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Journal article

Infrastructure and growth in frontier landscapes: A design proposal for Figueres/Vilafant, Spain

31 Jan 2012

The construction of new transport corridors linking the Iberian Peninsula with Europe has the potential to stimulate growth in permanent population and tourism in the existing towns of Figueres and Villafant in the north of Spain. As the first (or last) station at the border of Catalunya and France these frontier towns provide access to the popular coastal playground of the Costa Brava. Over centuries these communities have developed unique identities strongly linked to their boundary role in political, social, economic and physical landscapes. In the context of global identity, infrastructure change and potential rapid urban growth how can the unique qualities of these localities be supported and enhanced over time? 
This complex challenge formed the basis of an International Summer Workshop coordinated by Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura de Barcelona in 2008. Students and staff from six universities in six different countries set their collective global minds to this task, interrogating landscape and identity from collaborative, multidisciplinary viewpoints. 
This paper discusses the process and outcomes of one undergraduate student team under the guidance of the authors. Numerous design techniques were employed to draw together the cross-cultural experiences of the team and to embrace the challenge of developing locally responsive proposals within the global context of the program. Observation of topography, landscape use, settlement patterns, and their interconnections were undertaken at macro and micro views. This enabled elements identified at one scale to be understood within the broader context of the region and encouraged the re-reading of elements based upon an increased comprehension of regional networks. Undertaking this process in relation to both historical and contemporary traces led not to the proposal of a physical construct, but of an instrument which supports new possibilities for growth, saving and expanding the specificity of the place in its transformation. This instrument facilitates a combining of the existing landscape with future programs to create unique, evolving, coherent landscapes over time in response to an as yet unknown future.

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