New Perspectives for Rural Areas
For too long we have concentrated on urban development and disregarded the profound structural changes taking place in the countryside. Many rural areas, and not only those in structurally weak regions, are deeply affected by this ongoing process. In many places, the consequences for people’s everyday lives are visible and lasting: many residents can no longer find work in their own villages, and become commuters or move away. Schools and shops close, while health care infrastructure and local transport deteriorate. Industrial zones now populate the periphery, where discounters and large parking lots look the same from village to village. In the past, village centres were once the proud and lively heart of these communities, but today they are often abandoned.
In our current concept issue, we take a closer look at living in rural areas. Our Process section (p. 52) presents comprehensive documentations of three projects – in Saint-Maurice in the Valais, in Hallstatt in the Salzkammergut and in Elsau in the Canton of Zurich – which show how targeted architectural interventions in historical structures are reviving town centres through new residential concepts. Here, architecture has assumed the task of strengthening the identity of these communities, making them attractive again as the centre of life and culture, and creating new qualities of living with well-considered projects. It’s not an easy undertaking, but one that is urgently needed in the face of structural change.
Our Typology section (p. 32) examines the architecture of rural homes in general, presenting projects in Australia, Austria, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. Some of these buildings are used as holiday homes by city dwellers; what they all have in common is that their architecture takes into account specific topographical or climatic characteristics, local building traditions and regional building culture. In short, the genius loci enhances the quality of living through the harmony of the architecture and its context.