GSD Course Bulletin - Spring 2012 - STU-01603


01603: Retooling Gabon (STU 0160300)

Landscape Architecture
Option Studio - 8 credits - Limited enrollment
This course has an IRREGULAR meeting schedule. Please see full course description.
Wednesday Thursday 2:00 - 6:00  


Benjamin Aranda

Course Description

This studio is dedicated to reimagining the future of Gabon’s capital, Libreville, in the wake of recent developments in the country. Gabon holds a unique position in Africa. Referred to as Africa’s Eden, it has the second largest rain forest in the world and with the stated goal of becoming the first carbon neutral country, it recently set aside 11% of its land to become national parks, a ratio of protected territory second only to Costa Rica. As it addresses a projected growth in tourism and urban development to accommodate this change, Gabon is confronting the economic viability of environmental action at a scale of global concern. Given this unprecedented opportunity it is important to ask what will be the shape of Gabon’s future. In ecological and urban terms, the answer to this question will serve as a new model for an African nation and capital in the 21st Century.
The Park City Boundary
The capital of Gabon is the city of Libreville with a small population of less than one million inhabitants. To confront Libreville’s growth and development within the surrounding National Parks, this studio presents the "Park-City-Boundary" problem as a primary issue to position Libreville as a model capital for the 21st Century. Libreville is literally a city in a park: to the east by Akanda National Park, to the north by Mondah National Park and The Cap Esterias, and to the east and south by the waterfront Parks. Six group projects will be asked to select a site from these different geographical perspectives of the city’s edge. The studio is conceived in association with the real-world objectives established by the forward-thinking group behind Gabon’s national parks, the ANPN (Agence Nationale des Parcs nationaux) and their affiliations.
Issues to Engage
Students will conduct intensive research into one or more of the following issues facing the Libreville-Park boundary and fashion a response in the form of a specific design proposal that is at once visionary and plausible:

  • Libreville Sprawl to Park Buffer Zone
    Libreville’s expansion is a vital area for design inquiry. When one looks at most African urban population centers, suffering the massive problems of unplanned urban sprawl (Nairobi, Lagos) Gabon has huge potential to inform this kind of growth since the city’s edge will soon confront the edges of the neighboring National Parks.  

  • The Future of Gabon Parks
    Designing Gabon’s Park Infrastructure is vital as the country transitions to a tourist based economy. A new urban and regional network of Park infrastructure will include such amenities as headquarters, housing, visitor centers as well as revitalized roads, bridges and airports.  

  • Libreville Agroforestry & Botanical Infrastructure
    Through Agroforestry, Botanical Gardens, Nurseries and Seed Banks, learning programs can be established to teach sustainable land use to communities. Libreville is in need of local agricultural production. It currently imports virtually all of its produce and foods at a very high cost. How this dependency can be taken as a opportunity to re-envision the city of Libreville into a place of diverse, localized and sustainable communities is needed for the future prosperity of the city. 

  • Greening the City
    Reducing energy consumption, temperature management, increased shade and encouraging wood construction. 

  • Libreville Waterfront
    Anticipating projected rises in sea levels and associated displacements across the city.

The investigations are meant to combine large-scale regional impact with moments of specific architectural design. Students will be asked to produce an architectural prototype within a landscape strategy. A landscape/architectural prototype is a single building or landscape but rather a system for building, a flexible model that can be deployed over and over again in a number of places.
Parallel Process: Investigative Site Research & Computational Design Tools
We are putting together landscape architecture and architecture in direct response to the studio problem of The Park-City Boundary so that both disciplines insist their own perspectives and capabilities. The design methodology of the studio also encourages multiple approaches. Students will engage a parallel process of top-down, issue-based site research along with bottom-up formation of parametric tools, what we’re calling tooling. The idea is to do both kinds of research simultaneously and independently and only later

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