Selected project – Franziska Michl – Rethinking villages, Reinventing rurbanism
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The architect shapes spaces so as to give them social utility as well as human and aesthetic/symbolic meanings. The architect shapes and preserves long-term social memories and strives to give material form to the longings and desires of individuals and collectives. The architect struggles to open spaces for new possibilities, for future forms of social life.
“Growing Villages” and “Shrinking cities” represent a potential development concept that addresses the current urbanization and the associated social challenges. At the heart of this work is the rethinking of existing social, economic, and architectural structures in urban and rural areas, utilizing and redefining what already exists. This implies not only the physical design of spaces but, above all, a profound transformation of social practices and the traditional conception of rural areas.
Fundamental at this point, and a primary task in the further development of villages, is the understanding that villages are not isolated, self-contained entities. They are primarily places of community, collaboration, and exchange within a region. The questions to be addressed in this context are: How can community be strengthened in the future? What kind of society will live in our villages of the future? Where is the balance between community and individuality?
One approach is to consider the idea of society as a social heterotopia that enables alternative social norms and practices and allows new forms of coexistence and social interaction. This requires not only participatory approaches but also a careful transformation of existing structures. The implementation of participatory processes that involve the community in decision-making must be assumed.
Preserving the existing building fabric and transforming existing buildings are necessary steps to strengthen the identity of a region and create places for community development. For example, in the village of Röcken, near Lützen in SaxonyAnhalt, there is the creation of a Public Factory, Public Gardens, and the conversion of an abandoned gravel pit into a public theater and cinema. These are newly created spaces for social development, communal events, and new forms of collaborative work. The goal is a new integrative environment through social meeting places and creative spaces throughout the entire region and the creation of opportunities for active appropriation of spaces by society. Alongside this is the development of rural mobility by shifting priorities from individual mobility to collective sustainability, through measures such as new bike lanes, local shopping buses, and new pedestrian networks.
A radical transformation of our thinking about rural structures and the relationship between urban and rural is ultimately a prerequisite for shaping life outside of cities and creating a new idea of life in villages.