The Institute for Linear Research

Exploring contemporary landscapes through walking a line

By Luis Hilti and Matilde Igual Capdevila

The Institute for Linear Research was founded in 2018 by Luis Hilti and Matilde Igual Capdevila.

Hilti is an architect who studied at ETH Zürich and is currently a PhD candidate and researcher at the University of Liechtenstein.
Capdevila is an architect and artist who studied at etsa Valencia and University of Applied Arts, Vienna. She is currently a PhD candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts of Vienna.

They have both collaborated for over 10 years organising workshops within the European Architecture Students Assembly (EASA) and were responsible for Studio Venice at the University of Liechtenstein in 2017.

When we founded the Institute for Linear Research, we realised that the task before us was so vast, its dimensions so large, and its implications so intricate, that it had to be thought of as a long-term collective endeavour that could last a lifetime, maybe more. The goal of the institute is to investigate a straight line: “The Line”. It is over 40,000 kilometres long, two-thirds of which are on water. It is defined, as all lines are, by two points, one of which is a remote mountain hotel that was the onset of our first walk in Liechtenstein in 2017. The other is a palazzo in Venice where we had our first exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2018. Everything else on The Line is an unintended coincidence.

The Line was conducted as a design studio and research project at the University of Liechtenstein. The premise of the project was to walk across the country, from one border to the other following a straight line. The intention was to find new perspectives and readings of the landscapes we encountered and break with the conventional narratives about the country.

Contemporary landscapes are the stage on which our societies unfold. They are a lever for change and as such demand a persistent engagement. Relying on outworn dichotomies such as “city and countryside”, “urban and rural”, “centre and periphery”, does not do justice to the rapid transformations in shape, meaning and inner workings of contemporary landscapes. The Line aims to create new narratives of our surroundings and unearth the potentials anchored in the physical environment.

The Institute for Linear Research

In Albania, The Line crosses through the Ksamil peninsula in the Albanian Riviera, a region known for its coastal resorts.
Image: The Institute for Linear Research

The Line allows us to conduct research into landscapes that we do not even know exist. It is not representative or complete if judged by taxonomies such as continents, climate zones or countries. Contemporary landscapes cannot be captured by distributing research into these categories. We believe that the random selection of spaces entailed in following The Line will lead us to the unknown.

Liechtenstein, 2017. Images: The Institute for Linear Research

Walking allows engagement with the landscape that is unpolluted by outmoded theories or preconceived hierarchies of what is important. The Institute for Linear Research sees itself in the tradition of Guy Debord, Lucius Burckhart, Rebecca Solnit and others in understanding strolling as a method of investigation in our physical surroundings. Through the walks along The Line, we carefully direct our attention towards our environment as it is and imagine how it could be.

The Institute for Linear Research looks for project partners that are in physical proximity to The Line. With this guiding principle, the Institute aims to circumvent the obvious and establish new and unexpected relations between countries, museums, artists, researchers, art and architecture schools, and anyone with an interest in walking and landscape. Each segment that is walked on The Line will be published as a volume of an ever-expanding Atlas of Remoteness. The books are not an end in themselves but rather a tool for involving people and starting a public discourse.

When we were all put into quarantine due to the 2020 global pandemic, walking was limited to the corridor of our homes and the lines we could walk were suddenly a million times smaller than The Line we intended to walk. As a result, the oscillation of planning and walking came to a halt. Stuck in the digital realms, we are instead building up an information mountain.