AALU Field-trip accross Europe

AA Landscape Urbanism set out to explore  Territorial Landscapes accross Europe for its fieldtrip of 2014: The Curonian Spit sand-dunes, Riparian Landscape in the Alps, Po Delta, the Elbe River Floodplains, and Southern UK flood-risk coast as part of the ongoing Atlas of radical cartographies accross Europe. Photos by Anastasia Kotenko and Niki Kakali, Valeria Garcia, Ariadna Weisshaar, Simranjit Kaur, Anji Han,Yi-Chun Kuo, Josine Lambert, Eugenio Darin, Fernando Blanco, Shruthi Padmanabhan  and   Yunya Tang:

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AALU Field-trip accross Europe

Land Formations Tectonic Grounds

I have an essay titled "Land formations Tectonic Grounds" out soon in a forthcoming book edited by Nadia Amoroso called "Representing Landscapes: Digital"

My contribution is intended to expand on the the role Landscape urbanism on concepts such as territory, land and ground and how the digital is shaping its development in academia especially at our programme at the Architectural Association, here is an extract of the text:

"Land-Formations Tectonic-Grounds

The Landscape Urbanism MA at the Architectural Association is engaged with the idea of landscapes as the milieu for the development of a practice at a territorial scale. This practice is concerned on the one hand with the geomorphological formations of landforms (Tectonic Grounds) and on the other with the actual cultural, political and economic forces that drive and choreograph the social formations of these territories (Land Formations).
The understanding of these concepts as the primeval material to work with, draws knowledge and understanding from fields such as geomorphology and/or sociology, and claims the seeds from where Landscape Urbanism recognises the engines behind territorial production. Territory thus is understood as an assemblage of manufactured landscapes that requires a multidisciplinary knowledge from relevant fields, ever since it is shaped by a myriad of both physical and social processes and dynamics.

Ultimately these territorial assemblages of land formations and tectonic grounds are cultural productions derived from a constant and relentless human and natural activity full of conflicts, struggles, alterations, and shifts, within or outside legal or institutional frameworks. As such they become the result of specific historical processes with political consequences, which lies at the core of Landscape Urbanism territorial practice..."

Alfredo Ramirez , April 2014

Riparian Landscapes

A territorial project for riparian landscapes in European mountainous regions
By Josine Lambert and Eugenio Darin

The relation of human with nature often involves conflicts, particularly in wealthy countries where the carbon footprint continues to grow. The denser the population, the larger the impact on the natural landscape. The Netherlands for example, with a population density of almost 500 people/km2, has been turned into a completely artificial landscape.

Most of Europe’s original natural landscape has to some extent been affected by human interventions. Only the last decades – when significant damage has already been done – a consciousness about the importance of natural landscapes and their value for ecology grows. Fossil fuels get to an end some day and people start to exploit renewable natural sources.

Networks for “green energy” are being developed in different landscapes in Europe; o.a. solar energy in Southern countries and wind energy in the North. Renewable energy might sound as a “nature-friendly” alternative to the polluting fossil energy sources, but it has its drawbacks too. Renewable energy networks can have a negative impact on local ecologies and social territories. These networks can completely alter the landscape with many consequences. Mountain rivers are the source of Europe’s water and hydro-energy networks. Over time human interventions, in order to control and benefit from them, dramatically transformed these landscapes. One of the most significant interventions is the construction of hydropower dams, which contributes to a sustainable energy network, but at the same time physically, economically and socially affects the local territory. Which interventions can be justified, considering the impact they have on the riparian landscapes? Could a new transformation take place in order to integrate the various conflicting territories within one new landscape?
Despite the disparity in national governmental policies, this issue is common to many European countries, as hydropower facilities have been constructed in all mountainous regions divided by national borders.
The focus will lie on the Alps, as it contains the most densely developed hydropower network and comprises eight different countries Dams seriously influence the behaviour of streams and consequently cause the transformation of the riparian landscapes: they hold back sediments, which causes erosion downstream and the braiding of the river to disappear while provoking problems in its deposition in the reservoir. They also reduce the frequency of floods and their intensity in the valley, which is essential for riparian landscapes. 

These territories are gaining an increasingly significant role within the implementation of the new European Green Infrastructure. (European Commission, Green Infrastructure – Enhancing Europe’s Natural Capital, 2013) The importance of riparian landscapes as infrastructural and productive areas asks for a careful approach of the water and sediment management, especially considering the effects of climate change; altering precipitation patterns and melting of glaciers influence the amount and the seasonal flow of water both in the short and long term. Reactivation of the riparian landscape is needed, not only to strengthen the ecological values of a green infrastructure, but also to generate possibilities and opportunities for surrounding territories within this green infrastructure.

Riparian Landscapes

European Sandways

A Territorial Project of European Shifting Grounds
By Anastasia Kotenko and Niki Kakali

Our Atlas represents the possibility of sand movement across Europe. Driven by the wind velocity and direction it shows how the landform could make a path, being forced by landscape geometry either stopped by current land uses. Sand dunes consist not only a fragile environment but also complex ecosystems in transition. Sand dunes stretch the most significant amount of the European coastline.

 They develop wherever there is a suitable supply of sediment moved onshore by tide and they form diverse types of land formations. Their nature is movement, and any human management of dunes, like discontinuation of their flow goes against this nature. Most of the sand dunes environments in Europe are threatened by human activities. Urbanization together with ‘scientific’ ideas of human predominance and total control of natural habitats directly affected these environments starting from 19th century. For instance, recreational pressures have caused the destruction of dunes concerning the giant tourist facilities in the Mediterranean. 

In the process, they have demolished many of the natural landscapes that attracted the visitor in the first place. Along with that, causes of high erosion of managed areas may lie in the management itself, as natural processes are hardly predictable and human decisions are not always following the landform evolution. In all European countries, attention is given to landscape preservation; however, policies and practices in the past have mainly been based on specific ecological and visual landscape qualities but not spatial and political elements of the territory. The conflict of men|dune relation may be in the nature of two – men, applying techniques to stop the dune, and dune which needs to shift and flow to continue it’s lifecycle. On the one hand nature conservations and re-habitation is of vital importance, but on the other hand the restoration of these dynamic drift sand ecosystems can produce land-use conflicts. The movement of sand can generate migration of the ownerships.

European Sandways