Alessandra Ponte: Matters of Extraction: The Lithium Triangle (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile)

As part of the 2020 Preston H. Thomas Memorial Lectures, Alessandra Ponte presents "Matters of Extraction: The Lithium Triangle (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile)."

November 16, 10:00–11:00 a.m.

"According to recent surveys, 85 percent of the world reserve of lithium found in salt flats, from which extraction is easiest, is located at high altitude in the Andes, in the so-called "lithium triangle" comprising the salt flats of Salar de Atacama in Chile; Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia; and Salar del Hombre Muerto in Argentina. Lithium, a basic chemical element, is now a strategic resource employed in the production of the batteries necessary to power our phones, laptops, tablets, and, following the new 'green' paradigm of electromobility, more and more electric cars, scooters, bikes, and automated vehicles. Thus, in the last decade Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia have become a privileged target of the international mining industry determined to exploit their deposits of lithium for maximum profit and minimum cost. Controlled by dissimilar legal frameworks and public policies for the management of mineral extraction, indigenous people's rights, and environmental protection, the three countries are reassessing a historical predicament: lithium can drive one more export explosion or serve as a catalyst to new forms of responsible development.  '…thinking takes place in the relationship of territory and earth,' remind us Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's What Is Philosophy? (1992). The paper is an attempt to begin to think as designers about matters that connect the geological and local to change at a planetary scale."
~Alessandra Ponte


Alessandra Ponte is a professor at the École d’architecture at the Université de Montreal. She has also taught at Princeton University, Cornell University, Pratt Institute, the ETH Zurich, and at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia. Since 2008 she has been responsible for the Phyllis Lambert International Seminar, annual events addressing current topics in landscape and architecture. She curated the exhibition Total Environment: Montreal 1965–1975 at the CCA and collaborated on the exhibition and catalog God & Co: François Dallegret Beyond the Bubble at the GTA. She has published a collection of essays on North American landscapes entitled The House of Light and Entropy (2014).  She collaborated on Extraction and Future North exhibitions curated for the Canadian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2014 and 2016. Since 2017 she has conducted research by design studios with the master students of the UdeM on "Architecture and Information 2.0" and published the results of the investigations in three volumes (2017, 2018, 2019).

Register here for the lecture.


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