Elizabeth Hatz_ Nature over the infrastructure

This project will attempt a side-view of the anthropocentric dominance and open for a biocentric program, envisaging cultivations and wild-life that may intertwine with human historic layers. It will strive towards a balanced co-habitation of animals, plants and humans.
As far as possible the perspective will attempt to be, a priori, from the animal or vegetal view point. Architecture is an ordered transformation of matter, a re-ordering of the existing and alteration will here be the inventive tool, together with observation through drawing. The area has cultural and natural values that make connectivity, culture and care the key words. Culture here may escape any restricting or reductive dichotomy (nature vs culture).

Some underlying questions rise as we approach the location and the theme:
• How can other beings than humans thrive throughout the site and how can they convive with humans throughout the site?
• Can the ruins offer layers for animal and human activity, intertwined, while this contributes back to their preservation?
• Can local food production enhance both animal and human life at a small scale? Wild plants, bees, goats, poultry, vegetables..?
• How can transportation be minimized or energy neutral using the river, cycle ways and the disused railway for connecting sites?
• How minimize intervention while caring for and celebrating the cultural heritage and keeping it alive?

We will divide the group in three, focusing three inter-related parts: 1. railway+river with connected sites 2. San Bernardo and 3. Casina Grangia. Collaborations across the three groups will hence be crucial as connectivity is in focus.

Each group will produce
A. one large hand drawing on mdf board in pencil, graphite, white gouache/water colour etc (see examples below) and supported by
B. one digital drawing of research work.
Optional addition is a physical 3D chart (see Wurman’s city forms) in black wax of each part or a small painting of an intervention.

The hand drawing will be a plan at 1:200 for built sites and 1:2000 for railway/river complemented with sections and plans of interventions at larger scale, 1:100/ 1:50.
Based on quick basic research and own speculations, the students will suggest – feather light or permanent – and effective interventions that allow a thriving natural development and robust, inventive repair and alteration of the heritage.

Intelligently and consciously responding to architectural programs means expanding the interpretation of the brief way beyond the prescribed and beyond the immediate client, onto a wider collective of unknown users. It is a hidden contract with the outcast, the frailest, those who have no say. It carries by necessity a clandestine element of generosity and unlikely dignity.

Most difficult, it sometimes even means – refraining from building. To fight for doing nothing. Building nothing is hard, requires devoted attention and care. The places where we don’t need to do anything, buy anything, be anyone – just be. But the quality of being there is also corresponding to the architectural quality of the space.
Architecture is most often background. That does not necessarily make it neutral.
It has solid resistance, as such it is different to us. It does not give freedom by mimicking freedom. Or mimicking us, nature, anything.

Our best scientists tell us insistently that a calamity is unfolding, that the life-support systems of the Earth are being damaged in ways that threaten our survival. Yet in the face of these facts we carry on as usual. (…)

This bizarre situation, in which we have become potent enough to change the course of the Earth yet seem unable to regulate ourselves, contradicts every modern belief about the kind of creature the human being is. (…)

The “humans-only” orientation of the social sciences and humanities is reinforced by our total absorption in representations of reality derived from media, encouraging us to view the ecological crisis as a spectacle that takes place outside the bubble of our existence. (…)

It is true that grasping the scale of what is happening requires not only breaking the bubble but also making the cognitive leap to “Earth system thinking” – that is, conceiving of the Earth as a single, complex, dynamic system. It is one thing to accept that human influence has spread across the landscape, the oceans and the atmosphere, but quite another to make the jump to understanding that human activities are disrupting the functioning of the Earth as a complex, dynamic, ever-evolving totality comprised of myriad inter-locking processes. 

From Clive Hamilton “Defiant Earth – The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene”

The freedom of architecture lies partly in its physical durability in contrast to its perishable cultural code. Thus architecture, even with sometimes high levels of oppressive history, may be overtaken, changed, re-appropriated, entirely freely and differently. The conquest of such places, is not then in their destruction – or even re-use – but in their re-appropriation, and hence felt maybe even stronger then, as free space. The inhabitation of the monument. Since it is a monument. Because, on the other hand, with an address to the work of art, from which it used not to be severed, architecture possesses (can possess) also an aura of permanence… “of something immortal achieved by mortal hands…” Therefore, architecture is, as I see it, also beyond measurable utility.