Envisioning the Rural Metropolis

With the United Nations estimating 250 million climate refugees by 2050, there are depopulating inner areas in Europe and the United States that, while often safeguarded from the worst climate disasters, have the historic opportunity to refashion themselves as welcome regions. Embracing the potential of a growing digitalization, territories considered peripheral can become global hotspots that will offer a quality of life no longer found in megacities.

Envisioning the Rural Metropolis looks at one such region in Portugal’s heartland. In a territory that is geographically contained and marked by different scales of urban agglomeration across a largely rural area, the studio will use scenario-thinking to investigate how urban regions can transmute around topics of decarbonization, energy flows, circular economies, food security, water management, resource extraction, biodiversity preservation and interspecies mobility.

Departing from notions of ecological urbanism and analyses of the current environmental crisis, the studio will be organized in interdisciplinary groups that will imagine how the selected bio-region will look like in 50 years-time – and devise what must be planned, incentivized and implemented today, so as to achieve an ecologically-balanced, self-sufficient metropolis by 2074.

Design opportunities will range from the larger scale urban planning of a 40km long, low-density metropolis, to the consideration of case studies around strategic architectural facilities, new intermodal nodes or alternative landscape schemes – with the surrounding region calling for thinking on future land uses, the economic impulse of ecosystem services, water management, preparation for climate change impacts, new programs for job creation, the adaptive recycling of historical and industrial heritage, and even the presence of a UNESCO Global Geopark.  

This course has an irregular schedule. Please see the course syllabus for details.