Landscape Synergies of the new Energies

Faster than we would have ever thought we will and do already experience sustainable forms of energy production, storage, distribution and transport dominating and profoundly transforming all forms of our landscapes: urban, peri-urban, rural, productive, abandoned or not, and even natural, cultural and classified landmarks. The dream of a life without exploiting fossil sources and irreversibly exploiting our geological grounds seems to change from a vision to reality.

But in this rapid transformation conflicts are, of course, inevitable. Nature and monument protection rebel or are just happy to see the new power plants developed far away in the deserts of Arizona, Southern Spain, Morocco, or the Emirates.

The IEA (International Energy Agency) already in 2020 confirmed, that solar energy is now the “cheapest electricity in history”. Should these optimistic news only open future grounds for lucky shareholders and international investors and keep going on with models of profit maximization, or should the new infrastructures of energy production, transport and storage give back not only economic crumbs and some secure jobs to the local communities but help to substantially transform the territorial structures into something new and figure as catalyst for natural restoration, new rural and urban forms of food production and settlements?

With all respect to engineering requirements: why may panels, mirror and CSP elements who now get in a mono functional way implanted in power plans of several square miles size, not be arranged in alternative ways with more consideration of landscape structures (topography, hydrology, potential natural vegetation), maybe in mixed use of agriculture, settlements, services for communities, maybe even considering and getting inspiration from traditional patterns of local land use and local cultural background? What kind of “landscape synergies” can we imagine for the infrastructures of transport and storage? Who will design them? How will we design them?

The studio will face these questions and propose landscape design strategies for a case studies sites: Noor (Ouarzazate, Morocco), the world largest solar power plant. It is in a desert context with specific natural conditions, where also historical cultural traces, different forms of agriculture and settlements can be found nearby.

In a first part, we will understand and record the “engineering requirements” of the sustainable energy production, transport, and storage, and also undergo design research about the historical forms of the relationship between landscape and energy in general and in the specific contexts.

Another task will be the mapping of the relevant landscape issues of the case study site. After this, site investigation will complement the analytical approach with the experience of the real context (natural/technical/cultural/social).

The main challenge of the studio will be to define landscape and/or architectonical projects for the future development of the sites transforming the mono functional technical power plants into lively structures, integrated in a regenerated or transformed landscape that deals with synergetic opportunities of economic, technical, and material resources for different forms of creatures. This can be a large territorial project around the power plants, a network of linear or punctual interventions in the larger area, as well as the gradual mutation of the power plants and the infrastructures themselves. In particular, synergetic opportunities for the nearby local community will be developed.