Territorial Design in the Age of National and International Development, 1945-1990


Kenny Cupers, Giulia Scotto

This research theme concerns the rise of regional, national, and continental scales of development and design in the post-WWII era. During this period of widespread economic growth and international competition, the coordinated development of territories gained unprecedented importance for both national governments and international organizations. The research goal is to examine how architecture, planning, and related design professions helped shape this era of development. Our starting hypothesis is that in the postwar context, territories were not only political and physical realities, but also competitive tools for steering national and international development. Architects, planners, engineers, and a range of other experts in diverse political contexts expanded their ambitions from designing housing, neighborhoods, and cities to reshaping territories at large—whether for tourism, industry, or resource extraction. Turning swaths of land as vast as western Europe, Siberia, and the Sahara into objects of design, they approached the geographical environment first and foremost a facility to exploit and remake. For lack of an existing historical term, we call this tendency territorial design. Our central question is how territorial design has unfolded across the capitalist West, the socialist East, and the decolonizing South, and has precipitated today’s global environmental crisis.

© Drum magazine 1971