Month: June 2013

Ramona and Rafaela

A view of Rafaela from an airplane. Image by Martin Dario Herrera on Panoramio

Rafaela is a city with some 100.000 residents in the center-west of the province of Santa Fe, Argentina, with a certain structuring role over its territory. Ramona is a community slightly over 2.000 residents some 50 km west of Rafaela. Buenos Aires is faaaar awaaay… What is interesting here is how on a territory which is a perfect grid for the agrarian colonization of a Pampa that there surely seems infinite, there is a self-similarity worth a Mandelbrot explanation on the general layout…

Rafaela and Ramona at the same scale. Attention, Ramona is located northwest from Rafaela

Rafaela and Ramona at the same scale. Attention, Ramona is located northwest from Rafaela


Saffres as seen from the northern cliffs (you can find the image here)

I am more than used to see maps and imagery, and to derive from them an operative knowledge of places I have never set foot on. But sometimes you fall on maps like the Carte de Cassini, the first general map of France, drawn by the Cassini family using for the first time a triangulated network during the XVIIIth century, which despite having a just approximative accuracy regarding non-linear features, renders well the mental image you may retain from summer childhood visits… no wonder that is the model for maps in fantastic novels (Lord of the Rings, Jules Verne or similar) or films (The Hallelujah trail).

By the way, Saffres is in the Bourgogne region of France (find a map here). You can find, as always in France, excellent maps (including the Cassini) on

Saffres on the Carte de Cassini (XVIIIth century). Altough no accurate rendering of elevations was at hand, the map is quite expressive of the hills

Saffres on the Carte de Cassini (XVIIIth century). Altough no accurate rendering of elevations was at hand, the map is quite expressive of the hills

Saffres today in an IGN map

Saffres today in an IGN map

The Konsen Plateau

It is common in geography to say that there is a rural framework. Thinkers as Ian Mc Harg introduced the idea of a territorial analysis by layers. All this can be seen, often, by a trained eye; east of Hokkaido, on the Konsen plateau, facing the Nemuro bay, these concepts are clear for anyone with google maps.

The lattice-shaped windbreak forest in Konsen Plateau, protected as Hokkaido heritage, are a curious example of an idea which certainly answers an environmental issue, which seems to have worked for a long time, but is probably invisible for a visitor not aware of the aerial image. The area is in the far north of Japan, swept by cold winds, so trees have been planted on a lattice to protect cultivation and livestock farms on the plateau. There are reticular lattices in other parts of the world (the Jeffersonian grid in the USA, roman centuriatio in Italy and other countries), but here trees in corridors over 100 m side is clearly interesting, especially when the linear forests merge with riverbank forests, or overalay with roads or other linear features. There are sections in which the frame is more minute. This is not like the old European roads with their margin trees, as roads only cross these linear forests, bur are not their axis. These are like inverse firebreaks.


Some 200 km west from Shanghai, I have not chosen this village due to direct knowledge (I have visited Shanghai, but for a very short stay), but rather as it seems to illustrate a trend which is global, only faster in China these days. An interesting network of traditional hamlets seem to progressively leave the place for residential subdivisions or other things that seem oddly far from any logical location. Can a feasible and modern agriculture exist, producing money enough not to lose in an irreversible way the landscape and the environment?

Solar energies in Extremadura


A Holm Oak (Quecus Ilex) near Navalmoral de la Mata

All the technology will not spare us a simple fact: we live on earth thanks to the sun radiation. For centuries we have transformed (or, rather, used the ability of the plants to transform) energy in matter through photosynthesis, and in fact the plants are just solar panels that have a specific speed in that role of sun energy conversion. Going for more lucrative crops is just keeping depending from the sun. What technology brings is the ability to transmit that sun energy without transforming it into matter (heating wood, food or other products), but just as electricity. But solar panels do not grow by themselves, demand a power grid to transmit their produce, and we are not as used to see them on the landscape. Albeit sheeps seem to appreciate their shadow…


A farm storage for tobacco in Vegaviana. A “solar energy storage” from the 1950s


Sheeps seem to like these new Holm Oaks



Aerial view of Tórtoles, by Ricardo Melgar on Panoramio. His collection of images of Castille is simply excellent.

Tórtoles de Esgueva is a small village in Ribera del Duero (Burgos province, Spain), which I already blogged about last year. The rural development strategy for the area focuses on wine and the associated tourism, as well as on rural tourism. The Posada- Monasterio in the village is a good example of it, with an interesting architectural rehabilitation and a quality hotel service. Besides, they organize some art-related events which go way beyond what many would think of a small Castilian village.

The village is, as often, on the slope connecting the fertile valley bottom to the upper cereal cultivation grounds, with a south- looking orientation. As in such villages, the interesting architectural elements are the church and the monastery. Vernacular architecture persist, albeit sometimes a bit modified. 

The monastery (left) and the church (right)

The monastery (left) and the church (right)
An art installation at the chappel in 2010, by Carlos León

An art installation at the chappel in 2010, by Carlos León

Biblio (47) Model projects for the swiss rural spaces

biblio 47-ch

The Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development, in coordination with the Federal Offices for Environment, Agriculture and Economy, has developed between 2007 and 2011 thirteen innovative projects to boost the dynamism of rural territories, using synergies to that end. The projects addressed the following topics:

–           Regional centers and their role in the close rural space

–           Territorial control coordination: land use management

–           Sustainable rural tourism

–           Landscape and nature stewardship

–           Renewable energies

–           Compensation of benefits and disadvantages.

Many interesting subjects are in the projects, as the coordination between voluntary farmland rearrangement and landscape, the improvement in the landscape integration of buildings, energy development throught biogas and sustainable wood harvesting, and the coordination between local authorities to avoid a competition for investments that in the end can be harmful for the land.

Asphalt snakes

M30 freeway near Avenida de la Albufera, Madrid

M30 freeway near Avenida de la Albufera, Madrid

The western edge of the M30 motorway in Madrid has been buried; but the eastern part remains on surface, and the way in which it has been contorted to integrate the new tunnels  and engineering variances make for a complex geometry in some areas. And probably a missed opportunity in the greening of these “wasted” fringe spaces… (each one can have his say on what is wasted here)

Madrid Sur

Madrid sur-2 Madrid sur-0

What do all shantytowns would like to be when they grow up? a formal city. The shantytown of Palomeras Bajas, appeared during the large migrations to Madrid (1950s-1960s), was transformed during the 1990s into a middle class new neighborhood in which at least a part of the original population was relocated. The regional Parliament (A) was relocated to the area, facing a mall (B), near a revamped train station (C) and well linked to other new areas through Avenida Pablo Neruda (D).

This was a clearly illegal settlement, not like Puente de Vallecas, that appeared in a moment with almost no planning regulations. Here there was already a legal solution for the problem, but economic growth had to attain a certain level to allow the transfromation of the area with a substantial public investment (and also by private agents).

Madrid sur-1