Since 2012, in the AVALANCHE research group, architectural and urban design offices TVK and Anyoji - Beltrando, step aside from the ordinary urban study in order to investigate the changes of the world urban phenomena, through a transdisciplinary and dynamic approach that owes much to the journalistic methods of interview and does not ambition to constitute a monolithic scientific corpus of knowledge.

Since the early 21st century, the progressive worldwide urbanization process has never ceased. Today, the extension and the impact of this phenomenon are clear to all: our world is currently inhabited by a predominantly urban population. If one-third of world population lived in cities in 1950's, by 2030 urban areas will host the 60% of all mankind. Urban growth is both the condition and the consequence of a path which begins at the turn of the XIX century, with the growing interdependence of development and demographic explosion. This dynamic rapidly reached a massive scale with world population increasing from 2 billion units in 1930 to 7 billion in 2011. Following the dynamic of this transition we should reach an overall population of 10 billion people by 2100. From now on, cities will be the predominant form of settlement, and the urban concentration seems to become the prevailing device to organize a massively populated world. A new global framework is already emerging, in which new polarizing and networking relations grow autonomous from spatial and distance limitations. In the urban age of human race cities will play a key role in defining global evolutions.

Environmental shock - Chilean strategies
Chile, a  country in which extreme geographic conditions convoke urban modernity and its defining socio-economical patterns to a major transformation, giving interesting insights on emerging innovative urban design strategies.
Our exploration of the Chilean context brought us to interview a series of witnesses of the environment related urban transition. We collected testimonies and experiences directly linked to a series of key “Chilean episodes” showing possible conflicts between extreme, archetypical urban conditions and environmental shocks. We oriented these testimonies towards emergent planning issues. Sometimes divergent or controversial, they all question the way Chile's urban future can be conceived.

“Fture will be about moving backwords, to simple things and not towards complicatedness. We’ll need to move towards things that are irreducible, that can’t get simpler…”
Alejandro Aravena
Interview March 2014

“We’ve experimented a totally new process for decision taking in spatial issues; a process in which everybody could find it’s own interest.”
Rodrigo Araya
Interview March 2014

“Getting to know how local communities work and function can make us understand the major role the may play in the near future.”
Jorge Heitmann
Interview March 2014

Environmental Shock Episodes  
Three urban archetypes, three extreme geographic conditions facing extreme environmental challenges.      

, 42° 55′ 00″ South 72° 42′ 00″  West, Los Lagos Region
a fishermen’s village suffering a major lack of connectivity next to a major national volcano.
Constitución, 35° 20′ 00″ South 72° 25′ 00″ West, Maule Region a forestry specialized urban settlement set on a Tsunami sensible coastline.
Calama, 22° 28′ 00″ South 68° 56′ 00″  West,  Antofagasta Region
one of the largest copper-extraction cities of Chile, in the most dusty and arid desert of the world.




Stories on collapse and urban narratives
By the yardstick of modernity and as frenetic rhythms of construction are imposing urbanisation as the predominant form of human settlement, popular culture is continuing more than ever to predict the scourges and collapse of urban formulae. Films, literature and TV series abound with narratives exploring or anticipating the risks, threats and catastrophes inherent in the contemporary city, now largely linked to environmental determinisms.

Greater Paris (Grand Paris)

The Habiter le Grand Paris and Systèmes Métropolitains du Grand Paris studies conducted by the AIGP (Atelier International du Grand Paris) clarify the vision behind the current phase of metropolis’s development and define new tools for directing this transition. Today, the paradoxical gulf between ambitious plans and actual capacities (the aim of SDRIF 2013 is to build 70,000 homes each year whereas only 30,000 are currently being built) and the harmful autonomisation of the aims of various sector-based policies, illustrate the increasing distance between the ineffectiveness of urban planning implemented by local authorities and the fluid, uncontrolled transformations taking place on the ground. 

The metropolis’ specificity seems to lie more in intermediary conditions than in the multiple centres that urban planners would like to spread around the agglomeration as an all-purpose solution. Living in metropolitan systems in fact means combining scales and transport modes, promoting new types of community life and new morphological systems. The task is to understand with which tools one can bring official policies into sync with these discreet transitions and how they can turn the metropolitan growth process into a contextual transformation. More than by a new plan, now completed for 2040, the ongoing development of the metropolis, with all its vagaries, uncertainties and latent ambitions, needs to be imagined as an open, retroactive scenario involving multiple actors that will enable us to collectively envisage the next episodes in the Greater Paris story.

No Limit

Carried out for the City of Paris and the Ile-de-France Region, the prospective study of the integration of the boulevard périphérique – Paris's ring road – has enabled an overview of the question and contributed to a shift in the frame of reference: the outer ring is no longer seen as a demarcation line, but rather as a key element in the panorama of urban situations that characterise the centre of the metropolis. The ring road is now 40 years old and still a relatively unknown quantity. Sixteen territories make up "Périphérique City" in as many intermunicipal sequences, each of which has an identity marked not only by obvious malfunctions, but also by real possibilities: the various nuisances and hazards should not be allowed to obscure the range of resources. Metropolitan thoroughfares like this one are vectors for urban continuity and represent a variety of present and potential flows and interconnections.

The method adopted for the study was both thematic and territorial. In the first phase, four major themes were addressed: the different images attaching to the ring road; mobility and transport; the relationship between the périph' and the metropolitan area; and planning programmes, density and the environment. At the same time earlier studies and projects were inventoried and put into perspective, and a "local quality of life" checklist was drawn up with a view to clarifying perceptions of the ring road and its environs. In the second phase six sites were chosen as targets for transformation strategies. These urban scenarios are part of an exploratory approach, with suggestions for innovative solutions opening up new avenues for change and broadening the scope of discussion with the consultation partners.

A book, No Limit, Etude d’insertion urbaine du boulevard périphérique de Paris, published by the Pavillon de l’Arsenal in 2008, presents this project.

La ville du périphérique (the ring road city)

La ville du périphérique (the ring road city) – Tomato Architectes (Flore Baudelot, Yannick Beltrando, Toma Damisch, Marie Degos, Martin Etienne, Nicolas Fonty, Rainer Härtlein, Joachim Lepastier, Carine Merlino, Julie Michaud, Alexandre Thériot, Pierre Alain Trévelo, Antoine Viger-Kohler).

Between the metropolitan Paris of 1900 and that of today, the coming of the boulevard périphérique – the ring road – and freeways not so long after the demolition of the last of the ramparts, represents the metropolitan area's most significant transformation. Initially a foreign body within the city, the ring road now stands as the most eloquent expression of Paris's deep structure: by endowing the perimeter with a material existence, the ring road reaffirmed the circle as the eternal definition of Paris. It follows the administrative boundary between a city-centre and its suburbs, but paradoxically the territorial perception it generates seems to cancel out this situation: experienced from a car the périph' appears not as an agent of separation, but rather as an entity given substance and coherence by the way it is apprehended.

On each side the cityscape seems oriented towards the ring road, which thus emerges as virtually the sole binding force for a part of the metropolis visibly evolving in its own specific way. The upshot is a distinctive interstitial "Périphérique City" which is neither Paris nor its suburbs. It is not the outcome of any project, yet it has sprung up around an infrastructure that was part of an overall project on the Paris boundary. It functions as an overlaying of sometimes contradictory rationales and strategies, and the relationships it generates are often conflictual: its juxtaposition of the local scale (permanency) and the global scale (movement and relocation) can trigger painful frictions for the city and its residents. Périphérique City does not speak with a single voice.