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Environmental Architecture (MA)

RS3 - Alentejo Research Unit


In its first year, the studio conducted an investigation on the environmental impacts of intensive agriculture. Alentejo, a rural region in the south of Portugal where modes of life are deeply rooted in human-soil relations, provided a lens to unpack the entangled relation between the ongoing desertification of the western Mediterranean basin and the expansion of monocrop cultivation. Focusing on the Alqueva dam, a large-scale hydroelectric project which generated the largest artificial water reservoir in Europe upon completion in 2002, our research projects explored the contradictions of the EU’s so called “green-energy” transition, and the inherent tensions between the modernization of agricultural practices and the protection of habitats and landscapes. By engaging with the ongoing ecological, social, and political struggles taking place in the region, we learned from the different modes of knowledge and situated perspectives of local stakeholders: farmers and exploited rural workers; scientists and architects; affected populations and activists. Through dialogue and collaboration with local activist movements, in particular with Pedro Horta, the student’s projects functioned as a laboratory to unpack the toxic relation between mechanized irrigation and extractivism. While combining architectural tools of spatial analysis with the voices and claims of those inhabiting the frontline of monocrop cultivation, the work of the studio offered meaningful contributions to new forms of resistance, above and below ground.

Video: Shengze Qu. Rosa Dimas window view, a still from “Surface Extraction”