architecture in these processes.
– The aim is to expand its geography in the Baltic Sea region and to establish collaborations across the disciplines of architecture, forestry, human geography, landscape history, planning and art, Kokins answers to the question about the outcomes for the project. He continues to describe the nearest future:
– An expected outcome in 2023 is an application for a PhD position and future research plan. I have also been invited to contribute to upcoming forest-themed exhibition in 2024 at Bildmuseet, Umeå.
Currently, Kokins is an artist in residency at UmArts open studio at Smedjan in Umeå Arts Campus that is open for public.