The words ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ are synonymous with human development; the result of which led to a drastic change in lifestyle in the rural context. Depopulation and the elder population living in the town have been on the rise with the abandonment of town centres, fall in businesses, intensive agricultural practices, loss of biodiversity, lack of infrastructure, leading to no tourism, shortage of jobs etc.
There is a proposed hypothesis with respect to the European context where there has been a proposal to intensify the landscape within the rural community. Whether the footbridge is being reconstructed or if it’s the entire riverbank that is being renovated. The rural community is seen as a space where urban growth culture is curbed, quantitative development is low and where activities associated with agriculture are in abundance.
So what does a rural setting require?
Further development? Or perhaps a complete renovation of what we know to be an agrarian society?
The future of rural communities across the globe are at par with the economic development. This is an indicator of how this would affect the role of every individual at the community level. For instance, in the Indian context, people are unaware of the hazards of old practices such as crop rotation and the ill effects of that agricultural practice. An interesting terminology called Rural Architectural Intensification was coined; where,
Rural- is associated with an environment rich in history, context, values, memory and identity of a place.
Architecture- is defined as the final construction product that creates social, economic and technological innovation within the environment; and
Intensification- is the strategy adopted to create a sustainable density of activities and space for citizens so that the characteristics of both the urban and rural context can co-exist with each other.
Creating pockets of opportunities and a series of mild to medium enterprises within the rural context would create the perfect balance between, a sustained rural context, conserved architecture and the perfect blend of activities both rural and urban.
Some of the major considerations while designing for a rural context are:
The concept of Rural Intensification talked about generating a singular market or hub for an industry to flourish, creating economic stability; thus giving assurance to its people and having a balanced gradual growth in the city. The benefit of this allows the local people to participate and contribute to the city’s progress and decision making. This would not only generate awareness amongst the public but also allow people from all age groups to be involed in activities that are usually exclusive to adults.
- Right of way treatment
Unlike cities where roads are the lifeline of urbanism, in a rural context, this is limited, paving the way to a limited number of roads, narrower paths on impervious surfaces. Instead, natural attractions like parks, creeks, farmlands can be highlighted with an interesting road approach. As much as possible, restricting heavy vehicular activity would be much appreciated.
- Building Placement
Having a form of land development that groups buildings together would result in saving up land for common areas, land conservation, agriculture, recreation, public and semi-public uses. For instance, the central plaza can be converted into a market destination, defining what one can identify as a ‘Village Square’. The advantage of this model is that the common areas function as a trap for nutrients dissolved or suspended in stormwater run-off. Cost-saving construction is achieved by the reduction in the street’s length and utility installation. Common parking and services reduce focus on individual facilities that otherwise add up as expenses to individual houses. It is also a safer neighborhood for both children and the elderly in the community.
To create a rural ambience, as buffer zones between the built spaces; which can be achieved through a clustering landscape, which is integrated with man-made trails and features.
Understanding the built to open ratio of the town helps in integrating vernacularism into the built environment. Leaving room for creativity and bringing an identity for the town. Focus on the quality of space through lighting, materials and finishes.
- Signage & Character
Many towns and counties in the USA have mascots and theme-based signage boards. This is rather a visual play of colours and graphics that helps people relate to themselves in a space. Although certain restrictions, such as the board size, number of displays and lighting must be considered.
With a study conducted by the University of Bahrain, they came to a conclusion that architects understand the consequence of the design process and can in turn advise and educate local people about the built environment. The local people are always more acquainted with their surroundings and understand their surroundings with their limited circumstantial knowledge. Hence a strong collaboration with architects and the locals will result in a wholesome solution for the rural community.
The author framed a methodology with a series of principles and questionnaires. Those questions were
- What should be the role of architects in rural housing projects?
- Can the architects plan the villages or are the villages grown organically?
- Do the architects know & realize their responsibility towards rural sustainable development?
- Should housing be left alone to the people?
- If people start designing their houses, will the role of architects be undermined?
- Can it be said that houses as private spaces are responsible for an individual and common spaces are the responsibility of the architects?
- The first of the statements questions if housing should be considered in the context of sustainable development & as an icon for socio-cultural identity. This would be by raising awareness regarding sustainable development.
- Effective space planning within the natural environment.
- Reduce dependency on non-renewable natural sources.
- Finding architectural solutions within the vernacular architecture framework.
- Villagers should be made an integral part of planning and design for them.
- Allowing participation of dwellers in expressing their aspirations and needs.
- Architects must conduct various interactive workshops to facilitate participation from the villagers.
- Learning from previously practiced cases for sustainable community development.
- Understanding the government policy framework, by thoroughly going through government development plans, housing policies, institutional structure, rural development schemes etc.
In all respects, the role of an architect remains necessary. The only way to move forward would be by integrating with the larger masses through dialogue, observation, experimentation and generating viable results.