Countryside Unfolds

A transdisciplinary project connecting perceptions and conditions on rural areas in the Nordic and Baltic Sea Region.


This project is funded by the Swedish institute and the Goethe-Institut Schweden.
Partners: SLU Alnarp, Linnalabor, Region Dalarna, Municipality of Valga, IBA Thuringen Estonian, University of Life Sciences and AOM.


Lacking the possibilities of projecting rural areas into the future.

The future of rural areas in the Baltic Sea Region still continues to strongly depend on the urban agenda. As long as rural areas are defined and designed as sources of resources for the ever growing cities, rural areas will not be able to define their own challenges and possibilities.

There is an alarming gap between the perception of rural areas as local entities, when they actually are globally connected. Such a gap prevents architects and spatial planners from understanding the global aspects of rural communities.

Urgent need to understand rural areas in a globalised context.

Urban standards applied to rural challenges.

Spatial and social planning for rural areas continues to apply urban solutions which tend to reproduce social and economical inequalities between rural and urban communities. 

There is an urgent need for capacity building among architects and spatial planners when it comes to understanding and tackling the above mentioned challenges in the Baltic Sea Region. In order to develop an inclusive design for rural areas, stakeholders needs to settle a transnational and transdisciplinary matrix with the goal of connecting both challenges and possibilities in order to facilitate a coherent way for how to view, listen and design with and for communities in rural areas.

Lack of tools for how to view, listen and design for the rural.

Lack of a cross-disciplinary pan-Baltic platform to share experiences and best practices on rural development.

Architects and spatial planners in the region are not just lacking tools to conduct a proper analysis that includes the whole Baltic Sea Region, they are also lacking platforms for dialogue and exchange of experiences. As long as there is no common platform for such exchange, it is very difficult to develop pan-Baltic analysis and strategies to tackle contemporary and future challenges that will affect not just the rural areas of the region, the overall integration of the Baltic Sea Region. The Nordic Baltic Rural project is an honest attempt of activating such platform. 

Estonia Diagonal Field Research
14th – 18th of April, 2020.

Study trip takes off at the ever shifting edges, the hinterlands between the “urban” and “rural” and their mutations towards the urban and rural proper. While leaving the capital we consider it as a force that drives this continuous “hinderlandisation” of its surrounding areas. Our diagonal first direction is to look at the developments directed especially eastwards, towards the symbolically contested territory of East Estonia and then to turn 180+ˇ to South, where the regional process of deindustrialisation have also amplified rather than diluted the urban-rural divide. The influence of urbanisation and sub-urbanisation processes within Baltic countries on local communities is often stronger than out-migration or low birth-rates on state level. As a result, Baltics in flux internal communities are losing population, jobs and services at a varying pace depending on their size and location. Smaller communities that are further away from the capital are likely to shrink more quickly than the average. People in small towns with vacant dwellings and outdated public space are cornered in their beloved, but subjectively stigmatized peripheral home, which real estate has objective decreasing value. What does this rural drama hold for the urban? and is this the right way of asking the question in the first place? 

Partnerships are key momentum for LABLAB. Being a research and design think tank requires dedication and a bold ability to develop methodology for spatial re:orientation. We believe that such methodology only can be conducted with a cross-disciplinary mindset accompanied with a never ending curiosity for new partnerships. Our institutional partners for the Countryside Unfolds project consist of Estonian University of Life SciencesSLU Alnarp, Region Dalarna, Linnalabor, AOM.