Resource Extraction Urbanism: Recasting the South American Productive Landscape

ABSTRACTAs current development pressures continue to transform the hinterlands at an unprecedented rate, it has become more crucial than ever for the design disciplines to actively engage and conceptualize alternative futures for decentralized geographies and unbound territories. This faculty research seminar will utilize the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA) as a lens to investigate the potential role that trans-national mobility infrastructure can play as the backbone for a more integral mode of urbanization within South America\’s hinterland.INTRODUCTION South America is currently undergoing a process of unprecedented integration that has swept its political, financial, military, economic and infrastructural domains. The Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA), led by Brazil and supported by the Inter-American Development bank has played a key role as it proposes to revamp heavyweight infrastructure at a continental scale through the upgrading and new construction of a series of transportation, energy and telecommunication networks. In the year 2000, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, then President of Brazil, introduced the project to his twelve South American counterparts. All of them agreed to cooperate towards the execution of 510 infrastructure projects for an estimated investment of US$ 74.5 billion in a span of ten years. This renewed interest in trans-national public works has been triggered to a large extent by the need of its Atlantic countries ???particularly the burgeoning economy of Brazil ??? to open up routes towards the ports located in the Pacific, in order to trade with China, India and other emerging Asian economies. South America???s time honored north-south infrastructural axis exemplified by the Pan-American Highway and most maritime and air routes, is rapidly being supplanted by corridors that are re-orienting major forms of exchange to an east – west directionality. In spite of the evident benefits that will result from physically integrating the Continent, the IIRSA initiative has raised concerns among diverse sectors in the region, for its ten proposed nodes or axes of development traverse complex ecologies like the Amazon basin, the Pantanal, and the Pampa; leaving a wealth of untapped natural resources open to unsustainable practices of extraction and urbanization. In addition, this new infrastructural shift has not only triggered the rapid expansion of small and intermediate scale cities that are suddenly becoming epicenters of new commercial activity, but also the gradual urbanization of the territory between more consolidated urban centers. While it is evident that the design disciplines at large have had a significant influence in the conceptualization and shaping of company and resource extraction landscapes in 20th century South America – From SOM\’s \”Barrio Americano\” for the Creole Petrole in Venezuela, to Raymond Olson\’s El Salvador Mining Company in Chile – design has had a rather tangential participation in the recent planning of the South American Hinterland in general and IIRSA specifically. The perspective and expertise of the diverse design disciplines affiliated to city making could provide a unique and substantial contribution to the spatial formats created by new types of resource extraction in the region and the diverse models of urbanization these have engendered. This advanced research seminar will serve as a platform to investigate the physical inscriptions of the most salient resource extraction industries, and its affiliated infrastructures, which have reconfigured the South American hinterlands throughout the twentieth century and the diverse models of urbanism these industries have generated. Furthermore, the seminar will use this twentieth century overview as a point of reference in order to better understand the physical effects of the IR