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Infrastructural Palimpsests

Infrastructural Palimpsests as Urban Landscape Design Tools

Aspaso Kouzoupi

Published Apr 14, 2021

The material traces inscribed in palimpsest structures register the vector of time into the matter: the succession of biological sediments, geological phases, or historic phases is clearly displayed in such structures’ layer order. Infrastructural palimpsests are a specific palimpsest category; this complex term was coined by Bernardo Secci1 in the 2012 Triennale di Milano Catalogue, and described2 at his homonym article “Palinsesti Infrastutturalli” (Secci, 2012:176-181). Secci approaches the infrastructural palimpsests as geographical nodes, where the relation between different regions is inscribed, and their historic fluctuations as well. Indeed, the infrastructural palimpsests inscribe traces of the succession of historic, economic, social changes; traces regarding factors relating to speed modes, networks, and connectivity, sustainable or unsustainable urban complexes, relations between different cultures, etc... The flow of matter and the flow of time are simultaneously characterizing any infrastructural palimpsest. The nodal properties are the characteristic of infrastructural palimpsests, where different types of networks may interact and/or overlap, such as aqueducts, viaducts, grand ‘vias’ or important historic roads, highways, and train-lines, bridges, quarries, canals, energy production sites, etc. The area of influence of infrastructural palimpsests comprises their ‘cores’ –where the nodal properties are exposed-, their immediate environing context, and their network extensions. The core of an infrastructural palimpsest can be interpreted as a Spatiotemporal Node, or a “Crossroad in Time’ (Kouzoupi, 2014: 88). These spatiotemporal nodes occupy condensed areas where the palimpsest structures are literally formed by the overlapping of different historic infrastructural layers. Next to these intense multi-layered areas, are the immediate environing networks that are still linked, or have been historically linked, to the palimpsest structure in different historic periods. Contemporary, historic, and sometimes archaeological landscape networks intersect or coincide, enhancing by additional traces the perception of diachronic functions and practices in the immediate areas that surround infrastructural palimpsests. These surrounding areas can be referred to as their ‘environing context’. The network extensions of a major, nodal, infrastructural palimpsest include the totality of the different networks, by which it was connected with other nodes or places, throughout all of the historic phases while it remained active. These networks may or may not relate to each other, while they reflect different modes of economy, different types of relations between center and periphery, between urban and rural, between various production sites and consumption sites, simultaneously revealing traces of the life modes, human and animal practices that existed synchronically with each of the palimpsest’s discrete historic phase. Thus, departing from the ‘core’ palimpsest area, the areas of influence –direct and extended- can be traced for each historic layer involved: at first separately; then, through the overlapping of these different layers the shape of a vast field in the territory of which the infrastructural palimpsest landscape can be considered somehow as ‘active’, or potentially active, shall be revealed. An Urban Design strategy that respects and reveals its multi-layered complexity and manifold nodal nature can bring about the diachronic and synchronic qualities of an Infrastructural Palimpsest.

[i] Late Professor Emeritus of Urbanism, IUAV [Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia 2 “In Infrastructural Palimpsests we observe a long history of general social mobility, economical and cultural mobility, and a plurality of historic evidence regarding the infrastructure’s sub-parts [...] And uncountable minor stories of technical achievements, of special interests, of people, facts, prejudice, mistakes.” (Secci, 2012:176)


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Caskey M. (2018): Recent research on the highway from Corinth to Tripolis in the Peloponnese. In: Tsetsis S. [ed]: Memory and Urban Phenomenon. Athens: Militos [pp.228- 232] 

Kouzoupi A. (2018): “Signalizing a Landscape as a Palimpsest of Ancient and Modern Infrastructures”. In: Tsetsis S. [ed]: Memory and Urban Phenomenon. Athens: Militos [pp205-227] 

Secchi B. (2012) : “Palinsesti Infrastutturali”, in: Ferlenga A. et al [ed] : L’ Architettura del Mondo. Infrastrutture, Mobilita, Nuovi Paesaggi. : La Triennale Di Milano, Editrice Compositori

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