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September 2020
Launch of DS1:
Luxembourg in Transition

© Nikos Katsikis, University of Luxembourg.

Led by Nikos Katsikis and Florian Hertweck, the first semester studio of the Master of Architecture, aims to contribute to the ecosystem of studies around the “Luxembourg in Transition” call for tenders, which calls for regional development, urban planning and architectural visions for the functional space of Luxembourg, with the aim to address the ecological challenges of the 21st century and respond to the changing climatic conditions. The studio blends the boundaries between architecture, planning, geography and territorial development and touches upon issues of social, economic and ecological organisation. It aims to develop a platform for analysis and exploration of a series of scenarios of spatial development, responding to the intensive population and economic growth patterns of the Luxembourg region, and its largely unsustainable – both socially and ecologically – spatial development condition. It aims to bring together investigations on land use modelling, with explorations of alternative urban design typologies, linking geospatial analysis with the projective dimension of design. The goal is to explore spatial configurations for the year 2050 that will be able to accommodate population growth, while reducing the per capita ecological footprint of inhabitants and commuters and sustaining high levels of primary production. Which are the landscapes that can accommodate densification and in what terms? How can densification happen without cancelling the agricultural capacity of the landscape and the associated ecosystem services? How can urbanization happen not against, but with nature? Are models of agro-urbanism relevant and possible?

Luxembourg has been experiencing rapid economic growth, showcasing continuously one of the highest GDP per capita in the world. Annual economic growth rates in the range of 2-5% have been accompanied by a cumulative increase in population of more than 40% since the 2000, and a more than 250% growth in the number of trans-border commuters. Although these trends are imposing huge pressures upon the landscape, agricultural and forested areas still occupy more than 85% of the total area of the country, with no more than 10% covered by settlements and no more than 5% by infrastructural networks. An extensive assemblage of small and medium sized towns, compile a cross-border commuter belt around the city of Luxembourg. With a population of around 600.000, Luxembourg is the commuting hub for more than 250.000 daily commuters, leading to an almost 50% increase of the population during any weekday. The very uneven pattern of economic development, is interwoven with an equally problematic ecological performance. With close to 40 tonnes of carbon footprint emissions per person, Luxembourg is at the top of several lists trying to grasp environmental impact in terms of CO2 emissions.

With forested and agricultural land largely excluded from development trajectories, Luxembourg is struggling to accommodate its annual economic growth without building at a similar pace. Increasing real estate prices are combined with the vision of conserving the ‘natural’ landscape. The less land can be developed within Luxembourg, the more expansive the commuting belt becomes, leading to a series of negative externalities, both social (increased cost of living, congestion), and ecological (energy consumption, pollution). Luxembourg is revealed as both an economic engine and an entropic black hole, tied to a paradoxical condition in which the more ‘green’ its landscape tries to be, the more it is offsetting social and ecological costs beyond its boundaries. How can this condition be addressed? How can population growth be accommodated within Luxembourg, without being at odds with the natural and agricultural fabric?

As part of the studio, on 7 and 8 September, an e-bike field trip has been organized for students from the Master in Architecture. On the first day, the bicycle tour started with a 40 km trip around Luxembourg-City (Steinsel, Belair, Grund, Hollerich, Cloche d’or) and finished on the second day with a 60 km trip through the south of Luxembourg (Belval, Belvaux, Esch-sur-Alzette, Rumelange, Dudelange, Schifflange). The e-bike field trip provided an opportunity for the students to get to know each other and to discover different regions of Luxembourg while respecting the UL safety rules.

© University of Luxembourg

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