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Italy, Albania, Croatia, and California

Drink. The Geographies of Agrarian Capital, 1914-2014

Instructor:  Christian Stayner
Location: Italy, Albania, Croatia, and California
Dates Abroad:  May 18, 2014 - June 30, 2014

"Only 2% of the earth's surface is occupied by cities," Koolhaas told an audience at the RIBA in November [2012], as he received the Charles Jencks award for Theory in Practice. "As architects, if we don't look at the countryside, we are ignoring 98% of the world – which seems a bit irresponsible."
As reported in The Guardian (2012)

This traveling course to agricultural regions of the Adriatic Sea (Italy, Croatia and Albania) and rural California employs the topics of viticulture and enology to address two issues central to contemporary disciplinary discussions: 1 The lingering question of architecture's engagement with geography, especially marginalized rural and productive landscapes and 2 Architecture's increasing engagement with non-visual forms of spatial information, such as temperature, terrior, radiation, taste and smell. The reading requirement for this course is significant and will include selections from Philippe Rahm, Sylvia Lavin, Neil Brenner, Amy Trubek, and Charles L. Sullivan (see below). The course builds on the Fall 2013 Experimental Seminar, Eat. Architectures of Food, 1914-2014, in which students are developing a 400-page encyclopedia of architecture's relationship to the production, distribution, preparation, and disposal of food. This publication also includes interviews and other field data developed through a series of workshops introducing architecture students to site-based research methodologies (such as photographic documentation, audio recordings, cartography, and sensory ethnography).

This course will begin in Central Michigan, with an intensive workshop and visit to the local productive landscape of the Lake Michigan Shore Viticultural Area (known as an "AVA"). We will then travel to Europe, spending most of the time Puglia, the part of southern Italy that forms the "heel" of the Italian peninsula. Here we will develop a series of case studies analyzing the spatial dynamics of traditional agricultural production, spaces of labor, and local ecologies in relation to global concerns such as distribution, the legal boundaries of import-export, and conservation zones. From the Italian port city of Bari we will take a ferry to Albania and Croatia, continuing this research in two very different cultural contexts. By effectively encircling the Adriatic Sea we will encounter a consistency of ecological biome but vastly different agricultural traditions and spatial responses. From Europe we will travel to California for the second half of the course. By examining AVAs and natural preserves in Northern California, industrial-scale production the booming agricultural Central Valley, and small-scale viticulture operations in Southern California, we will develop a cross-cultural atlas placing the parallel biomes of the Adriatic and California in conversation.

See the Studio Proposal