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Environmental Architecture (MA)

Hanwen Zhang

Hanwen Zhang was studying as a graduate student in Environmental Architectures at RCA and now is a Landscape Architect working in Shanghai, China.

This is a research project during his graduate studies. The project mainly focus on the degradation of the Portuguese ecosystem, the Montado, and the reasons for its degradation are explored in depth. 

He summarized and explored the drawbacks of capitalist agriculture through researching the disappearance of Montado. The design form is dominated by archives, with photography and documentaries entering the archives as testimonies, disseminated in different media, expecting to provide effective documentation for the environmental struggle in the Alentejo region.

REN (National Ecological Reserve)

The focus of Montado Crisis is mainly on the fact that the Montado ecosystem in the Alentejo region is experiencing degradation. The project begins with the disappearance of cork oaks in the Amieira region, and explores the process of disappearance experienced by cork oaks on a time scale. The approach uses documentaries and archives as interventions, with the expectation of supporting Montado conservation activists as well as policy advocates in the form of testimonies about the disappearance of cork oaks in formats such as photography, film and interviews.

Montado, as an ecosystem of special cultural significance and economic value, has experienced a series of degraded facts in recent decades. Since the establishment of the Alqueva dam, the great Montado ecosystem in the Alentejo region of southern Portugal has accelerated its demise.

The biophysical properties of Montado have an inclusive spatial scale, which provides a basis for exploring the political nature of this ecosystem. The political ecology of Montado is the underlying cause of its degradation. Understanding Montado from a macro perspective, the drawbacks of the capitalist ecology seem to permeate every link of the ecology. The intervention of the capitalist mode of production changed the rights and social structures of the region, and the close relationship between the community and the environment was increasingly diminished. Understanding from a microscopic perspective, biological and microbial influences erode the spatial structure of the system. For example, the threat of too many pasture creatures to acorns, the disappearance of shrubland caused by soil erosion and land degradation, etc., exploring the reasons behind this is still a further manifestation of the ecological disadvantages of capitalism.

Changes in land use are taking place in a rapid manner, and in the future, new theories of ecological thought should be considered and applied. Until the biological and Montado relationship is restored, the project hopes to preserve the disappearing ecosystem in a different digital format, to continue in the form of testimony on the platform. Political intervention as the main purpose of the project is to restore and fight for the ecology of Montado.

MAP ON THE LEFT: The demarcation of REN (National Ecological Reserve) marks areas of the Alentejo region that have ecological value and are protected from natural disasters.

As the basic ecological structure and its own ecological value of the Alentejo region, Montado has a positive effect on the soil in the territory it occupies, and its economic contribution and heritage value are important elements in the protected area.

Joao Ruivo