60 514 Behind the hill, into the wild


Course is open to to architecture and landscape architecture students.

Recommended prerequisite knowledge

Interest in landscape photography.
Interest in the intersections of landscape architecture and architecture.
Auto cad / Rhinoceros. Photographic and video manipulation software (Photoshop, Lightroom, after effects etc)

Course content

The landscapes of the cold high-altitude Andes and the Norwegian mountains have been described with superlatives about dramatic geography, extreme beauty, abundance of water resources and ecosystems that respond to altitudinal variations. In the case of the Andes these landscapes also force us to reconsider the cliches traditionally employed to describe the specific aesthetics of the tropics.
Astonishingly comparisons went as far as when Swedish geographer Erik Ljungner, suggested in 1940’s to name the Swedish part of the mountain range, the “Scandes” mountains based in his fascination for the Andes after returning from his expeditions in South America.

The expeditions:
The studio will venture out in two expeditions, the first one in Norway and the second to the high altitude tropical Andes in Colombia.
In the Colombian case these are landscapes that just recently became accessible for foreigners, landscapes that are in constant and growing pressure from extraction practices, torn by war and in some cases extreme scarcity, on the other hand theses landscapes also present the extreme beauty of some of the most bio-diverse ecosystems of the world. Mountainous landscapes that like in Norway and the Alps, it’s artistic descriptions are always full of superlatives and romanticism.

After traveling in Norway the expedition to Colombia will expose the students to a topography that in many ways will look familiar, but at every turn of the road will present some of the most extreme forms of urbanization, from churches in the middle of the Pan-American road, to markets in steep slopes, or Spanish plazas completely deformed by topography. By performing these two trips within short time interval students will be pushed to employ geographic and territorial analogies to understand particular processes of urbanization. Perhaps a familiar perspective for many students, the landscapes will be exotic and to some extent uncharted.

Colombia ́s enduring war has reached a pivotal moment as the Oslo (and later Havana ) peace dialogues mark a turning point for the mediation of land redistribution.1 Five million hectares of rural land will be redistributed in the next 20 years. Within a diversity of climatic and geophysical attributes, for the first time a young generation perhaps aspires to move from the city to the countryside. How might theoretical and practical design tools enable new ecologies and livelihoods able to sustain this transition? Understanding that the redistribution of land should go beyond the paradigm of agro-industrial models of mono-cropping, the visualization of new rural narratives will be foundational to the re-formulation of policies, resource allocation, and re-settlement planning, amidst the impending urban-rural exodus.
Beyond geologic features, rugged terrains, abundance of water and beautiful views, Nordic and Andean landscapes also share the fact that both have been the driving force behind unique processes of urbanization. From a historic perspective we will learn from the comparison between Andean capitals, villages located in between high altitude valleys and small towns in Norway. From a more contemporary angle this graphic comparison is intended to reinforce the idea that the distinctions between urban and non urban as dictated by population agglomeration are outdated and not useful for designing in extreme geographies.

A wild child of Branzi’s Agronica with the deformed grids of the Idias plans. In a place where flatness is an exception rather than the rule.

This second phase of the studio will focus on the design of a collective spatial mat of at least 10 Hectares (shared by the whole studio) and interventions of multiple scale that will invite the public to visit and enjoy these previously inaccessible landscapes. The position of the mat will coincide with as close to a topographic replica in Norway that we can find. After the trips we will keep verifying scale and position in a real test site in Norway. Climate and atmosphere will become fiction and the ground just an abstract reference system.
For projecting the mat we will revisit the relentless horizontality of Branzi’s Agronica. As model we will test it against extremely steep slopes and a convoluted vegetal cover. What for Branzi, Archizoom, et al were voids, for us will be thick, rich, and in some instant impassable landscape features. What for Branzi was industrial agriculture for us will be churches, schools and other basic building blocks for an Andean catholic small town. The basic building blocks of a post-conflict remote city.

To be able to have morphological features at the forefront of design and North-South comparisons, students will take part in two photography workshops in Norway and Colombia. This will help us transcend the limitations of landscape photography as document to collect exotic landscapes. The technique will also facilitate the incorporation of this information into the design phase and the production of video based documents for final exhibition.
By employing the same techniques, same equipment, old and new, analog and digital, students will discover and expose precise differences in the manifestation of color palette, light, textures covering similar topographies.

Final exhibition will be held at AHO and the films and large format photographs will be presented at the 2017 Bordeaux biennial “Agora” where the outcome of the studio will engage curatorial questions about national identity through the representation of the landscape, and more importantly expose new ways to look at a part of the tropical Andes that has just been opened up to the public.

.1 With the second largest population of internal displacement in the world, the 2015 UNHCR Profile for Colombia calculates that 80%
.2 Andrea Branzi’s Agronica, illustrates the relentlessly horizontal spread of capital across thinly settled territory, and the resulting “weak urbanization” that neo-liberal economics has enabled. Commissioned by Philips Electronics, and created in association with the Domus Academy — a research institute Branzi cofounded in the ’80s — Agronica explores the potential relationships among agricultural and energy production, new versions of post-Fordist industrialism, and the cultures of consumption they produce.

Learning outcomes

1. Students will learn about the complexities and particularities of landscape and architecture interventions in tropical contexts. As the knowledge acquired will be also tested against similar topographies in Norway, the students will experiment and perhaps discover unexpected overlaps that makes these methods appropriate beyond tropical geographies.

2. Using contemporary methods ranging from photography, video and other forms of survey, students will produce original representations of the high altitude andean landscape. As some of these landscapes have been closed to the public for a number of decades the drawings and photographs produced in the course will be considered as true expeditionary material. After a couple hundred years of landscape depictions by explorers and artists, the production of artistic representation of part of the Colombian Andes were interrupted over the past fifty years. Students taking part of the course will have the pleasure (and responsibility) of been pioneers.

3. Students will test the relevance of experimental urban theories and design methods in the context of a post-conflict escenario. More precisely Andrea Branzi’s “Weak urbanization”.
The immediacy of the pressing situation perhaps will push students to resolve visible problems, however the need for new visions for the future of these landscapes will require a certain dose of fiction and speculative realism. Students will learn how to balance these seemingly opposed design approaches.

4. Students will learn how to present the finding to an audience outside academia.

Working and learning activities

Studio format. Individual and collective pinups. Monthly lectures. Field trips to Colombia and within Norway.

Studio trip:
One week in September 2016. Precise dates to be announced.

Special equipment:
4k capable video drone, large format camera, full frame digital camera. All available for studio trip. Only one for the whole studio.

Professor in charge

Luis Callejas (lc@luiscallejas.com)

Reading lists / teaching materials

Partial bibliography:


Baweja, Vandana. 2008. A pre-history of Green Architecture: Otto Koenigsberger and Tropical Architecture, from Princely Mysore to post-colonial

London. Ann Arbor, Mich: UMI.

Beck, Ulrich. 2014. How Climate Change Might Save The World: Metamorphosis. Harvard Design Magazine No.39. Wet Matter. Edt. Pierre Belanger. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Belanger, Pierre. 2015. Pamphlet architecture 35. Going live. from states to systems. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Brenner, Neil. 2014. Implosions/explosions: towards a study of planetary urbanization.

Branzi, Andrea. 2006. Weak and diffuse modernity: the world of projects at the beginning of the 21st century. Milan, Italy: Skira.

Ciplet, David, J. Timmons Roberts, and Mizanur Rahman Khan. 2015. Power in a warming world: the new global politics of climate change and the remaking of environmental inequality.

Davis, D.E. 2014. "Modernist Planning and the Foundations of Urban Violence in Latin America". Built Environment. 40 (3): 376-393.

Fry, Maxwell, and Jane Drew. 1976. Architecture and the environment. London: Allen & Unwin.

Fry, Maxwell. 1945. Town planning scheme for Freetown. Freetown: Govt. Printer, Sierra Leone. https://dds.crl.edu/crldelivery/17547.

Fry, Edwin Maxwell, and Jane Beverly Drew. 1982. Tropical architecture in the dry and humid zones. Malabar, Fla: Krieger.

Haswell, Margaret Rosary. 1973. Tropical farming economics. [Harlow]: Longman.

Jackson, Iain, and Jessica Holland. 2014. The architecture of Edwin Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew: twentieth century architecture, pioneer modernism and the tropics. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

le Roux, Hannah. 2003. "The networks of tropical architecture". The Journal of Architecture. 8 (3): 337-354.

Koenigsberger, Otto H. 1952. "New towns in India". Town Planning Review, July 1952, Vol. 23:2, P. [94]-131; with Maps, Plans, Tables. Koenigsberger, Otto. 1979. "Teaching methods for settlement planners and builders".Habitat International. 4 (1): 149-154. Koenigsberger, Otto H. 1983. "The role of the planner in a poor (and in a not quite so poor) country". Habitat.
Mathur, Anuradha, and Dilip da Cunha. 2009. Soak: Mumbai in an estuary. New Delhi: Rupa & Co.

Mora C., Frazier A.G., Longman R.J., Sanchez J.J., Kaiser L.R., et al. 2013. "The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability". Nature. 502 (7470): 183-187.

Mumford, Eric Paul. 2009. Defining urban design: CIAM architects and the formation of a discipline, 1937-69. New Haven: Yale University Press. Robbins, Peter. 2003. Stolen fruit: the tropical commodities disaster. London: Zed Books.

Sachs, Jeffrey D. 2001. Tropical underdevelopment. Cambridge MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2005. Friction: an ethnography of global connection. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. Wainwright, Joel. 2008. Decolonizing development: colonial power and the Maya. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.

Waldheim, Charles. 2006. The landscape urbanism reader. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.
Waldheim, Charles. “A General Theory” Lecture, Olmsted Lecture from Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA, September 8, 2015.

Uduku, Ola. 2006. "Modernist architecture and ‘the tropical’ in West Africa: The tropical architecture movement in West Africa, 1948-1970". Habitat International. 30 (3): 396-411.

Daniels, Mary F., and Ines Zalduendo. 2003. Shaping and reshaping Latin American cities: Josep Lluis Sert and Town Planning Associates. ReVista  (Cambridge, Mass).

Edwards, Paul N. 2010. A vast machine computer models, climate data, and the politics of global warming. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Scheidegger, Ernst, Maristella Casciato, and Stanislaus von Moos. 2010. Chandigarh 1956: Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Jane B. Drew, E.

Maxwell Fry. Zürich: Scheidegger & Spiess


Sert, Josep LLuis. 1944. Can our cities survive?: an ABC of urban problems, their analysis, their solutions : based on the proposals formulated by the C.I.A.M. Cambridge, MA [etc.]: Harvard University Press.



Archives of Interest

                -  Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry Collection, RIBA’s Library Archives 2

                -  Josep Lluis Sert Collection, GSD’s Frances Loeb Design Library 3

                -  Financial Times Historical Archive 1888 – 2015

                -  Otto Koenigsberger Collection, Architectural Association 4

                -  USGS Landsat Archive 1972 - 2015