chapter  7
33 Pages

Transcending boundaries: design as a medium for integration in the ‘rurban’ landscape

ByELKE VANEMPTEN

For a long time the area on the boundary between the urban and the rural was ‘planning’s last frontier’ (Jed Griffiths in Gallent et al. 2004), but from the beginning of the 1990s spatial planners and designers increasingly focused more attention on what will be called here the ‘rurban’ condition. This hybrid spatial condition developed from tendencies such as suburbanization, relocation of industry to the outskirts of the city and the construction of extensive mobility networks. Nowadays, peripheral development is widely discussed in the literature, reflecting a growing consciousness about the various challenges posed by this ‘rurbanity’ (Hidding 2006; van den Brink et al. 2006; Hoggart 2005; Gallent et al. 2006). One of the main points of discussion revolves around the issue of ‘integration’, more particularly the integration of different land uses and functions in rurban spaces. Van den Brink and colleagues (2006: 147), for instance, indicate that the traditional rural-urban opposition has been replaced by a metropolitan landscape that reflects ‘the integration of built-up and non-built-up distinctively urban and rural land uses’. In these rurban metropolitan landscapes, scarcity of space and attempts to reinforce the economic basis of agriculture led to the creation of a broader perspective on the combination of land uses and functions such as nature, landscape and agriculture (Hidding 2006: 241). However, this closer integration of multiple land uses and functions implies that a whole range of actors (farmers, entrepreneurs, local residents, urban recreants, policy-makers, etc.) with different visions and interests are involved in different ways in the transformation of the rurban landscape. To achieve coherent outcomes, therefore, especially within the frame of strategic projects, it seems essential to create partnerships between these actors (Gallent et al. 2006). Since planning and design are collective activities aimed at (re)developing space in a sustainable and qualitative way by establishing interrelations between the different activities and networks in an area (Healey 2004), managing the complexity of change (Gallent et al. 2006), and dealing with ‘the presence of one or more actors pursuing various divergent

and often clashing objectives that follow different rationales’ (Sartorio 2005: 27), the problem of integration of different land uses and actors in rurban areas is of real concern. For Albrechts (2006), the concept of integration is a fundamental principle of planning and urbanism. However, despite its centrality, it has been explored to only a limited degree in spatial planning and design theory (De Boe et al. 1999; Healey 2006; Kidd 2007).