New tools proyectuales of reference: Productive Landscapes | axonometrica

Fragmento del Master Plan de los alumnos del grupo A del Taller Ciutadella de TFG, Jordi Barri, Jairo Vizcaino, José Vicente García Iglesias, Roser Estelrich y Javi Ivorra |
Fragment of the Master Plan of the pupils of the group To of the Workshop Ciutadella of TFG, Jordi Barri, Jairo Vizcaino, Jose Vicente García Iglesias, Roser Estelrich and Javi Ivorra |


Productive landscapes. The idea of landscape has opened a gap in the considerations and the traditional beginning of the body to discipline of the architecture and the urbanism. Actually the logics of the landscape, interpreted of opened form, allow to understand the relations between environments, that is to say they throw new readings between, of a side, the urban or natural landscapes, and of other one the processes of growth. Of emergent form the landscape painting is turning into a model to think the city.

This relation between environments, is actually a new spatial modality that has the form of a point of meeting between three disciplines that the modernity supported detached, the architecture, the urbanism and the landscape painting. The meeting point where this confluence takes place comes to form a new organization, an organic synthesis of objetual verticalizado, the architecture, operatively horizontalizado, the landscape and the systemicly extensive thing, the urbanism. If we assume the idea of landscape as catalyst of this confluence to discipline, equally we will have to assume the need to construct a new lexicon that he provides with the predominance with some with the former disciplines. Consequently a new field of operations is opened widely to be explored by new instruments and methodologies.

Esta relación entre entornos, es en realidad una nueva modalidad espacial que tiene la forma de un punto de encuentro entre las tres disciplinas que la modernidad mantuvo desvinculadas, la arquitectura, el urbanismo y el paisajismo. El meeting point donde se produce esta confluencia viene a configurar una nueva organización, una síntesis orgánica de lo objetual verticalizado, la arquitectura, lo operativamente horizontalizado, el paisaje y lo sistémicamente extensivo, el urbanismo.  Si asumimos la idea de paisaje como catalizador de esta confluencia disciplinar, igualmente deberemos asumir la necesidad de construir un nuevo léxico que prevenga del predominio de algunas de las antiguas disciplinas. Por consiguiente un nuevo campo de operaciones se abre de par en par para ser explorado con nuevos instrumentos y metodologías.

In short, if as Stan Allen says,

landscaping has been defined as the art of organizing horizontal surfaces,

paying more attention to the conditions of this horizontality and looking for the disciplinary confluence, not only in terms of configuration, but also to its materiality and performance, architects, urban planners and landscapers can activate spaces and produce a city without the heavy apparatus of traditional way to urbanize and colonize the territory. For us, this is an opportunity we can not pass.

The idea of landscape thus becomes a new operative instrument to define, redefine and even predefine strategic positions in the conception of urban conditions. The theoretical framework of these reflections comes from the idea of Landscape Urbanism, formulated and articulated in the mid 90’s by James Corner in association with Stan Allen in two conferences, Constructing Landscape, at the University of Pennsylvania in 1993 and The recovery of Landscape, at the Architectural Association in 1994.3

In the conceptual scope outlined by Corner and Allen, the landscape is the medium capable of adapting to spatial changes, through transformations from the inside to the outside, through the arrangement of temporal successions, thus linking a project tool for architecture with logic and processes contemporary urban configuration, based on conditions of indetermination, changing demands and open systems.

Landscape and exchange

Another of the basic considerations inserted in the idea of landscape attends in turn to the logic of exchange of matter and energy, to the processes of action and reaction, in short to the idea of interaction. As an aspiration, if we were able to design buildings and cities that behave with the interactive intelligence of a tree, the adaptive process itself caused by the successive responses of the building / tree, city / tree system, would structure a self-learning model with such interesting capabilities as the self-regulation of energy, for example. In reality, this already happens in complex systems such as cities, but the problem is the high cost in time and energy necessary for the city to change while the demands change. The vision of an interactive building and city corresponds to the idea of thermodynamic exchange that occurs in an ecosystem.

Linked with the above and following Ilya Prigogine around dissipative structures, he demonstrated that in an entropic process, or we could also say in a system with high entropy as is the city,

the dissipation of energy and matter, generally associated with the concepts of loss, performance and evolution towards disorder, becomes, far from equilibrium, a source of order.4

That is, in an ecosystem, and here it is worth talking about buildings and cities, the tendency to entropy behaves like a regulator, dragging towards equilibrium situations that in principle are far from equilibrium. This notion that comes from physics, if applied in urban logic, leaves out of focus the overregulation to use in the current planning of our cities, and focuses the project capacity in provoking conditions. Conditions for an urban fabric to be extended according to the demands, and a growth based on the erratic projection of a supposed offer can be avoided, conditions for the project units of the urban, that is, the buildings, to assume the role of activating the environment , of catalysts of the space created as well as of the surrounding space on which it will interact. Conditions, in short, for the city and buildings to act in thermodynamic terms.

From there to the idea of the aesthetic potential of the thermodynamic, as sublimation of the idea of exchange goes very little. In text by Iñaki Ábalos,

the beauty of the thermodynamic, the author concludes: from the perspective of the contemporary architectural culture, in which this text is inserted, in front of the apparent dispersion of postures, references and practical cases, it seems crucial to understand that only if there is an aesthetic discussion If there is an idea of beauty behind the idea of sustainability, it will have arrived here to stay. It is necessary to cross the technical and cultural languages in search of minimum agreements, to identify a consensual system to work on the thermodynamic paradigm that makes it fruitful on the technical, critical and aesthetic levels.5

Landscape and energy

With the conception of the idea of landscape as an urban / architectural production system, an operating project mechanism emerges that allows not only to combine energy and technology with aesthetics and culture, but also beyond, from the root of the idea of energy as design vector, there can be a global and forceful response to considerations of social, political and economic, as well as cultural and technological. The same can be deduced from the text, as the author continues to conclude,

to advance in this paradigm shift from the tectonic and mechanical model of modernity to the contemporary thermodynamic model, it seems necessary to build a new cartography that will guide us around new project techniques, the organization of constructive-typological systems and affiliations aesthetics, adopting as a starting hypothesis the convention or consensus on the need for an integration between architecture, landscape and environmental techniques.

If we add the conception of performance to the open and extended logics of the landscape concept, this idea is understood as a driving force, where each fragment, each atom that participates in an ecosystem plays an active role as an exchanger6, we enter fully into the idea of productive landscape. In this way, to the operating principles of the landscape, we entrust the ability to operate both infrastructural and urban, in fact fusing both, to go further in the production of cultural meanings, social cohesion, political horizons, economic logic and progress technological.

In fact, it is, as we have already pointed out, to promote the interaction, the implication and the interdependence between the energy production infrastructures and the territory, with the intention of creating hybrid energy / urban systems, capable of structuring a relationship in which both systems go on winning, causing multi-scale synergies. In this sense, Aleksandar Ivancic’s book is especially interesting when he talks about the geographies of energy and the operability of energy devices to produce urban logic in Energyscapes.7

Landscape and city

We should insist that by taking a critical position again and rethinking our current situation as professionals facing society, a new meeting point emerges between architecture, understood as the materialization of something, which must be dynamic and respond in a natural way to the encounter between the landscape and the city, the landscape, understood as a provider of a natural response to the environment and therefore adaptable to changing conditions such as water, land, light, etc. and finally, the city, understood as the urban environment that provides the nutrients and organizational demands, from where we have to try to understand how we can become really productive.

In short it is to activate in the field of urban landscape, the central logics of the energy landscape, merging in a single way to conceptualize, the old trichotomy of systems, equipment and roads, traditional urbanism, intelligently leaving the logic of urban programming to the management of a real demand, changing and open to economic and social flows, to the detriment of the management of supply, promoted more or less well-intentioned from obsolete parameters, based on fictitious results of low political flight and no critical intelligence , such as the projection of estimated data to X years, the behavior of certain social masses or the future forecast of needs, often unreal, with the perspective of a present in a permanent state of obsolescence, on the logic of a past, which they no longer serve as the standard pattern.

Point and followed

Under the umbrella of the concept of productive landscape, both the trends of the km0 are framed, that is to say, produce from the near goods and food, the production of information to manage urban behavior in real time, the gagnant-gagnant urban systems, that is, the creation of urban and energy ecosystems, where programs with energy surpluses are associated with energy-deficit programs, the revaluation of the common space as a guarantor of social and participatory equilibrium, or the need to manage urban economies of scale between multifocal and decentralized environments, to put only as an example some of the logics linked to the contemporary urban design tool.

But not only that. The idea of productive landscape questions the very form of architecture, the structural rigidity of the common spaces of the city, the materiality itself in how any architectural object has been resolved. In short, it is about finding new prototypes based on new forms of relationship that assume new programmatic logics.

Productive landscape could be a point of encounter disciplinary, not fortuitous, but provoked, in fact we understand that necessary and expected, in which everything is dynamic and therefore, allows to project operationally with a high gradient of adaptability to changing conditions.

In this sense, and with all the necessary nuances and depths, the idea of a productive landscape also seems central to us as a new reference project tool.

En este sentido, y con todos los matices y profundidades necesarios, la idea de paisaje productivo nos parece también central como una nueva herramienta proyectual de referencia.

Miquel Lacasta. PhD architect
Barcelona, january 2013

*This post and the following two, with which I share the authorship, are the product of an open dialogue with Marta García-Orte, professor of the Taller Final de Grado of the ESARQ, of the International University of Catalonia. In the workshop we are focused on research and the introduction of these issues in parallel to the development of student projects. Our aspiration is that at the end of the Workshop, these ideas are recognizable, not so much in the form of a given object, but in the contents and construction of the story of each project. We hope to see some results at the end of July of this year.


ALLEN, Stan, McQUADE, Marc, Landform Building, Lars Muller ed. and Princeton University School of Architecture, Nueva York, 2008

The idea is to get the ecosystem to become a productive whole, an interactive machine. In fact it is the way nature works.

Es cofundador en ARCHIKUBIK y también en @kubik – espacio multidisciplinario. Obtuvo un Ph.D. con honores (cum laude) en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya UIC y también fue galardonado con el premio especial Ph.D (UIC 2012), M.arch en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, y se graduó como arquitecto en ETSAB Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya . Miquel es profesor asociado en ESARQ desde 1996. Anteriormente, fue profesor en Elisava y Escola LAI, y también en programas de postgrado en ETSAB y La Salle. Fue arquitecto en la oficina de Manuel Brullet desde 1989 desde 1995.


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