Report from the edge
2016 – 2017
Madrid – Milan – Turin – Rotterdam
Photographers: Davide Curatola Soprana – Isabella Sassi Farìas – Alessandro Guida
Research and coordination: Viviana Rubbo
‘The administrative borders of most European cities are outdated. Urbanization has happened unevenly, driven by different forces at different times and in different cities. As a result, the urban fabric has developed beyond the formal borders of most cities.’
(Metropolitan cities in action, Eurocities, MAIA Study, November 2013)
With the European Landscape Convention (Florence 2000), […] the EU member states “with view to improving knowledge of its landscapes, have undertaken the following commitments: to identify their own landscapes throughout their territory; to analyze their characteristics and the forces and pressures transforming them; to take note of changes; to assess the landscapes thus identified, taking into account the particular values assigned to them by the population concerned. These identification and assessment procedures shall be guided by the exchanges of experience and methodology, organized between the Parties at European level”.
(European Landscape Convention, Florence, 20.10.2000, Chapter II, Art.6 C)
The landscape results from the combination of factors: territory, culture, societal values and the way the population perceives it and, therefore, interprets and transforms it. So how photography can contribute to support the creation of a territorial identity and mediate between society and territory in order to build “the landscape”? […]
(Ignacio Bisbal Grandal, Architect-photographer and Professor of Architecture “El estudio del paisaje por medio de la fotografía. Desarrollo de una metodología interpretativa”.)
Developed in 4 different European cities (Rotterdam, Madrid, Turin and Milan), the project “Report from the edge of the city” wants to explore a methodology to master the urban change starting from the exploration of the geographic limits of those cities and make a comparative analysis among those examples.
The project proposes documentary photography as a reading tool for contemporary territorial identity and a visual evidence of how the habits, society and economy may influence and affect those spaces at the margins. In this perspective, the photographic reading becomes the source and the rough material for producing new ideas and inspirations that can be integrated into the processes of planning and policy-making, also through the establishment of long-term partnerships with experts and professionals from different disciplines as well as urban centres and partner institutions in those four cities. In this context, the collective Urban Reports presents itself as the platform for developing, gathering and sharing the knowledge produced.
With this project, we would like to explore the edge of the city adopting photography as a tool to understand the identity of territories undergoing radical changes. The project is a catalogue of those territories and landscapes, explored along a three-axis thematic framework: urban forms, infrastructures and transitional areas. Each city represents an episode, an attempt to make a different narrative of those well-known cities and explore those spaces of misty identity in a liquid territory, where people and goods, services, economy and territorial governance go far beyond the municipal limits. Territories whose representation is still missing.
‘How do we give a representation to this reality?’ With the ambition to document and better understand what are the forms and morphologies of the city borders today, the project produces a supplementary tool of analysis and reflection to the urban planning practice, proposing itself as an experimental means of observation of the mutation and endless evolution of urban landscapes.
How those city’s borders look like? How are they currently being transformed? They are the territories at the center of metropolitan strategic visions and long-term transformation plans dating 2040-2050. They are the future. It’s about understanding what will be the city of tomorrow as a whole and how the urban patterns, in particular, those at the margins, will change in the years to come. And this is where we wanted to start our exploration.
The idea of this project is the result of preliminary explorations on the sites and initial dialogues and interviews to local key actors and stakeholders realized since the beginning of 2017.
In Madrid, we look at the huge urban transformation of the southeast. Fragile relationship between countryside and new developments. Landscapes dehumanized, unbridgeable distances between endless land consumption and the human dimension. This story places itself between the rural and urban divide of those territories between Madrid and Leganés, Getafe, Rivas and Coslada.
In Rotterdam, we walk the administrative limits of the city. A sequence of industrial landscape, infrastructure and services. The city comes together in monofunctional areas dominated by infrastructure services and residential expansions. This story places itself along the motorway A15 in the south, along the A16 along the eastern border and the northerly territories heading towards Delft, Zoetemeer and Gouda.
In Turin, the documentary catches the urban transition. Terrain vague, loneliness are the dominating themes on city borders which are consolidated and where the industrial heritage is the main feature.
In Milan, the city’s border is not perceived walking the landscape, however is the public transport system which determines the limits of the city. Highways and transport hubs. Some areas are suspended, given an uncertain use. The story places itself in the northern area of Bovisasca and in the southern territories of Milan.
City after city, the project ‘Report from the edge of the city” will build a narrative about those realities at the margins.
The project registers the spatial and social dimension of the administrative limits and their features today. How can we cope with the acceleration of the urban dynamics and master territorial widening and increasing governance and planning complexity? This photographic documentation offers material for comparison of the city boundaries at the European level, providing the elements for the observation of those territories. Useful for an in-depths analysis of the planning issues and challenges in those transitional areas, it stimulates a forward-looking reflection. The question to which this research is trying to answer concerns not only the Netherlands or Italy or Spain but extends across Europe and beyond. ─
The project ‘Report from the edge of the city’ is built as a European cultural platform of partners, cities, professionals and urban and cultural institutions, which are connected and intertwined on different levels. The result is a network of competences which activate partnerships and collaborations with local actors and research centers in each of the four cities as illustrated in the Partnership Platform scheme below:
Strategic Partners: local entities and institutions in each of the cities, which help to frame the local questions and engage local professional networks. Among them, Deltametropolis Association (NL), Pakhuis de Zwijger (NL) have already confirmed their willingness to cooperate for the realization of the exhibition in Rotterdam and the identification of the experts for the debate session. The Urban Center of Turin (IT) has confirmed its participation as well and we are in dialogue with LCE La Casa Encendida, cultural and civic centre in Madrid.
Knowledge Partners: a network of professionals, researchers and experts which can connect and exchange and produce knowledge from city to city. Among the professionals who have already agreed in playing a proactive role during the development of this project:
- Ignacio Bisbal Grandal, Faculty of Architecture, Chile
- Anna Prat (former director Torino Strategica / urbanit.it), Italy
- Theo Baart, Dutch landscape photographer, the Netherlands
- Yorit Kluitman, Dutch designer and landscape photographer, the Netherlands
- Jaap Modder, Urban and regional planner, the Netherlands
The main goals of the project can be summarized as follows:
- Provide a visual summary of the urban and spatial changes for a more comprehensive understanding of our territories
- Promote a new awareness towards the analysis and observation of changing landscapes
- Engage a wider public on the discussion about the contemporary city and its landscape through the organization of cultural events
- Strengthen the connections between the general public and the professionals in the urban and photography field creating a platform for cultural exchange connecting different expertise at the European level.
The ambition of this project is to lay down the foundations for a working method to master territorial changes by using documentary photography as a cultural means to support the planning practice. Turning on the light on how urban territories are changing under the pressure of the increasingly dynamic nature of current governance and planning systems, it wants to propose a reflection which concerns not only the cities explored in the project but extends across Europe and beyond.
This project doesn’t want to be an episodic experience rather the starting point for future transnational cooperation for experimenting new cultural practices and multi-disciplinary crossovers.
On the one hand, photography is proposed as a reading tool for increasing consciousness and open eyes and new perspectives on possibilities for the ever-changing urban scenarios. On the other hand, the project uses photography as a powerful media able to reach out a great variety of stakeholders from the urban professional field to the civil society, city users and local inhabitants, and includes them in the debate about the city of tomorrow.
- A campaign of documentary photography in the four European cities realized by the collective Urban Reports.
- Exhibitions of the photographic campaign.
- Public debate sessions: one event in each of the four cities n the framework of the exhibition with the aim to open the discussion on the role of photography as a reading tool of the evolving urban landscapes (dates will be defined in agreement with the local strategic partners). The debate session will elaborate on the questions raised by the photographic campaign work and it will draw the guidelines for the conclusion.
- A digital publication of the project’s results gathering a selection of pictures and the outcomes of the debate session. The publication will also include texts and contributions written by the experts involved in the overall project.