A Third Landscape?
Gilles Clément, in his Manifesto of the Third Landscape, defines the “third landscape” as “the sum of the space left over by man to landscape evolution – to nature alone. […] This can be considered as the genetic reservoir of the planet, the space of the future.”
The Alps are a place of diversity, both biological and cultural. They do, however, share a common economic activity: skiing. As part of my project on the changes of Italy’s anthropic landscape, I’ve been searching for traces of this industry across the Italian Alps.
Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, a general climate of prosperity together with the exploits of a group of Italian athletes known as the Valanga azzurra (“Blue Landslide”), set the foundations for a model of economic development that has now been revealed as unsustainable. Ski-oriented tourism was introduced as the solution to the process of depopulation and impoverishment that took place around the Alps. This model led to the construction of hundreds of facilities, many of which are nowadays abandoned.
The combination of global warming, speculation and bankruptcy, along with a decrease of 35 percent in the number of visiting skiers over the past decade, have left the Alps with 186 unused skiing facilities. Furthermore, a recent study form the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) shows that within ten years 45 percent of the north eastern slopes will run out of natural snow, increasing the need for artificial snow and leading to unsustainable operating costs.
Abandonment seems to be the only feasible solution, given the high costs of environmental clean-up.
Clement’s vision showed me a third way toward an understanding of the forces that shape our landscape.
In his Manifesto the “third landscape” is a place where nature hasn’t yet reached its climax (a forest, in our climatic belt)—subtracting diversity through a Darwinian process of natural selection—as it lays unperturbed by human activity.
These thoughts made me question the status of these sites: having lost their proper functionality and joined the chaotic flow of nature they might be serving its unforeseeable cycle. Are those abandoned skiing facilities a “third landscape”?