Foundation Studio II

Foundation Studio II
17. February 2023 Alicja Prusinska

Agro Romano. Pierre Louis Dubourcq, 1850

A landscape of long, gentle valleys, steep gorges and characteristic avenues – and with one great absentee: Water.

The streams and rivers, the floodplains and the debris cones are missing. If at all, the water shows itself only briefly after rainfall – as flat spots in this linear cultural landscape – before it then disappears underground and goes its own way. And so the springs are also missing and with them the drinking water, so that the valley lived a culture of cisterns until 140 years ago. Erosion also makes its appearance in spots: the specific karst geology means that time and again the ground also recedes, creating the characteristic sinkholes.

Somehow the course of events is also missing in this high valley; in many places time seems to have stood still. Although the watchmaking industry continues to build its commercial buildings on the fertile valley floors, the inhabitants are migrating towards Neuchâtel or France.

But on a second reading, behind all these absences hides a glut of themes that have the potential to provide exemplary answers to contemporary questions: Due to the barren soils, the weather and the evaporating water, people have created a cultural landscape that has always had to absorb water scarcity and extreme weather caprices. The urban structure, optimised for the watchmaking industry, with its slender buildings, garden layers and road network promoting ventilation, is already future-proof in terms of climate adaptation. In addition, the somewhat slower beating pace in this peripheral region offers the opportunity to take an innovative path for future development – a transformation process that can be adjusted and adapted.

In addition to the challenges posed by climate change and demographic changes, major spatial structural changes are also on the horizon: The federal government and the canton are planning the expansion of the motorway and the La Chaux-de-Fonds bypass. The construction of the first of the three tunnels alone is expected to generate 1,500,000m3 of excavated material. The infrastructure projects, which are largely under the radar of the public, will massively change the valley and its landscape identity.

The semester poses the overarching question of new ways of dealing with infrastructure projects and exemplary climate adaptations of the Swiss cultural landscape.

Specifically, we are looking together for clever strategies for the use of excavated material. How can it be used wisely on site so that the valuable resource of water can be stored in the valley for longer in the future and multiple added values can be created?

In the search for the future role and identity of this space, students are asked to take their own stance and develop their vision for this characteristic landscape. What can we learn from the karst landscape around La Chaux-de-Fonds and how can we get the valley’s unique clock working again?

  • Course 061-0142-22 U
  • 16 Lessons per Week
  • 12 Credits
  • Language: English
  • Prerequisites: Enrollment in MScLA Program

Course overview in the previous semester:
FS2022: Foundation Studio II: The Waters of Roman Soil