MArch /MSc LANDSCAPE URBANISM 2015-2016
MSc 12 months (three terms, plus thesis work)
March 16 months (four terms)
Landscape Urbanism at the Architectural Association explores the emergence of ‘territory’ as a field of design praxis. Through this lenses the programme operates within contemporary conditions whereby urban environments are understood not as discrete independent collection of objects but rather as interconnected and related landscapes with far reaching implications at local and global scales. Their implications are best reflected in current environmental concerns such as climate change, energy crisis and wide-spread pollution but less apparent in their social and political implications, currently being disguise by ecological and sustainable design driven agendas for the ‘urbanised world’.
The production of Treaties (i.e. European Landscape Convention), Networks (Delta-Net), governmental plans (Room for the river-Netherlands) and other local policies and agreements with potential impact in specific geographies symptomize the demands for implementation of synchronized responses and projects at the scale of territory. However, they have rarely been seen as a space for research-led projects by design practices given their potential impact in the production and/or re-configuration of their space.
Territory, understood in Elden’s terms as a ‘political technology, has the capacity to involve designers into complex processes, -social, political, economic- that are the engines -historically, geographically, conceptually- behind these contemporary conditions, but most importantly it allows them to intervene into those realities in alternative ways via the production and development of innovative yet critical design projects of territories.
Thinking practice through the concept of territory, the agency of the designer can be extended beyond its current disciplinary confinements: those of architecture, planning, urban design, landscape architecture, engineering, etc. as well as those of the various (un)-disciplinary re-alignments and hybrids in which these are currently configured. In the process geographic knowledge, and practices, such as cartography and geomorphology are re-appropriated and mobilised as the means to ask and respond to these fundamental questions.
In doing so, the programme explores the types of project, forms of documentation, theories, technologies and techniques required to re-think and re-define the temporal production of territorial spaces through the praxis of design. It engages critically with a of range social and material formations in given territories, and with the conflicts that resonate geographical scales of the local, the regional and the continental.
Landscape Urbanism offers a 12-month MSc and a 16-month March aimed at a wide range of professionals engaged with territorial disciplines ranging from architects and landscape architects to engineers, urban planners and geographers to explore a cross-disciplinary research by design approach to these practices.
The MSc course develops students’ ability to abstract complex territorial formations in order to generate a set of territorial guidelines (Manual) that can be potentially deployed in comparable territories (Atlas). The 16-month March produces site-specific design thesis projects that work as an operative test bed to inform the Atlas and Manual of territorial formations. Students’ work is based on a combination of team-based studio, workshop and seminar courses. At the end of September (MSc) and January (March) the projects are presented to a panel of distinguish visiting critics in order to finalise the design thesis in the form of a book.
PAN-EUROPEAN ATLAS OF RADICAL CARTOGRAPHIES
In October 2000 the European Landscape Convention in Florence became the first pan-European project with the ambition of defining the entirety of the European territory from a cultural perspective. Avoiding commonly held picturesque definitions of beauty and eschewing parochial identitarianism, it promised a collective sense of the appreciation of territorial specificity supported by comprehensive studies of charters and tailor made recommendations. However, the decidedly encyclopaedic spirit of the Florence Convention trumped a stubborn reality where practices of property developers and, perhaps more importantly, a set of labyrinthine policies of the Communitarian Agrarian Policy (CAP) were never translated into meaningful systems of space production. To put it simply, the Florence Convention was born without a design ethos.
FRAMEWORK 14-15: Europe
It is within this rift between utilitarian and cultural practices of European policies that Landscape Urbanism aims to locate a space of research. The course seeks to explore how productive and natural formations can generate the basis of a pan-European project of territories which are neither generic nor iconic, neither conventional nor touristic. If the European territory is ever to gain the status of a coherent project, this demands that no process is regarded as too humble, that no mountain is thought more sublime than another, and that no stream is considered insufficiently picturesque. Landscape Urbanism will generate an atlas of possible territories as the basis of new forms of documenting the future of European environments. It will do so by moving from process to cartography, exploring questions of specificity, localism, formation and intention.