Contemporary Urban Territories Towards a Terminological Tool Set

by · Dec 4, 2014 · 1 678 views ·

The formation of cities, as well as that of landscapes, has until recent history been characterized by slow cycles of transformation of the pre-existing environment—nature—into an inhabited and appropriated territory. An olive grove is as much a result of this evolving relationship to the Earth's surface and resources, as is a densely built city center. What we face now is a (already not so) new precedent: an ever increasing speed of physical transformation. Old settlement forms are still there, impregnating the landscape, but even they—if not transforming once more—alter their role in the new territorial configurations, or are simply left to wither. Europe's deindustrializing context, and the vacant—yet paradoxically sprawling—countryside are not exempt from this short-cycle nature of transformation. What is altered most profoundly is the relationship of settlements to the overall inhabited and used (exploited) territory. ETH Studio Basel has for five years now been investigating these new relations, taking as a premise always that cities are rather embedded in, and not autonomous from, their landly "base." These research semesters are currently being re-evaluated as a corpus in order to sharpen the existing terminology of concepts that could be used to talk about, describe, and eventually plan or steer territories: nature, water, agriculture, settlement, infrastructure and production. This lecture will introduce some of these reflections, what do these words effectively mean and how are they interrelated. Illustrating this are the cases of urbanization themselves: in Rome's periphery, the Red River Delta in Vietnam, Assiut in the Nile Valley in Egypt, Muscat and the Al Batinah Plain in Oman, Minas Gerais in inland Brazil and the Floridian flat land around Orlando and Tampa. ETH Studio Basel is an institute of urban research set up by architects Roger Diener, Jacques Herzog, Marcel Meili and Pierre de Meuron in Basel in 1999, as part of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETHZ)—Department of Architecture, Network City and Landscape. Vesna Jovanović is a practicing architect involved in territorial urban research and teaching at ETH Studio Basel since 2011, and at the University of Neuchâtel since 2014. She has worked on several projects pertaining to spatial planning and large scale development and growth strategies in the Benelux region and in Eastern Turkey. She has been a guest critic and lecturer at the UdK in Berlin, the IHS Housing Institute in Rotterdam, the Architecture Academy in Mendrisio, and the MARCH school in Moscow.

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