Bastide city territory: landscape infrastructure design, Monpazier, France

Pritchard, Lucy (2019) Bastide city territory: landscape infrastructure design, Monpazier, France. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


It is possible to imagine in the not too distant future a near continuous blanket of development across Western Europe, in which only areas unsuited for, or protected from, settlement, remain as islands in a suburban sea. In this context, Dordogne, the site of this design thesis, captures the increasingly rare condition of a largely agricultural landscape which has not been intensively cultivated. Also present is a feature of importance in the tradition of city making: a network of planned settlements, a half-day walk apart, resulting from the phenomena of bastide foundation. These features originate a feeling for the potential of Dordogne’s intricate agricultural landscape and the regional scale architectural infrastructure set within it. Through care-filled study of an exemplary bastide, Monpazier, and its relationship to the transformation of its surroundings, the thesis sets out to discover how the spatial principles it embodies could be redescribed, and reciprocity with its surroundings reactivated. At three scales the bastide city territory proposes potential relationships between constituent parts through time, imagining how these could support a richer experience of being in the landscape, and a stronger relationship to the bastide.

A diverse body of work produced through ‘design as research', develops and refines techniques of sketching, drawing and modelling. It is intended for exhibition; inviting and testing responses to the work forms a valuable further dimension of exploration and reflection. An interpretive text, including this abstract, supports and contextualises the project. Part of the ‘quest’ of the design activity is to understand Monpazier's appeal as an urban figure – a strong but everyday urbanity encompassed by a beautiful agricultural landscape –to problematise the mindless suburbanisation which is taking place there. A constructive reading of the site initiates the process of designing a landscape infrastructure. The spatial relationship between Monpazier's setting on a promontory, and a long ridge in the plateau from which this landform extends, provides a vector of expansion. This is further articulated by its field patterns, becoming four ‘combs’: spatial structures to concentrate settlement. This overall framework, with new cultivated parks inbetween, redescribes ‘territory' as a cohesive element with potential to give unknown future settlement a specific sense of place. At a more immediate scale and time, a raked topography is designed along the comb closest to the bastide, hosting test sites for inhabitation, and finally finding a way to characterise the terrain vague north of the bastide.

Through the amplified condition, the project reveals the immense value of agricultural landscape as a creative resource, challenging the prevailing model of urbanisation. Through its depth of understanding and involvement it proposes the role of architecture, as a cultural exercise, in making the diffused city as an aesthetic environment, in which specificity of a sense of place and time can contribute to the possibility for meaning. In doing so it further defines design as research as a distinct form of practice combining aesthetic and ethical inquiry.

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