Cristian Terreno

Modes of production of urban extensions towards sustainability horizons. The case of the cities and towns in the Metropolitan Region of Córdoba


In recent decades the Metropolitan Areas of middle range Latin Americas cities have experienced an accelerated growth process since the cities and towns it comprises have been chosen as places of permanent residence and commercial and service activities. The process responds to multiple factors from global economy pressures to regional and local constrains. The spatial expression of the process is a com-fusion territory (Abramo: 2012) combining compaction processes through densification with extension processes with high levels of diffusion over the metropolitan territory, in the form of patches that conform a complex mosaic, with a mix of formally and informally settlements, in many cases by choice (a new way of life) in others by necessity (impoverishment.). This process is causing a strong impact on life conditions and in the environment.  A weak planning tradition in general and particularly in relation to metropolitan areas and strong presence of informal institutions in the city´s management are other complexity’s ingredients of the process. Therefore, there is a need to generate new forms of management and urban development based on increasing the knowledge about the modes of urban production, the produced territories, the actors involved and the recognition of the limits (ecological, social, economic and political) as well as the need for active participation to achieve such transformation.

The conceptual framework to address this territorial transformations recognizes complementary theoretical approaches as well as in some cases controversial (from structuralist to post-structuralist perspectives): it stars at the concept of territory proposed by the geographer Milton Santos to understand the space as a dialectical Hybrid (Santos, 1996) composed by a system of objects and a system of actions with dynamic character reflected in the historical transformations of the territory embodied in the territory. In order to explain the complexity of human actions, we use the integration proposed by Anthony Giddens in the Structuration Theory (Giddens: 1984): Structure-Institutions-Agency, where the action of the actors allows us to explain the production dynamics of the territories at the local scale. However, when we arrive at the construction of the modes of production of the metropolitan territories as emergent phenomenon, the structuralist framework requires to be questioned due to the level of determination that it poses about local action as well as the difficulties to understand the emerging character of the phenomenon and their potentialities.

Based on this complex conceptual framework, the research intends to approach the metropolitan territories analyzing the process of urban growth in Córdoba Metropolitan Area, a middle size city in Argentina (1.350.000 inhab.). It focuses on the modes of production of urban extensions linked to the residential activity. It seeks to distinguish the characteristics and circumstances of the process at the level of the units of transformations. To explain the modes of production of urban extensions it requires analyzing both the structural conditions of production and the empirical analysis of the objects / artifacts, actors involved and production techniques in the selected study area. The research focuses on the decision Shapers of the forms, on the decisions that are made and on the techniques that are put into action and how they are articulated. Here, the concept of technique is conceptualized, not only in its instrumental dimension but also in its ontological meaning, as a project developed by humanity to solve its relationship with nature (Ortega and Gasset: 1937 1982). The expected results are stories of the modes of transformation told at the scale of Transformation Units (subdivisions, neighborhoods, urbanizations, gated communities, etc.) where the relations between actants (human and non-human) are assemblaged and as result it is possible to recognize the topography of the complex metropolitan territories. Base on the recognition of the particular potentialities and constrains of the own territories and contrasting with horizons of sustainability (basic lines based on a general normative knowledge about sustainability which emerge in the last decades of similar experiences in territorial transformation) is possible to propose orientations and in this away answer  the research question: In which ways the metropolitan territory production processes  may be conceptualized in order to lead/orient the current ways of transformation to horizons of sustainability?


Cristian G. Terreno is an Architect and M.Sc. in Environmental Urban Development at the Universidad Nacional de Códoba - Argentina. Since 1998 he is Assistant Professor in Architecture Theory and Urban Theory and researcher at the Human Environmental Institute of this University. He is part of the “Deutsch-Argentinisches Promotionskolleg Stadt- und Regionalforschung" between the Bauhaus Universität Weimar and the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba- Argentina.