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Alberto Reques starts his PhD thesis

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

Ecologies of the Underground: Reconceptualizing underground infrastructures through the lens of the territory, materiality and imaginaries.

Infrastructures are the most frequent underground constructions and can be acknowledged as one of the most influential entities in our contemporary western societies, due to their territorial scale and repercussion on the built environment. Often hidden from public sight, subterranean infrastructures are receiving an increasing interest during the last decades, in a context of environmental crisis, digitalization and free-market tendencies, that are transforming our built landscapes. However, technocratic, anthropocentric and object-centred perspectives still prevail within the approaches through which urban and architecture scholars study these entities, focusing on their construction processes and functioning, rather than from a holistic view. These perspectives have traditionally encouraged a set of narratives about underground infrastructures, which to this day render them as external-to-the-city, oversimplifying their complexity and overlooking the multiplicity of forces and agents involved in their spatial organisation. Although other disciplines like geography and social sciences have started addressing the social repercussions of aboveground processes in underground spaces and vice versa, it is still missing a holistic perspective on the spatial constitution of subterranean infrastructures which this dissertation aims to fill in from the architecture discipline.

Through the frameworks of territory, materiality and imaginaries, this research project aims to reconceptualize underground infrastructures through the acknowledgment of their distinctive material- spatial qualities, that vertically entwine with the surface through power relationships among a wide variety of actors and forces (human and non-human). For this purpose, it focuses first, on unfolding how the aboveground and the underground realms relate to each other spatially through different vertical political economies embedded in free-market systems, the control of subterranean land and resources by vertical appropriations. It then explores how underground infrastructures interact spatially and materially with non-human entities along different time-scales frames. And finally, examines the repercussion of new subterranean representations brought by contemporary realities and discourses, and the development of alternative visualization tools in the imaginaries of underground infrastructures. Joining theoretical research and visual representation, the proposed dissertation is conducted through a continuous process of moving back and forth from theoretical discussions to the analysis and graphic representation of specific built examples, building up new conceptualizations from the multiplicity of cases.

Promotor: Dr. ir. Marc Schoonderbeek

Co-promotor: Dr. ir. Negar Sanaan Bensi


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