Canary in the mine is a sequence of Option Studios at the Harvard GSD focused on rural territories addressing communities and landscapes subject to ever-growing vulnerabilities in the context of anthropogenic driven impacts. The new sequence of Canary in Mine will examine designated rural villages in the center of Portugal under the continuous threats of wildfires, desertification, loss of biodiversity and cultural disintegration. Importantly, it will mobilize local latencies and local knowledge for increased resilience through the agency of design pertaining three topics: de-carbonization, de-climatization and de-colonization. In close collaboration with the New European Bauhaus, under the goals established in the European Green Deal, the Option Studio will explore design strategies toward new economic, social, and ecological paradigms. With approximately two-thirds of the country considered “rural,” the symptoms of current wildfires and expanding droughts are a warning and a prospect of what the future holds for Mediterranean landscapes; and, potentially, a springboard for new planning/design principles in today’s challenges.
The WHY questions are, for instance: Why is “rural” considered “rural”? Why are certain landscape features constructed in a particular manner and for which purposes? Why are climate driven crises so extreme in these territories? Why are rural communities disenfranchised? Why has the “rural” been marginalized? And why is important to revisit the “rural”? The HOW questions are: How will climate change impact these hinterlands? How can landscape (soft and hard) mitigate such thermal trends? How did the landscape (as a product of the deep symbiosis) reach the current state? How can the landscape be re-imagined as an infrastructure or medium for increased resiliency in the context of ever-growing wildfires? What new economic possibilities inform resilient forms of acting/forming the rural territory? And finally, how can the communities and their social/productive practices be re-integrated in the formation of the built environment?