Multiscale Strategies to Reactivate Transhumance in Spain

Authors: Jorge Valiente (Project Director), Amaia Sánchez Velasco and Gonzalo Valiente / Collaborators: Clara Rodriguez, Alberto Yuste, Santiago Caro, Pablo Mora, Isabel Lacave

‘Multi-scale Strategies to Reactivate Transhumance in Spain’ is a project that speculates about the possibilities of re-articulating traditional forms of territorial management according to contemporary concerns and potentials. It aims to reverse the impact that paradigmatic changes of production modes are having at different levels over Spanish cultural landscapes.

Transhumance represents a millenary knowledge on territorial management with animals. It is a form of semi-nomadic shepherding practised in the Iberian Peninsula since the wild herds of merino sheep were domesticated along the Guadalquivir River. At the beginning, the shepherds followed the original migration patterns of the wild animals. Since then, and along centuries, the movement of millions of herds have physically changed the ecologies and culturally transformed the landscapes they crossed by. These paths still form a network of longitudinal public spaces that function as ecological corridors. They are fluid systems that connect different landscape units, reducing habitat fragmentation, desertification, erosion and fire risk.

Transhumance faces nowadays a major risk of disappearance. The reduction of knowledge transfer and the invisible feature of its role in the maintenance of ecosystems are the main factors of this risk. The project combines a series of multi-scale strategies articulated around a Transhumance Shepherd’s School. The school functions as a pedagogic travelling infrastructure whose goal is to facilitate cultural interchange and knowledge transfer. This project critically portrays the ecologic, legal, economic and political situation of Spanish hinterlands, aiming to propose speculative scenarios for alternative futures.

‘Multi-scale Strategies to Reactivate Transhumance in Spain’ proposes a radical form of architectural production in the age of Anthropocene. Its multi-scalar approach defines this territorial project as a greater form of architectural production. Urban hinterlands require maintenance. The productive nature and the capacity to harbour secular knowledge gives to these remote spaces the potential to dissent from monist narratives of the global, and to construct alternative ones. The current condition of the blue marble and its territories can only be re-defined from the relation between subjectivities and artefacts. It is through this relation that new collective imaginaries and narratives can be consolidated.

A hybrid architectural typology is proposed to host the headquarters of the school. Chozo and toril are the spatial artefacts that Transhumant shepherds built all over the country as mediators between human, non-human actors and climatic conditions. They constitute the living yet archaeological legacy of these cultural landscapes. A new complex functions as both chozo and toril, hosting living spaces and an arena for cattle management, as well as a space for cultural events. It is a rural and multifunctional bullfight arena (whose typlological origin resides as well in the toril), a parliament for the negotiated construction of an alternative narrative for the Transhumance and its past, present and future.