Soils in evolution 

Fabio Vanin, Chiara Cavalieri

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)

Abstract

Worldwide everyday tons of hectares of soils are being urbanised (i.e. 6ha/day in Flanders; 129 ha/day in Germany), decreasing soil permeability and therefore increasing climate and environmental (flooding, heatwaves, pollution etc). To stop this process, Europe foresees by 2050 to reduce to 0 the the daily net taken. Facing such increasing and extensive process of urbanisation and growing threatening environmental challenges, it is today of paramount importance to reconsider soil as a resource, as well as an “ecosystem service” for cities and territories. In this perspective, the relation between city and soil needs to be rethought. To fully investigate this relation, soil has to be threefold: described throughout its historical depth (as a palimpsest, Corboz 1983); analysed as an environmental resource (as a pedological object, Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005); and ultimately explored as an evolutionary potential for transformation (as a design subject, Secchi 1986).
Within this framework the Department of Environment and Spatial Development of Flanders launched a program named ‘Spatial Transformation’ that aims at lowering the 'degree of solidification or sealed soil and mineralised surfaces' in the region. With 14% of its surface being sealed by buildings, roads, pavements, it is one of Europe’s most mineralised areas. If current trends continue at the pace at which the Flemish surface is being sealed then will this region reach a soil-sealing rate of 20%. Taking an evolutionary perspective it is interesting to think about this reversion as a trigger for transformation and enhancement rather than as a conservation strategy. In other words, the hypothesis is that of exploring a process of demolition (or soil de-cealing) as the goal of design processes, reverting the classical formula where demolition represents the first step for architecture and urbanism (tabula rasa).
Morning from this pioneer program, this paper proposes a first systemic exploration that aims to unfold local and territorial strategies for depaving industrial platforms in Flanders. Throughout Flanders, that is largely a continue extension of dense and diffuse urbanisation, industrial patterns can be classified in two main categories: (a) a coarse grain structure of industrial platforms, often placed along the main (both artificial and natural) waterways; (b) a fine grain diffuse carpet of small industrial carpets, composed of small medium enterprises and often connected to minor streams or non navigable water courses. The hypothesis of this analysis is that a systemic understanding of this productive geography in relation to the environmental dimension of the watersheds (green and blue networks), could disclose hidden geographies where the notion of productive spaces might be expanded. The act of de-paving in light of a water sensitive analysis aims at: (a) mitigating flooding risks; (b) reinforcing upstream/downstream watershed ecological performances; and ultimately (c) implementing optimised materials and resources cycles at the level of both the industrial platforms and the territorial system in which they are embedded.
The purpose of this paper, via a territorial analysis of the region of Flanders, is ultimately that of exploring the notion of evolutionary resilience (Davoudi, Brooks, Mehmood 2013), that beyond the classical and overused meaning of bounce back or rebound, entails the notion of transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIFOU 2019 Conference Proceedings
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 Jan 2019

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