Instructors: Christopher Roach, Sandra Vivanco, Lalo Zylberberg

In Cooperation with Harvard GSD, Fall 2012

This research project will investigate the conceptual and form-giving potential of the megaregion as both perceptual lens and domain of operation instrumental to the design disciplines for engaging with the spatial transformations occurring at a rapid pace and increasing scale in developing regions of the world.  The domain of our investigation is the hydrological geography of the Guarani megaregion, a transnational ecological and cultural territory at the heart of the South American continent, with a specific focus on the Pantanal and the Iberá wetlands and their adjoining territories.

These wetlands, part the Paraná-Paraguay watershed system, together form one of the grandest ecological reserves of the world due to the great diversity of their species and unspoiled beauty of their landscapes.  They also play a crucial role in the recharge of the Guarani Aquifer, one of the largest reservoirs of groundwater on the planet and a critical source of drinking and irrigation water to the region.  However, they are under growing pressure from the expansion of agriculture and resource extraction programs triggered by global demand, and are at the center of the IIRSA’s proposals for economic and infrastructural integration on the continental scale.

Working within a framework of “research by design”, we will conduct an initial scan of the spatial processes and morphological conditions that are shaping the Guarani geography, with the intent of both bringing a vision of the region into focus and developing a series of spatial models that can be deployed as multi-scalar instruments of design. We will then deploy these spatial models at the local scale on sites identified as typical and/or critical to investigate diffuse forms of ecological urbanism that may allow for the preservation of these fragile ecosystems through a more viable interface with the IIRSA’s proposed infrastructures.