While looking at the countryside sprawl, we noticed some interesting things of this area in relation to city areas. In terms of accessibility, we could compare the countryside to the city; here roads are separating blocks of land, while in the city roads are separating blocks of housing facilities, in addition, use of countryside also changed during last century.
From being mainly place for farming, now it is also a place for business, leisure, art, living. A lot of different people are moving to countryside, although now its still mainly Belgians, future tendencies shows that there will be also different cultures and religions in countryside.
Although a lot of changes are happening, countryside is still being treated as it was a century ago. It means that to keep up with changes and better accommodate todays and future needs way of looking and working with countryside must be changed. Countryside is no more a place outside of the city, it is closely related to the city, dependent on the city, it is part of the city.
For absorbing different demands there must be diversity in the countryside. Mapping, taking things piece by piece, finding irregularities in existing pattern can help to strengthen this diversity.
We focused on four main elements and functions of countryside: villages, open landscape, tourism and life in farms and provided solutions and tools for countryside to accommodate todays and future needs.
Life in farms: Towards a rural productive life
The main problem of the suburbian life style is that it depends on a productive urban core to exist; its incapacity of self supply and its mere residential style creates, apart from a total dependency of the car, a strange feeling of non belonging to the inhabited place due to the lack of public life and productive processes.
The more is the sprawl, the serious is the problem, and it get worse when property values of the land and boundaries location are added; the land has an owner and it is not possible to be used by the dweller, definitively, the landscape is not experienciable but for the views.
So, how can we achieve a productive life in a sprawl system keeping it rural and avoiding the urbanization?
Three strategic lines are proposed to answer this question.
Tourism: Field museum
The countryside is no more just agricultural land. As a consequence of urbanization, the area is diverse with activities borrowed from cities.The tourism involvement takes many forms and can vary from from bed and breakfast
places to hotel and self-catering apartments. In the future, these new elements can cause a shrinking of agricultural activities. As this process is no longer reversible, and we are trying to introduce more diversification rather than retaining the processes, concept of a field museum can solve a problem of the countryside landscape losing its identity and at the same time admit the presence of urban, touristic life. So, looking at these countryside farms as museums by adding rural museum concept has dual sides: First, it acts as a formal representative of urban culture and second, it helps maintain and preserve the existing countryside life and offer more awareness to tourists as well as encourages local farmers to pursue the agricultural life, which is now in danger to be dominated by urban, city culture.
Starting from the increasing city lifestyle lived at the countryside the last decades, this strategy aims for an equal ‘urban diversity’ in the village patterns. Studying patterns of the 18th century in the area between Brugge, Blankenberge and Oostende (with Vlissegem as case study), quite free circulation possibilities around farmsteads can be noticed. Formerly, farms were gateways to places of activity, work, trade, family life,… The current village pattern is monofunctional: few functions except for housing can be found. Also, one’s house is always an end point, leading to nothing but alienated life.
After studying the past and the current, also the future has been taken into acount. Belgium has an increasing population in prospect. As assumed that further parcelling out of the landscape can not go on, population density is inevitable. But with this comes density of functions by multiple use of space instead of the current monofunctionality.
The former farmsteads are used as a basemodel. By suggesting a flow from the current houses to new areas of activity, the strategy tends to stimulate multifunctionality of space by functional diversity as well as encourage social interaction in future inhabitants’ lifes by proposing these interventions.
As there is strategy of diversity on very big scale, same applies to this open landscape area. Different actions in different parts are taken, always looking on specific qualities from different points of view. Some elements are just left for time, people and nature to do their job, some are rearranged, cleaned or removed. Spaces and places are connected or disconnected. Area is not monogamic, it is diverse, but in very delicate way.
Landscape as a building material is used for visually managing perspectives and helping to emphasize key elements of area.
Some classical paintings of landscape, avant-garde drawings and movies were used as reference to find the way for arranging elements in space. Compositions of rhythm, framing, balance, nuance, contrast, emphasizing, overlap were applied. Cars from unnecessary roads were removed, all fields now have connections in between, so area is united.
Eventually, this area becomes a place where natural elements are seen as a part of the villages and cities around. There is nothing unnecessary, everything has certain purpose. Just sometimes it if functional purpose, other times its spiritual, and sometimes it does not have any purpose on purpose. There is an extra dimension added to countryside – its no more only about farming and bicycle paths, but also about how people feel, what they can experience.