Studio Nepal: Designing nature, standards, and discontinuities in the Himalayas

Landscape Design Studio III A (2016-17)

Related Staff : Ashley Kelly

Studio Nepal: Designing nature, standards, and discontinuities in the Himalayas

Regional corridors tied to China’s 2013 One Belt One Road strategy are set to connect Eurasian economic centers through some of the last frontiers of Central and South Asia. In efforts to expand China’s overproduction into India’s markets, land routes such as the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor and rail via Tibet and Nepal are in various stages of planning and construction. At their seam along the foothills of the Himalayas are critical landscapes long conserved by their relative isolation and distance from the state. However, increased investments in road, rail, and hydropower infrastructure, as well as a profusion of planned Special Economic Zones, are stressing long-held center-periphery binaries between Kathmandu and the far eastern, western and Terai regions of the country. China is now Nepal’s leading source of foreign direct investment, bilateral trade, and, as of the devastating earthquakes of April and May 2015, its greatest single source of humanitarian aid. Given the proliferation of new projects and agendas, this landscape planning studio sought alternative models of infrastructural and environmental management, engineering, and economic and social integration in Nepal’s frontier regions. For the first half of the course, students researched Nepal’s “failed” development and common misconceptions in development approaches, focusing on trends in investment, geophysical processes, and agricultural and forestry land management issues. Students then traveled Nepal’s central north-south corridor from Kathmandu to Chitwan National Park to meet with major international NGOs, including the World Wildlife Fund’s linear infrastructure team and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, local landscape academics and design offices, and community forest user groups. Upon their return, students developed design strategies that included alternative Environmental Impact Assessment scopes, scenario-based approaches to linear infrastructure and wildlife connectivity, and parameterizing landscape technologies in response to geophysical hazards and complex land rights.

Enlarge Photo: Fabricating Site / ZHANG Zikai

Enlarge Photo: Initial student research and field photos exhibited at studio final review
Enlarge Photo: Narayanghat-Mugling Highway / Ashley Scott Kelly
Enlarge Photo: Studio Nepal: Designing nature, standards, and discontinuities in the Himalayas 4