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Changing landscapes

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We are concerned with the countryside that has been left after the mass exodus from the country to the large, post-industrialised cities of the late 20th century. We feel this is particularly pertinent now, when statistics are clearly showing that current living conditions are unsustainable. Over the last few years our diploma unit at the School of Architecture at Portsmouth has travelled to European towns in order to look at examples of communities that have a close relationship with the land and discuss aspects that affect design. We have found that taking ourselves to Europe, rather than just focussing on the UK, has enabled us to look at problems more objectively than if they were in our homeland. We also have the conviction that an understanding of European culture, of which we are part, is essential. We are particularly interested in heritage, and what that means and implies, both through architecture and landscape. Our concerns are with continuity, understanding of resources, and sustainability. We are particularly concerned with understanding the dilemma faced with communities where there has been rapid change over the last century, and that now these changes are becoming unsustainable. We have chosen places located around the Mediterranean, as their long histories are complex, and have survived through periods of great change already. We are also interested in the potential of the Mediterranean climate and its potential for creating a sustainable communities. In our paper we will discuss some of the design projects that we have carried out, and issues they have raised. This will cover Naxos in Greece, Amalfi in Italy and the areas around St Remy in France. In Naxos, our focus was based on a continuity of culture that dates back to 28000BC. Naxos has a problem in that the tourism by which it is dependent, is no longer a growing concern. We looked and analysed the existing economy, and tried to trace any continuity that evolved from past understanding of the land. People have moved away from the land as there has been more money to be made from tourism. A few ancient sites are can be visited, but many are neglected. The coastline has been developed indiscriminately, with tourists coming to the island for sun and sand, whilst the rest of the island lies asleep. The Amalfi coast has been a key area in the Mediterranean since the 12th century, and had in its heyday accumulated great wealth. However, nowadays, again, the area survives almost entirely through tourism. As with Naxos, there is a very thin coastal strip that is being used. The development is more discriminating than at Naxos, which may well be to do with the challenging topography as well as it being a world heritage site. However, if one penetrates down the valleys there is a richness of heritage, with many ruined buildings. The potential for reappraising these area is enormous. Our project was to assess the potential of the valleys behind the coastal towns on the Amalfi coast and make design proposals for a more sustainable community that could provide a more widely spread and balanced economy that existed all the year round, and did not rely on tourism in the summer months. St Remy in Provence is in danger of losing its essential identity. The butcher in the main square has now been replaced by a shop selling designer boxer shorts to up-market tourists, and meat is bought in packs at the supermarket. Tourists and Parisians living in their second homes for their summer holidays bring in a lot of income. At one level, there is nothing wrong with any of that and we live in a global economy after all. At another level, more that there is something profoundly missing. It relies on a range of unsustainable factors. The boxer shorts will be made in the far east, and the meat may well have travelled all over France before arriving in the supermarket. Tourists have flown to Avignon increasing our carbon footprint. This year we have been looking at ways in which we can restructure and design for a more sustainable community, embracing modern technology, but also looking for answers that have evolved through a collective understanding of the land that makes the provencal landscape unique. From these studies we have been able to look at common threads that have emerged. An understanding of the historical development at abroad cultural level is essential for proposals for the future. A re-evaluation of resources is essential for a sustained future, and for maintaining the uniqueness and sense of place.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009
Event3rd International Meeting on Architectural Heritage of the Mediterranean: Heritage and modernity in Mediterranean architecture - University of Lusiada, Lusiada, Portugal
Duration: 15 Oct 200917 Oct 2009

Conference

Conference3rd International Meeting on Architectural Heritage of the Mediterranean
Abbreviated titleRIPAM_3
CountryPortugal
CityLusiada
Period15/10/0917/10/09

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