Alps as Process -
engaging montane Switzerland as an operating urban ecology
Research Project / Master Thesis 2013 - Daia Stutz
Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Advisor: Prof. Pierre Bélanger
The Alps are an urban territory in transformation. Affected by significant changes in climate conditions, penetrated by heavy infrastructural intensification, upgraded through a concentrated real-estate boom and simultaneously overtaken by spreading wilderness and forests that reclaim the abandoned cultivated lands and shrinking villages. Driven by the logics of international tourism, the increased need for energy and capital flow as well as natural disaster prevention, these phenomena stand for the variety of different urban processes that are currently shaping and pressing on the European Alps. As new yet indispensable dynamics, they heavily question the predominant static and isolated image of the picturesque and natural alpine landscapes as well as the conservation and preservation efforts behind them. Through the lens of the new trans-alpine rail tunnel in Switzerland, a mega-project of unprecedented scale and impact, the aim of this thesis project is to radically rethinking the Alps not only as an thoroughly urbanized and artificial territory in transition, but as an operating urban ecology itself where processes of urbanization, de-urbanization, growth and shrinkage become the programmatic vectors of a systemic and flexible design approach.