A Moving Border

A Moving Border: Alpine Cartographies of Climate Change
Marco Ferrari, Elisa Pasqual, Andrea Bagnato
Columbia Books on Architecture and the City with ZKM | Center for Art and Media, December 2018

Paperback | 8-3/4 x 11-1/2 inches | 228 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1941332450 | $30.00

Publisher Description:
Italy’s northern border follows the watershed that separates the drainage basins of Northern and Southern Europe. Running mostly at high altitudes, it crosses snowfields and perennial glaciers—all of which are now melting as a result of anthropogenic climate change. As the watershed shifts so does the border, contradicting its representations on official maps. Italy, Austria, and Switzerland have consequently introduced the novel legal concept of a “moving border,” one that acknowledges the volatility of geographical features once thought to be stable.

A Moving Border: Alpine Cartographies of Climate Change builds upon the Italian Limes project by Studio Folder, which was devised in 2014 to survey the fluctuations of the boundary line across the Alps in real time. The book charts the effects of climate change on geopolitical understandings of border and the cartographic methods used to represent them. Locating the Italian condition alongside a longer political history of boundary making, the book brings together critical essays, visualizations, and unpublished documents from state archives. By examining the nexus of nationalism and cartography, A Moving Border details how borders are both material and imagined, and the ways global warming challenges Western conceptions of territory. Even more, it provides a blueprint for spatial intervention in a world where ecological processes are bound to dominate geopolitical affairs.
dDAB Commentary:
A highlight of Monditalia, one of the three main components of the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale curated by Rem Koolhaas, was Studio Folder's "Italian Limes," which garnered one of three special mentions. The project consisted of a topographical model of the Alps illuminated by a projection depicting the border Italy shares with Austria, and a plotter redrawing that border based on GPS data that took the shifting watersheds arising from climate change into account. The latter was done on sheets that visitors to the Biennale could take home (I need to dig into my Biennale file and see if I still have mine), a memento that was also a sign of the great efforts that Marco Ferrari and Elisa Pasqual of Studio Folder went to, which even included placing a handful of GPS sensors in the Alps. The project was expanded in 2016 at the ZKM | Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, when new sensors were placed on a glacier in the Alps and another glimpse of the changing border was captured.

A Moving Border, by Ferrari and Pasquel with Andrea Bagnato, expands on the project even further, collecting findings from the two exhibitions, presenting archival maps and other data on the shifting borders, and providing a few essays. Some of the most rewarding information is found in the archives culled from the Istituto Geografico Militare (IGM) near Florence. The maps, sketches, photographs, charts, and other illustrations illuminate the various tactics and technologies used to mark the natural and political boundaries over the last century and a half. Although today's computer-enabled measurements and our anthropogenic climate make for a unique situation, the archives make the longer context clear by situating our shifting present within a shifting past. Another highlight is the "project report" for the 2016 iteration of "Italian Limes," which documents the means of collecting the data and some of the findings from the sensors embedded in the glacier. All in all, the book is a visually rich and deeply informative exploration of an intriguing and important subject.

Author Bio:
Marco Ferrari, an architect, and Elisa Pasqual, a visual designer, are the founders of Studio Folder, a design and research studio based in Milan. Andrea Bagnato is an architect, researcher, and editor.
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