A rural strategy for the 'Vallées, coteaux et plateaux du Pays d'Auge'
I have a special and personal connection with the French Pays d’Auge. I appreciate its beauty and qualities but I am also seeing it decaying. My personal motivation, my role and mission as urban designer pushed me to think of a way to save – or better, upgrade – this beautiful valley.
We know that crises have influenced urbanism, its tools and practice, just as much as they have had consequences on the development of different urbanistic movements and fields. The situation we are currently living in has once again confronted us with the fragility of our build environments – and thereby inspired me for a rethinking of the goals and means of urbanism.
On a daily base, we are facing immense social and ecological challenges. Which makes it easy to observe a much-needed change in approach. A different approach that could allocate the project site within a larger area, connected to socio-ecological systems and their metabolisms. I believe that project sites can be transformed in such way, as to participate in larger systems or even strengthen them. Such approach goes beyond goals of economic improvements, future and technology in order to put the emphasis on quality of life, ecology and social chances for all. In other words, a strategy that combines ecological, social and economic issues without seeing any contradiction in between them in order to become an integrated territorial project.
Does it implies a rethinking of urbanism’s goals, means and process?
Today, the decision process (authorities, forces and stakeholders) is an integral part of a project. In the absence of the strong players of a project, its implementation is barely realistic. Those affected must accept and be part of the project. This is why I believe that communication, participation, collaboration and complementarity as well spatially and financially are essential components of any contemporary urban/rural strategy.
Traditionally analysis, conception and design used to be separated into divided stages of diagnosis and improvement. In the new Equilibrium, these form a whole, which complement and feed each other all along the process. I am aiming to raise new questions with this strategy. By working in depth on divergent scenarios, it is possible to find out which of the potential directions will be accepted and benefiting everyone involved. Pursuing these different paths offers new perspectives and enable a better understanding of what is possible, while, at the same time, providing space to define fixed keystones of a desirable development.
This is what I aimed to demonstrate with The New Equilibrium. There are many ways of urbanism, and this is probably what makes the beauty of the profession. The approach I am proposing with this project requires to know and master the characteristics of the project area. It requires to know which layers are strategical and necessary to understand in order to define the type and scale of intervention needed. In other words, unravelling the analysis and economic processes of a region in order to install a new set of rules, for new designs and futures. This is only made possible by tearing apart the existing production ecosystem, to reflect on a new one, which itself brings it range of spatial choices, systems and consequences.
Deconstructing the different and existing models into a new merger: The New Equilibrium.
Graduation date: 12 July 2021
Graduation committee: Eric van der Kooij (mentor), Eric Frijters, Saline Verhoeven.
Additional members for the exam: Martin Aarts, Riette Bosch.