Ecology, Culture and Identity: Revitalizing the Cultural Landscape of the Huerta of Valencia, Spain

Urban areas across the world are increasingly looking for innovative ways to tackle climate change, to preserve and enhance their cultural patrimony, and to improve their quality of life. This studio will explore how, through integrated and multi-scale landscape planning and design, the highly valuable and threatened historic Islamic landscape of Valencia can play a leading role in preserving landscape identity, enriching city life, and improving urban adaptation to climate change.

The Huerta of Valencia is the best, and almost the last, example in Europe of a thousand-year-old Islamic agricultural landscape, continually cultivated since the 10th-century and to this day reliant upon Arab practices of irrigation. It extends to 8000 hectares and is surrounded by a metropolitan area of 2 million inhabitants. Its importance in the Valencian imagination extends far beyond its now reduced physical limits. The Huerta is not only important because of its historical, cultural and aesthetic value, but also because it mitigates the effects of climate change. These benefits increase if the Huerta is not an isolated landscape, but part of a connected network of green spaces.

This studio will look into the relation of the city, the Huerta, and the sea to create an ecological and functional network that will become an essential part of Valencia’s green infrastructure.  Some key issues to be explored include preserving the Huerta’s identity and sense of community as well as fostering an appreciation of the historic landscape; addressing the anticipated effects of climate change (floods, droughts and heatwaves and improving the management of water resources); providing access to and enjoyment of open space and encouraging walking and cycling; supporting and diversifying agricultural production into the future; protecting and enhancing biodiversity, including management of new development; and creating a new tourist destination to complement the existing city offer.

Working in groups, major thematic areas will be investigated and strategies proposed. The range of topics will allow for a wide choice of individual key projects that address the most critical aspects of the Huerta’s future. Studio participants will visit Valencia to develop first-hand knowledge of the site and its context, and to meet key stakeholders and decision makers.