Catalunya Continental: Rail Infrastructure as the Backbone for Development

The central theme of the Studio was to gauge the impact of new 21st-century infrastructures at the territorial scale and find new ways of enhancing the processes of configuration and design.

The Studio actually simulates scenarios for new infrastructures developed in different topographic conditions and territories with an established tradition of culture and urban development, where the superposition of footprints and layouts has with time organized the systems of occupation and use.

The recent completion of the TGV (high-speed train) line in Lleida is already transforming the city and its immediate vicinity, but its induced effects will almost certainly influence other infrastructures or secondary networks that will benefit from the new threshold produced by this implantation.

This may be the case of the secondary railway line that starts in Lleida and heads north, ending at La Pobla de Segur. If we extend this line, it takes us to the Pyrennes and/or Andorra, both major tourist attractors with very different horizons and offers.

A study of possible transformations, in all cases assessing environmental impact, may serve as a basis for a critical discussion of their advisability and, therefore, deciding their legitimacy or viability.

The idea is to simulate how, using the intermediate scall (commonly referred to as urban design, so highly influenced by territorial decisions), we can improve the development of infrastructures and, therefore, definitively influencing them.
It is generally accepted that there is a strong association of macroeconomic and political decisions with large-scale infrastructures. It is equally true that the territorial and urbanistic conditions in which new urban phenomena develop call for a greater rationality that draws together different scales to produce more efficient, integrative action.

This is the case of adequate assessment of the impact of large infrastructures on the landscape and particularly their effect on activities and the existing geography. We also have to understand, however, that in some situations networks and systems may produce a different definition to infrastructures, which are often excessively organized according to their hierarchical structure or internal logic, more typical of a top-down decision-making system.

We can therefore create paradigm models for the use and organization of a landscape whose backbone is formed by infrastructure which, in their capacity to enhance the territory, prove the advisability in social terms of implementing these infrastructures.
Belief in a series of urbanistic projects that integrate infrastructure and landscape, existing activity and new programmatic demands, prompted the proposal of the Studio as a kind of “research by design,” making it both a propositional and an evaluative mechanism. These were, at least, the initial intentions and the results are still open….

—Joan Busquets, from his Preface

Harvard University Graduate School of Design