An Approach to Landscape Planning in Borders

Gloria Aponte

Pontifical Bolivarian University Colombia

1. Introduction

The so-called urban-rural borders represent a territorial phenomenon that presents itself as different kinds of landscape, according to the social dynamics of each settlement. Some of those are representative of their historical sprout or boom time, and others of their location. Urban-rural borders represent nowadays a very outstanding development in major cities particularly in developing countries.

This chapter randomly revises first, as a broad context, the very carefully treated and built borders of walled ancient towns, as representative of the self-centred urban attitude, where landscape is seen as an external reality distant from everyday interests. And second, the growth without borders or, better, without control, originating from the beginning of industry, that manifests itself as an invasive and underhand force that devours natural landscape by slowly ruminating and digesting it.

Following, as the core of the reflection, the fact that in the second half of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st when it becomes a centre of attention as the border could mean a crucial place to stop destruction of resources essential for life, is addressed. In the developing world the situation is not just severe because of its rapid rendering, expansion and consequent deterioration of landscape, but it is aggravated by social unbalance and complex socio-political situations.

Landscape studies in urban-rural fringe have not been abundant. Nevertheless, some representatives from very different corners of the planet can be quoted: Qvistrom and Saltzman (2003, 2006, 2007) from Sweden; Wang, Gu and Li (2207) from China; The Landscape Partnership Ltd. (2007) from the United Kingdom, and Pellegrino (2003) from Brazil. In Colombia some academics have talked about borders, mainly recently, but not precisely about "landscape in borders". For example: Toro, Velasco and Nino (2005), Velasco, Diaz, Lopez (2010).

As a local application, an academic approach towards the solution to this threatening problem is shown, in a very special and intricate situation: the urban-rural border on steep slope. This is exemplified in the urban fringe of Medellin, settled in the Aburra river valley. The topographical difficulty in this region is overlapped by a quite difficult social situation derived from rural forced displacement that makes the population, and consequently the settlement, grow not only from inside to outside but also by groups coming from distant places attracted by the urban imagery, but stopped at the periphery.

This is a very dynamic and complex landscape that deserves on the one hand a deep analysis and, on the other, creative solutions to cope with preservation of natural resources, satisfaction of social needs and development of cultural identity. A related research focused on the structural role of streams in the landscape of urban-rural borders on steep slopes has been carried out in the Landscape Design Master Programme at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana."

The research team wondered: How could we structure the landscape on borders?

For the specific case of this research, the question was concretized as: How to value the structuring role of the water streams in the fringe landscape on the steep slopes of Medellin?

The purpose has been to produce a set of landscape guidelines to be presented to local authorities, with the aim that those be applied when planning, developing or reorganizing urban-rural borders in the conditions previously mentioned.

The method of the research consisted of disaggregation and aggregation. That is to say that the landscape universe was analysed from the diverse points of view that allowed a reasonable panorama of the situation. It meant to focus on the following landscape components: natural, social, morphologic, normative, and spatial/perceptual, for a clear and balanced approach. Although the research team is not properly interdisciplinary, each member took the responsibility of one component. The process was enriched with the advice of four landscape professionals, visiting lecturers from abroad, who came mainly to share their knowledge with the Master’s students.