The Anthropogenic Landscape: How Human Shapes Nature

In the contemporary context of the Anthropocene, the relationship between humans and nature should be
redefined. Taking into consideration how capitalist industries, natural resources overexploitation, economic
and social processes are shaping the landscape, “Into(x) the Wild” aims to draw a parallel between cleaning the interior and polluting the exterior.

How can we define nature today?
Are human beings part of nature?
If yes, can we consider the landscape’s alteration
caused by humans as part of natural phenomena?

In order to answer these questions and to analyze the new relation between humans and nature, a case study was chosen and is in Rosignano Solvay, a small city in Tuscany. This particular spot is on the coast wherein 1914 a Belgian chemical company called Solvay founded one of its biggest plant in Europe.

The reason why this landscape is so absurd is because of the similarity it has with paradisiac and exotic places, indeed it attracts many tourists who call it “Caribbean of Italy” or “white beaches”. The factory produces its commodity: sodium carbonate. However, in order to produce it, while releasing its by- products in the sea, Solvay has been contaminating the area and creating a white beach and an altered sea. Due to the Caribbean-like aspect, this altered landscape, thereby becomes a by-product itself, a supplementary commodity of the factory, in the form of a widely popular tourist attraction.

Actually, if we imagine this place without the factory it can really be considered a utopian beach with white sand and crystalline water. But unfortunately, it is just a chemical transformation of the natural landscape, due to the waste material of the industrial activity. Some of the tourists don’t know why the landscape is so bleached, others do, but the idea of being in a beautiful place that looks like the tropics win.

The sea and in particular the seabed in this area are lethal cocktails where the ingredients are toxic chemical components such as cadmium, nickel, chromium, lead, arsenic and especially mercury. In fact, during the last decades, these elements necessary for the chemical processes have been released in the sea and just stopped in 2010.

Solvay produces sodium carbonate by the Solvay process. This process consists of chemical reactions between salt (brine), limestone and ammonia and the end product is sodium carbonate or soda, a cleaning product. However, during the process, some waste material is produced. Waste material that becomes the ingredients of this white sand. In fact, the white sand is mainly constituted by sodium carbonate, calcium chloride, and limestone. As a result, the sea and the whole landscape are whitened by the industrial activity. Moreover, the waste material due to sedimentation is making the land grow. In fact, this area is the only area of the whole region of Tuscany where the land is growing instead of being eroded by the natural geological processes.

The former natural landscape is now an altered and artificial landscape. Its nature is modified by human traces and is now considered anthropogenic or artificial nature.

Dutch Design Week Eindhoven 2018

MIARD Graduation Show 2018, Piet Zwart Institute, Hogeschool Rotterdam