If this project is successful, it will disappear

In the context of the international mobility program Erasmus Studies, an architecture student team made up by Alicia Cano, Maria Escribano, Diego Jesús García y Rocío Gómez (Politechnic University of Cartagena and University of Alicante) has developed an architectonic proposal in order to shake up consciences. Their main goal is  to generate a new spatial-bureaucratic situation, politically scandalous and never seen before: a borderline territory where the fence allows the visitors to cross the geographical border between two countries, but respecting, at the same time, the political one.

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”We do believe architecture can serve to a greater good”.

 

The border dividing Belarus and Poland is a political barrier that not only divides these two countries, but also shapes the European Union’s external borders with its eastern neighbouring countries.

If we analyse the current state of play in what regards international politics, we see that Belarus is a diplomatic and socio-economic ally of Russia; at the same time, it is also one of the countries taking part in the EU “Eastern Partnership” and holds various economic agreements with some EU Member States, namely its neighbouring countries –Lithuania, Poland and Latvia.

On the other side, Poland has a deep influence of western culture and is part of the European Union since May 2014. This key date for the country represents the highest point of historical events such as the triumph of the Polish trade union “Solidarność” in June 1989 or the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement signed between Poland and the European Economic Community in September the same year; this consensus and international understanding show that supranational agreements seeking coexistence for the sake of a greater good, can succeed.

Examples like these are inspiring landmarks showing that another way of interpreting pre-established borders is possible. “Fed up with exhibitionist works”, this group of students maintain, “If this project is successful, it will disappear”.

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52º32’0”N, 23º23’21”E are coordinates of a specific point along this line dividing both countries: An outstanding forest with exceptional features: Bialowieża Forest.

One could say that such ecosystem is a forest with a huge ecological value, but reality goes beyond, since it is indeed a primary forest. This means it is an undisturbed forest, where there has been no –direct nor indirect– human intervention. Trees keep growing high competing for the light with each other and there is a great diversity of species and trees of different ages living together. The organic matter layer is considerable thicker and richer than normal. Trees that die and fall are respected, since they help the other living organisms to keep growing.

When visiting it, you realize what a forest looked like 10,000 years ago; and yes, entering Bialowieża forest means entering the oldest forest in Europe.

Among its trees –some of them are more than 500 years old– live 20,000 animal species, including one fourth of the world population of European bison, an exceptional animal facing extinction.

Last but not least, this forest belongs to the European Network Natura 2000, to the Biosphere Reserves and 142,000 Ha have been designated as a Unesco World Heritage.

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One single ecological entity of a priceless value, belonging to a single geographical zone but subject to a divided political reality: a border shaped by a barrier blocking free movement between both sides.

In fact, this division also means that the dimensions of the Strict Protection Area affecting this enclave differ in both countries. This consequence is especially serious, because such legal vacuum regarding protection allow that certain policies with questionable interests may lead to the logging of forest areas.

http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2016/05/26/actualidad/1464250994_451939.html

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/18/last-stand-for-europes-remaining-ancient-forest-as-loggers-prepare-to-move-in-bialowieza

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/19/ancient-bialowieza-forest-facing-major-destruction/

In the face of this situation, we really believe that architecture can play an educational role in society and have the power to lay bare the controversy of this reality.

Thus, using nature patterns, we create architectural processes. In a primary forest, a fallen tree generates new life; its place gives an opportunity for other species to grow. In this sense, by folding the border towards one side and the other, we create new spaces. By giving over from one side, we create a gap towards the bordering country, thereby offering in a symbiotic way a new space to enjoy, a new space where to grow.

Two polygonal cells are created to be combined in order to form an organic space, this allows developing an architectural program that grows into the right direction, respecting the existing trees.

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We propose an Interpretation Centre of Nature that would merge with the border dividing it. This will give birth to a new spatial and bureaucratic reality, politically incendiary and never known before: a frontier territory enabling the visitor to cross the geographical border separating two countries, without breaching the political border.

By doing so, we will find a fence that we can fold, twist and replace, in order to create a situation that would raise awareness among society, hoping that a social outcry will entail a political response. The Bialowieża Interpretation Centre of Nature appears in the hope that the whole forest will one day become inviolable, merging the whole ecological complex into the Unesco Strict Protection Area. We hope the Centre won’t be needed anymore, removing the fence and making it possible to explore the fenceless forest as what it is: our heritage, a world heritage and our oldest forest.

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