The riparian land-shaping machine

Design strategy to restructure riparian mountain landscapes
2014 – Architectural Association London
MA Landscape Urbanism

Mountain landscapes have long been untouched remote regions. For the first adventurers a sublime experience, but as mass tourism developed, sublimity gradually faded into picturesque. With the arrival of people into these regions, different approaches have been developed.  One takes this picturesque point of view, a conservationist approach in which traditional and ecological values play a main role. With the arrival of human, also the exploitation of the mountain regions started; agricultural, tourism and hydropower energy generation activities developed.  This approach often clashes with the picturesque perspective, for example when rivers are cut off by hydropower dams or when river restoration projects claim agricultural land with productive value.

The project tries to deal with the conflict in these different approaches and provides for a strategy in which both approaches can coexist. It proposes a new approach, in which the design strategy is developed based on geomorphological behaviour and territorial conditions.

The Pan European Atlas of water sources shows two critical features that need to be taken into account in this proceeding. Future climate change will radically affect hydropower networks and the riparian landscape. National boundaries limit a common European engagement; in the Alpine territory seven different national policies read and handle one single landscape system.

The project proposes a strategy that understands the river as a sediment management machine that choreographs newly manufactured riparian landscapes in order to put forward a decision-making mechanism to face the conflicting perspectives with existing social formations.