Lissome Urbanism: Rail Infrastructure as a Backbone for the Rethinking of Continental Catalunya

Lissome Urbanism: Rail Infrastructure as a Backbone for the Rethinking of Continental CatalunyaInstructors:Joan Busquets, Martin Bucksbaum Professor of Urban Planning and DesignFelipe Correa, Design Critic in Urban DesignTeaching assistant: Sol CamachoFRAMEWORKThe studio departs from the assumption that new urban pressures are taking place in highly decentralized regions and open territories. Traditional urban models structured around existing nuclei are being superseded by activities diluted within a much broader terrain. The conventional distinction between urban/rural (dense/sparse) settlement structures is slowly fading away, and settlement intensities are constantly being re-shuffled in response to a wide variety of variables. Key among these are changes in transportation infrastructure, new ways of marketing lightly populated land, development of new hard/soft industries, and the emergence of new tourism and recreational infrastructure outside of the traditional city. Given this framework, the role of the Designer, which traditionally has been bound to the ideals of the compact city must be reconsidered or enriched, and new operative procedures must be explored in order to engage effectively a reality that operates under very diverse procedures distant from traditional attitudes of land colonization. This studio, will temporarily suspend the traditional boundaries of the realm of the Urbanist, in order to explore alternate forms of occupation that can effectively proffer new ways of inhabiting and exploiting highly diffused regions. Furthermore, the investigation will search for settlement models that can effectively deploy skim and lissome entities at multiple scales. The work will seek territorial developments that are less subject to prescribed form and participate more from an open process of formation where morphologies are highly mutable and interchangeable. BACKGROUNDThe Catalan Territory is witnessing a major shift in rail infrastructure. Its role as a form of transport and its agency in future development is being significantly redefined through the introduction of new networks and advanced technology. The high speed train (primarily the French TGV), is restructuring the logic of this territory and establishing a new framework for interconnection within Europe. Rail has become an efficient option for long haul travel, and in the near future it will be seen as an alternative to air travel. The spatial and temporal relationship between large urban centers has changed drastically and one can even find travel maps that have been distorted to illustrate new and more effective travel times, hinting towards a new understanding of twenty first century Europe. Furthermore, this new specialized infrastructure also hints towards effective changes in secondary and tertiary rail networks in order to provide an even wider range of travel possibilities. The new axis defined by the TGV (the French high speed train) from France to Portugal (Paris – Barcelona – Lleida – Madrid – etc.) has provided the Catalan territory with a the potential to rethink its future forms of development in regards to the advantages that new forms of rail transport might bring to this territory. Given this hypothesis, the studio will speculate on the new role of rail infrastructure as a spinal chord that can proffer and organize low density settlements upon an extended territory within the Catalan region. The studio will specifically focus on the possibilities of extending the railway between the Lleida High Speed Train Station to La Seo and Andorra. It will explore its transformative potential into a spinal chord along its valleys, placing much attention on tentative development scenarios and the re-use of existing settlements. This territory, which for years provided energy reso