At the 13th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, the Belgian pavillon hosts "The Ambition of the Territory", an exhibition which explores alternatives to current planning approaches that have led to an unsustainable land consumption and ever-increasing mobility. Through a variety of works, ranging from cartography over design studies to art work, ‘The Ambition of the Territory’ envisions a future for Europe by departing from its own territory and urban genesis. Contributors to the exhibition include the architectural office devyldervincktaillieu, urban designers GRAU, graphic designer Joost Grootens, artist Ante Timmermans and Architecture Workroom Brussels, the urban think-and-do tank that coordinates the presentation and wrote the pamphlet published for the 13TH International Architecture Exhibition - la Biennale di Venezia. ‘The Ambition of the Territory’ departs from the thesis that Europe must radically shift its focus from nation-state driven welfare protection to a metropolitan system for the entire continent. The European welfare state was built on patterns of consumptive land use that has reached its limits. The tendency to develop ever-larger tracts of land for new business parks, new suburbs, new tourist developments or new out-of-town shopping centres continues, despite our better knowledge. The protection and development of sustainable European welfare can no longer pass through a logic of consumption.
A radically new vision on the development of Europe needs to be based on a productive relationship between an urban society and its territory: a territorial metabolism and shift from consumption to metabolisms, i.e. integrated systems of land use, production and dwelling. Similar to many European regions, Flanders is characterised by a history of horizontal occupation, in which urban cores and hinterland are mixed. The traditional idea of the city and the metropolis as a compact and hence sustainable living environment (London, Paris, Madrid, etc) is not sufficiently adapted to describe and propel these territories into more sustainable futures. It hence makes no sense to harness these territories within policies that are based on the dogma of the compact city. Decentralised urbanised territories such as Flanders, the Veneto region, the Swiss urban valley, the English midlands or the northern Rhineland show a form of metropolitan organisation and dynamic that simultaneously produces enormous wealth and colossal problems of mobility and overdevelopment. ‘The Ambition of the Territory’ proposes to imagine the future of these urban regions by departing from their territory and explores a horizontal, metabolic principle to further develop these territories as a metropolitan system, while responding to their major challenges and transitions.
The exhibition in the Belgian pavilion presents a series of research projects and work that examine the possibility for a metabolism in a metropolitan territory: food production in a densely developed region, sustainable systems of distribution and logistics, or integrating new forms of industrial production in our living environment. Showing maps, models, images and stories depicting a polycentric metropolis, ‘The Ambition of the Territory’ presents us both with a fresh view on an existing landscape, and future perspectives for Flanders and Europe.
The opening of the exhibition ‘The Ambition of the Territory’ will be held at the Belgian pavilion on Tuesday the 28th of August at 5:00 PM. On this occasion the tenth edition of the Architectural Review Flanders 2012 titled ‘Radical Commonplaces’ will be also be launched. In this new publication an editorial board of architects, critics and scholars from Flanders and other European countries reflects upon the development of new concepts for housing and dwelling in one of Europe’s most densely populated regions, on urban renewal projects and infrastructures and on the profound cultural ambition that is reflected in a significant number of public and private buildings across Flanders.