The desert is a unique environment, both because of the geological and geographic configurations that are adverse to humans, and because of the climate and scarcity of water resources. Given such conditions, how does Man, from his local cultural practices, relate architecturally to the desert and transform it into a habitable medium?
Transitions shows an “expanding urban frontier” over the desert, which runs outside the city of Las Vegas in the United States, to the core of the postmodern city, with its kitschy and mirrored buildings. The experimental short reflects on how the boundaries of cities are never precisely demarcated lines, always configuring themselves as large occupied and artificialized territories. The overflying of the camera through the streets of the suburb to the center of the city portrays the variation of forms, scales and materials of Man’s intervention in nature. The sprawl consumes the surface of the natural space, however, in the confrontation between the natural and the constructed, the Californian desert shows itself silently sovereign, determining and conditioning the human action.
Not surprisingly, in the Desert View documentary, filmed in the desert surroundings of Cairo’s capital city of Egypt, the typology of the houses and the layout of the streets resemble those of Las Vegas. After all, the forms of urban sprawl have evolved in the last century as a universal formula. In the African experience, however, the occupation of the border between the desert and the city is different from that seen in the wealthy North American suburbs, becoming more like a process of peripherization of the environment. Still the logic of the sprawl is present: On the outskirts of the city of Cairo are also the closed condos, distant and autonomous whole districts of the old and troubled centers, secluded places that function like oases constructed by and for more privileged classes.
Switzerland, 2017, 12’
Daniel Kötter/Constanze Fischbeck
Germany, 2018, 83’