Elena Longhin, Chris Lo, Howe Chan

The project research delves into questions related to ongoing desertification processes and remote landscape influences.
It tackles european desertifying processes due to over exploitation of natural resources and in the broadest sense, on how their political management affects production dynamics and the way territories are organised.
Observing the ongoing desertification affecting Europe we realized that The Florence Convention does not suggest a constructive practice to tackle its processes out of generic control.
Even though a part of the Convention encourage a transfrontier co-operation its validation seems to limit itself inside the Europe Continent: it apparently denies a concept that interest us much that is the possible responsibility of certain specific territorial practices affecting adjoining territories.

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Guilty Landscapes. Atlas of the Overexploited Territories in the Emergent Desertification Scenario

A transfrontier landscape approach is needed to evaluate current agricultural overexploitation on high-risk territories which are generating arid lands able to radically transform the geomorphology of territories, their environments and productivity.

Territorial Formation

The consequences of the overexploitation of the water resources started the recession of the sea. The Aralkum desert has been generated from unwise water use practices operated by the Soviet with the divertion of the vast waters of the Amu and Syr rivers into thousands of square miles of adjacent desert and steppe that aimed to built a huge cotton belt territory. The new extreme condition strengthen the existent desert causing powerful sand storms that threaten surrounding urban areas, destroy agriculture areas and send its salty polluted sand back to Europe.

Travelling through the desiccated Aral Sea

Carthography of Sand Storm

The 1991 Soviet transference of power in 5 newly independent countries meant the inheritance of unwise water use practices and a spreading intensifying desertification phenonon and emerging threatening sand dune scapes shifting over the territory. Sand dust storms are common phenomena due to the extreme environment condition generated by the new desert. The city of Nukus is especially suffering from cyclical destructions of its agricultural fields and attempts to cover most exposed urban areas.

Aralkum Desert and Nukus site visit

We visited the territory of Karakapakstan and the city of Nukus in Uzbekistan to explore the impact of the new man made Aralkum Desert shifting over surrounding grounds and local communities.

Social Formation

Soviet transference of power also meant the inheritance of a dependence on the monoculture cotton production. Soviet left a system of monoculture production which is based on a state labour practice which force all the population to have an active role picking up and cleaning cotton fields throughout the year.
Territorial infrastructure relies on it but is suffering from the government obstinacy to not update cultivation methodologies, crops rotation and restructure the production chain.

Desert shifting towards the city


This projective drawing describes the behaviour of the moving desert over the city and its surrounding territories in the near future. It means to provoke the question of how landscape urbanism strategies could be implemented within the continuously shifting geomorphology of sand dunes.

Dunes formation

Sand Dunes Simulations

Different CFD softwares together with python scripting are used to simulate dust blowing over the site area and sand dunes movement affected by different obstacle inputs over time.


The research explores ways able to put forward an alternative territorial organisation, conjuring site territorial opportunities to re-expolit its geomorphology in order to equip it with a renewed identity.
Carthogenesis intersects what we learned from the geomorphology of the moving sand dunes and the urban condition of the study area.
It envisions an alternative strategy on the coexistence of human settlement and productive landscapes in a shifiting desertifying sand territory. The implementation of shelter belts is used to preserve existing relevant areas
and manipulate the sand corridor formation throughout time.

Manufactured Grounds

Manipulation of the emerging dunes around urban clusters enable to re-territorialize grounds. The stabilization of their behaviour through plantations would evolve in a new urbanization of the city and productive landscape.
Tree planting developing in an agroforestry system would reclaim the territory and provide a diversified agriculture where smaller farmers would begin to aggregate.

Fields of Operation