1. One of the biggest geo-architectural developments of the 2000s was “The World” archipelago in Dubai. The 300 artificial islands were supposed to represent the continents of the earth, but the 2008 financial crisis halted their development, and this 14 billion dollar luxury laboratory of terraformation is still waiting for its new investors. We are also having to wait for “Federation Island”—an archipelago depicting the contours of the Russian Federation, planned for the shores of Sochi—until 2020 at least, as the clients of the Egeraat agency prefer natural Crimean granite to banal poured concrete for the new island's foundations on the seabed.

        However, in the North, there is an archipelago under Russian sovereignty that could be a potential target for these kinds of urbanistic tendencies of imitatio dei ad absurdum. In 1874 the Österreichisch-Ungarische Nordpolexpedition put the Franz Josef Land—a frozen archipelago north of Novaya Zemlya—on the map. During the last decades of the Habsburg Empire, jokes were often made about this singular and remote colony of the crown where only Esperanto-speaking polar bears roamed, but in reality this territory was a terra nullius: it belonged to no one. In 1926 the Soviet Union annexed all 192 islands of this vast uninhabited desert of ice. How might we jump across those long centuries of colonization and turn a terra nullius into terra communis?