By Friedrich Kühlman

What makes people proud of their region? I am a landscape architect and grew up in the German Suburbia before the emergence of the internet. After turning 18 in 1985, I got a drivers licence and the radius of personal life rapidly expanded. It was the end of the world as we know it and we felt fine. When driving around, me and my hometown friends were not celebrating the conurbations we grew up at or the abundant change of our region, moreover we celebrated the short-time escape from the pointless dreams of our parents, as we believed. We did read our familiar landscape ‘against the grain’ by experiencing the emergence of a new common landscape, which appeared by travelling, by coincidence or taking a shortcut. A space of experimentation with permanent fuel supply.

Friedrich Kuhlmann, Dipl-Ing, is a German landscape architect and a researcher at the Estonian University of Life Sciences in Tartu.

Figure 1: Kaufhaus Stolz

Travel image
Bernhard Waldenfels distinguishes between purposeful and aimless movements such as driving around, walking around, hiking, walking or strolling. This aimless movement creates circular paths, side paths or detours and this kind of movement discovers landscape by alienating from the everyday environment. (WALDENFELS 1985) Equipped with image and sound recording, I went on a three-day, largely aimless drive through Germany in August 2001. (Figure 1) This tour was part of a project of different journeys, which in turn had a discovery of cultural boundaries as a target for further research. During this trip, however, borders and gradations were dispensed with in favour of a continuum, in the sense of a constant ebb and flow of clear features. With the sole aim of creating a linear urban landscape, each snapshot was accompanied by a spoken aphorism. In the course of the journey, a conceptually incomprehensible field of no-more, not-yet, now and again emerged. A contemporary cultural landscape emerged, looked at me, spoke to me and was at a first glance unburdened of any familiar spatial grammar But why did I have the desire to be in this environment?

Progressive Landscape as a desire
The de-provincialisation of village life described a crucial moment in the initial modernisation of the post-war Western German society and at the end of the 1980s this change from the old to the so-called new province in Germany was complete and the world of the villages and small towns seemed to have become bright, friendly but also generic. If relaxation seeking citizens are in need to escape the noisy city to calm down in the province, where to go when the province has turned itself into a remote copy? The collected postcards of Martin Parr show the change of holiday landscapes from novelty to monotony (PARR 2001), depicting everyday culture with a fondness for unnatural and exaggerated images. These postcards seem to provoke longings for a landscape which does not always require its meaning to be questioned and which is not exposed to the production of a recreational anti-world. Parr shows what happens when former seemingly progressive landscapes coat patina and an escape into any culture is difficult. The landscape would become a utopian screen for future purposes and a superabundance of disconnected images: places whose representation and complexity withdraw a clear classification. One could compare these landscapes to what the German philosopher Gottfried Boehm calls a strong image (BOEHM 1996).

For Boehm, strong images show us something that we would not know without them. They provoke actions and are generated by them, while weak images or copies depict familiar intentions and tie them to places. Boehm states: Their weakness is the result of the precedence of the pictorial alignment with the represented. A strong image evokes a corresponding action with the post-progressive landscape and leads beyond the assessment of existing elements (BOEHM 1996). In this sense, a cultural landscape does not represent a conceptual agreement nor is it not just something that is already there and which therefore only needs to be protected or modified, it is rather a form of imagining and has to be created and rethought over and over again.

Cultural landscape as a product
The illusion of a cultured landscape remains an illusion: while society’s needs towards landscape become more complex, models of compensational culture are regarded as an alternative, However, this would be a withdrawal from a claimed false culture while at the same time asserting durability, materiality and meaning. During the late 1970s a brief urban amalgamation of two central Hessian cities occurred with the odd name Lahn. Even if this name only referred to the river traversing both places, from today's perspective this construct represented something new beyond urban and rural appearance.

Not only a mixture of existing settlements and landscapes of the participating municipalities, but rather a kind of condensed leisure landscape with an urban motorway. This iconic image was mainly fed by gravel excavation, which left a kind of artificial lake plateau between the two cities. The idea of Lahn was disseminated with a hand-drawn, poster-formatted panorama and hung in many schools, youth centres and households for years after the vision declined. Today, Lahn would certainly be described as a last gasp of West-German spatial planning, but what is more of interest is an early tapping of local potentials while at the same time generating yet unknown desires, in the sense of a space of possibilities (German: Möglichkeitsraum).

The famous painting of the Collective farm girl on a bike from 1935 depicts a young women on a bicycle in an urban red dress in an archetypal cultural landscape. It celebrates the new collective farm, by confronting the old land with new gender roles. Bicycle and dress not only symbolise the new generation admiring the success of modern agriculture after poverty, drought and revolution, but the painting also illustrates the desire for continuity despite the economic changes, which have led to the spatial rearrangement of the traditional rural landscape. While the landscape is in the process of being transformed through hard work into new arable land, the red dress also symbolises the idea of leisure time connected to new urban lifestyles in this countryside in the making. The cultural landscape of socialism has not offered any belonging or sense-of-place, but progress with paid holidays and central heating. We can understand the appearance of the optimistic youth as part of a ‘new’ Soviet modernist environment where a certain form of pride emerges.

Contradictions of idealised country-sides
(…)Under the previous government a specific left-wing policy concept was followed with which the world must move in only one direction (…) to a new mix of cultures and races, a world of cyclists and vegetarians who only focus on renewable energies and fight against any form of religion(...) The statement was made in December 2015 by the Polish Foreign minister about critics of Western European politicians on the introduction of a new media policy in Poland. Of course this was meant as an exaggeration, but it was understood as a metaphor on what has happened in many European societies: The emergence of contradictive concepts of everyday life culture and their perception among European citizens as well as a turn-back from the fresh forms of governance and public engagement in many European countries.

In Estonia, future investments need to be made into renewable energy to develop a carbon neutral energy sector. Solar farms are planned and local municipalities are struggling with their decisions on detail plans submitted years ago, when this demand was not predicted. Some municipalities constantly receive building permit applications for solar panels near villages, which creates a difficult situation. Of course some solar parks are on farmland that is overgrown and too moist, to be farmed, but often the panels are placed in locations with access to the power grid, concerning neighbouring owners and also disturbing scenic views on the cultural landscape.

Urban Agriculture is another important topic in the discussions on future environmental and regional policies in Estonia. Thus, it also reflects on the fore-mentioned cultural contradictions, since it has undergone different stages, reaching from suburban weekend gardens to greenhouse companies. The boundary between Urban Agriculture and allotment gardening is rather blurry, but is a result of a growing societal food empathy and an ongoing cross-over of urban markets in a rural context. These cases represent different backgrounds: Companies for greenhouse-grown local fresh food being sold to super markets are being established aside of informal lots practising subsistence economy because of little old-age pensions, while fancy restaurant gardening aims at affluent, but eco-conscious clientele.

Grüne Fee is a greenhouse company established on a former Sovkhoz area in Estonia with year-round growing of cucumber, lettuces or herbs. During winter and night the companies yellow glowing greenhouses are one of the main urban icons of Tartu. Vast areas of informal allotment gardens were established in soviet and post-soviet times, when the need for local fresh food was immense since economic shortages not necessarily guaranteed it. Often located aside of rural block-housing settlements or near railway lines these plots are mostly owned by the older and neglected generation, which had their work prime in Soviet times. In contrast, the restaurant ‘Alexander’ on distant Muhu island serves local food for urban vacationers. The menu is expressed by season esteeming local traditions, preservation techniques and a connection to local farmers or fishermen for local ingredients. The garden operates as an important part of the restaurant, as historically kitchen gardens have been part of manors, producing own vegetables.

Of course these working landscapes foster economic, environmental and educational benefits for the cultural landscape. Nevertheless they are originated in different social cultures, each connected to their own challenges, which again refer to the initial cultural contradictions: The national goal to produce sustainable energy vs. the fear of losing a birthplace memory, the need for discounted local fresh food being easily available for mainstream consumers obviously differs from the concept of ‘shabby chic’ community gardens, which work through strong free-time engagement of their users. The owners of small subsistence gardening lots on abandoned Kolkhoz grounds could never afford a slow food menu dinner in the picturesque landscape setting. They unfold communal pride, which in the end may not be connected to the place or the grown product anymore.

Figure 2: A countryside where you step on the bus to leave

Recent changes in rural areas of many European countries brought a disappearance of jobs, perspectives and residents, with already sparsely populated regions becoming almost completely deserted (Figure 2). This led to massive losses in quality of life, with an exodus of young people and the feeling of being left behind has caused a drift into populist or xenophobic attitudes. In this respect, to regard the countryside as the real cultural landscape was always an urban perception, a look outside which reduces any activity to being solely rural. But this trend seems to be reversing near metropolitan regions as rural areas gain new dwellers of well-educated families, many self-employed in the creative scene and being able to work from anywhere. These new-found places serve the rural desires of city dwellers by providing urban standards, such as vegan ice cream, ecological gardening and a homogeneous peer group. Will this rather aesthetic enhancement by urban space pioneers finally give these regions a boost, if Infrastructures or steady jobs are still few and far? Often, the ambitious projects aim to realise urban escapes by offering yoga retreats, but do the new rurban dwellers really create diversity, openness and a sense of community to respond to the dismal local situation? Furthermore, we need to ask ourselves, whether this respondence is maintaining any durable place-attachment connected to social cohesion.

Social cohesion is contested in a diverse, socially and culturally fragmented Society of singularities, as the German sociologist Andreas Reckwitz calls it. It does not help to formulate goals for rural communities, where life has become a stage. The idea of creativity and self-realisation sets a standard to overcome the repressive rationalism of lucrative employment for some. In a society of singularities, however, everyone should be creative to optimise oneself by celebrating the unique and extraordinary, by rejecting mass products, instead of authentic goods from small factories that tell a story, represent ethical values or have an identity. (RECKWITZ 2018). The concept of singularities is not only applied to people or goods but also to cities or landscapes, resulting in a crisis of institutions and a polarisation of classes, both socially and culturally.

If life has become a stage, it does not help to formulate goals for rural communities. The creative urban middle class sets the tone in the metropolitan areas, while older workers and uneducated employees remain in the stagnating remote province, not being proud of their own work and without any encouraging class awareness. This fosters a polarisation of spaces, where the latter separate from foreign cultures, but also from the seemingly pretentious patchwork culture of urban elites. The members of a society of singularities not only look for emancipation, for self-development in a necessary sense, but are in search of limitless self-expansion, like a summer cottage location somewhere outside and aloof.

Figure 3 and 4: beauty in crisis

The end of the world as we know it
We can experience an uncertain fragility, that remind us of the movie Terminator 3 by Jonathan Mostow from 2003, which celebrates the end of the world in the final act of the film when intercontinental nuclear missiles are launched into warfare in an innocent rural Mid-Western landscape. The moviegoer witnesses a strange void of his/her familiar living environment missing in this picture. Such phenomenon can be recognised, when one witnesses the emptiness in a former country-house settlement from the 70s in Germany, where the houses can’t be put on sale because they are too remote for potential new urban owners (Figure 3). It can be furthermore identified at the completely dried-out Edersee reservoir in 2016, where global climate change awareness merged with the curiosity of local inhabitants discovering a hidden settlement layer of their region at the exposed lake bottom. (Figure 4).

Population forecasts show that societies in many developed countries are drifting further apart. There is a young and growing urban part of the country that is economically successful, while the other part is aging and shrinking rapidly and its economic performance is threatened. In the next decades the first part will be smaller in area but larger in population, while the other part is experiencing the reverse. By 2040, the number of inhabitants will decrease in most German districts and only some regions can still expect population growth, while in the past two decades the situation was reversed. Wherever the population is shrinking, it is also aging rapidly. The average age will rise while the younger well-educated generation gathers in metropolitan areas, accelerating further national migration movements. Declining tax revenues make it more difficult to maintain public infrastructure and the real estate markets in rural areas are threatened with house prices declining falling. This will change Germany politically, economically and culturally, as the differences between town and country and between young and old regions are growing, but what will keep the country together in the future?

Chapter II

Proudscapes desire
The French philosopher Éric Sadin wrote about the era of the tyrant individual and the end of a common world. In his book, he unfolds a dystopic mosaic of social inequalities with deterioration of contemporary working conditions and a decline of public services. Its ferocity is represented by the individual tyrant as an ultra-connected being, which connects quite well with the fore-mentioned notion of a Society of Singularities. Sadin writes, that (…) the economic crises reinforces the impression of being dispossessed while at the same time technology reinforces the impression of being omnipotent. (…) This gap continues to widen by dissolving social ties, creating political distrust and the rise of conspiracy (SADIN 2020).

The loss of pride accelerates, if you can’t find any work, if your earnings can’t support a family or if you don’t have a promising future in the region you may have inherited property at. This abandon of less educated rural people has resulted in the loss of lives and at the same time served the urban educated classes as mentioned above (GAWANDE 2020). Rural living was seen as integral to American and European narratives, but that’s not the case anymore.

Transferring these reflections on a fictional rural landscape, takes us back to a long lost countryside in a television series on BBC which first appeared in 1981. Postman Pat is a children’s puppet show about a humble Royal mail postman in an imagined English village, who delivers packages and has pleasant local occasions happening. He rides around in his van with his cat, delivering nothing more problematic than some letters. Of course Postman Pat's long-term popularity was built on the charm and warmth of the character which highlights the exclusive role that postmen in their red vans have played in the communities across the country, but in 1981, this was quite normal and things have really changed since then. If one connects the landscape of Postman Pat to the new collective landscape of the abovementioned painting of the Collective farm girl on a bike, the same desire for spatial continuity and home during insecure phases can be recognised. If the painted socialist landscape offered no immediate belonging or sense-of-place, but collective progress, then the postman’s rural childhood landscape imagined a cultural landscape beyond despair or being left behind. The optimistic environment was generating a forgotten idea of a region embedded in functioning public services and networks as well as transcending a vision of collective pride.

Understanding contemporary landscapes
Professional landscape planning has been challenged by the fading of cultural differences between city and country and between centre and periphery. The German landscape planner Konrad Buchwald, described the contemporary cultural landscape as a ‘future home’, in which, during today's human crisis [sic!], securing of homestead and creating home is one of the most important socio-political tasks. (BUCHWALD 1978). Earlier on, his colleague Hans Kiemstedt remarked, that The landscape in which the natural landscape factors are important for recreational purposes is a rural cultural landscape (KIEMSTEDT 1967). Both positions portrayed a harmonious landscape where all human expressions are functionally coordinated with one another and are brought into congruence with the existing natural conditions and possibilities. Later on a new opinion took over, by which landscape appears as a historical transition phenomenon, which disappears in the process of its discovery and popularisation and only the memory remains. (SIEFERLE 2003). We can compare this point of view with the landscape perceived from a moving object, where (...) the landscape becomes a kind of text that can only be read from the grey ribbon of the street. Heimat (orig. in German) is rearranged like an almost sacred topsoil that was removed when highways were built. (POSCHARDT 2002)

The travelogue constitutes the contemporary landscape as a vague product that is packed together in a highly concentrated way and then painted over a space in the 1995 novel Faserland by Christian Kracht: It is as if the whole huge country has simply evaporated, and although the people here also speak German and German sentences are on the signs everywhere, it seems as if Germany is just a hunch, a great machine beyond the border, a machine that moves and makes things that no one looks at. (KRACHT 1995). Here, cultural landscapes are simply spaces of action and for author Wolf-Dieter Brinkmann the former mysterious outside view gives way to a more familiar sight when he depicts the landscape of his youth: A Petrol station in the otherwise deserted expanse, listening to “hang on Sloopy” on Sunday afternoons at three o'clock and looking at an empty parking lot where an overturned electric stove lies around. (BRINKMANN 1975).

What was once the ugly opposite of the traditional cultural landscape is now discovered by a scenic eye and the American landscape researcher J.B. Jackson states about our contemporary landscape: Whatever its shape or size it is never simple a natural space, a feature of the natural environment; it is always artificial, always synthetic, always subject to sudden or unpredictable change. We create it and need it because every landscape is the place where we establish our own human organization of space and time JACKSON 1984). The concept of cultural landscape not only has to be read against the plan, it also escapes the authentic depiction. The following examples of imagined and perceived contemporary landscapes illustrate first ideas of how a Proudscape evolves.

In Search for Pride
In terms of human conduct, pride is assumed as a distinguished, arrogant and even presumptuous attitude, while also expressing foolishness or splendid behaviour. In old French estout meant brave and tough, while in Latin stultus meant stupid. However, pride is as well comprehended as civic pride, where people are conscious and proud of their peer group as understood in the LGTBQ context, but also their neighbourhood or their immediate district.

Social issues do change between locations, people and cultures. Thomas Maloutas (2003) defines sustainability as a concept, that embraces the environmental, economic and social, pillar. However scholars have recognized the crucial role of social aspects and discuss social sustainability distinct from environmental or economic sustainability (MCKENZIE, 2004), including softer agendas of personal responsibility, quality of life, health and well-being, cooperative behaviour and preserving social and cultural dynamism. (LILLEY 2007). Social sustainability occurs when processes, structures and relationships actively support the capacity of future generations to create liveable communities. Thus, socially sustainable communities are equitable, diverse, connected and democratic and provide a good quality of life. (BARRON & GAUNTLETT 2002).

Paul James defines community sustainability as the long-term durability of any social unit negotiating changing practices and meanings across domains of culture, politics, economics and ecology. This can be a city, a rural community or even a region. This would as well encourage social integration with improvements in the quality of life for the inhabitants. (POLESE & STREN 2000). Furthermore, social sustainability indicates that social conditions are required for providing ecological sustainability, while also emphasising on social cohesion, social inclusion and social equity (CHIU 2003). This includes overall access to services and opportunities, while the community sustainability covers dimensions, such as sense of belonging, social interaction, quality of local area, durability or participation in collective activities. The sense of belonging has an important impact because if people depend on their community, they will be tending to contribute to its development. If people participate in their neighbourhood activities, they have stronger relations with their community. Social sustainability occurs when the interaction between people and their environment is visible and therefore negotiable. Where does one find the places, where social sustainability reveals and where participation instead of compensation unfolds?

Finding Proudscape
Full Metal Village is a German documentary by the Korean director Cho Sung-hyung, shot in 2005 and 2006. The portrait of the idyllic village of Wacken, which once a year becomes the centre of the international heavy metal scene with many 10,000 enthusiastic fans is an image of German rural identity. Sung-Hyung condenses the effect of the images and situations into a large tableau vivant of absurd contrasts. In this context, one discovers Berthold Brecht’s stage method of alienation, in which the viewer is introduced into his real world. To alienate a process or a character, to take away the obvious, familiar and plausible from it and to generate it through amazement and curiosity. With a stranger's gaze, the film-maker has created an intimate relationship with Wacken and its residents and shows us rural life in a way that we could not have seen ourselves.

Not merely about the festival, but about the people of Wacken, Sung-hyung made a Heimatfilm (A German sentimental film) and at the same time about the clash of two cultures: A contemplative rural milieu meets lust for excess, but the people of Wacken live quite well with the festival because they founded it themselves. The annual confrontation with this deviant way of life has changed the self-image in Wacken and gives the village an international character, a welcoming break in the summer and piece of home for both fans and locals alike. What could have been a simple pictorial report, reflecting structural change in the countryside, turns out to be a strong image of the pride of a region and its inhabitants.

Mapping Proudscape
The German Philosopher Wilhelm Schapp (1953) pointed out, that people are woven into a story-related fabric from the start of their existence, which is at same time an understanding of a dynamic fabric of references. In this book, Schapp unfolds a fundamental idea of human being entangled in stories: We don't just have stories like something that can be worn and taken off, furthermore we are those stories and we are human only as we are stories. What and who we are, we are through stories in which we are entangled into and we can never completely break away from. In this context, How do we understand the relationship between a collectivised cultural landscape and the experiences and perception of its residents during and after collectivisation? This was the leading inquiry of a HERA-funded research project called MODSCAPES (KUHLMANN & VELDI 2019).

The collectivisation of agriculture started in around 1949 and ended with the collapse of the Soviet system only 30 years ago. It turned property owning peasants into salaried workers with regular working hours and social security. Specialised agricultural engineers were educated to manage the new collective farms, in need for planning extensive drainage systems, paved roads and residential buildings. This process propelled the remote rural cultural landscape into a modernist cultural landscape. Later, this land was either given back to previous owners or sold, which transformed the economic, social and spatial structure of the collective farms into their present state. This former settlement structure is frequently neglected. However, the villages and their surrounding cultural landscape are part of the ideological cultural landscape heritage of Eastern Europe and the migration of people and cultural decline of these very extensive areas pose a challenge in terms of how to deal with this layer of history, such as how much to preserve, as well as raising awareness about this heritage. To emphasize that these places are actually alive and kicking, different data capturing techniques were applied.

The cultural landscape of rural Estonia has a post-Soviet appearance, while the collective farm period is seen as a strange discontinuity in the rural history. To mediate this cultural contradiction we looked to understand the modernist landscapes as having shaped people’s lives for generations. We focused on the actions of the people living and working there, their memories, desires and whether their plans were achieved or not. Compared to the derelict remains, many workers, settlers or stakeholders in the collectivisation process are still alive, have a voice and hold different opinions about the era. Landscapes of living and working people become places and are not only experienced from static viewpoints as a scenery but by moving within and around them. The audio-visual representations offer the possibility to place researchers into these landscapes. Thus, we might walk or drive through an area while talking to inhabitants to trigger their responses and memories of specific places. Inhabitants are prompted by their connection to the place and talk about it while being in that place.

Figure 5: diving into the landscape

Initially, the MODSCAPES research team from the Estonian University of Life Science produced videos while driving or walking through the projects’ case study areas in the Estonian countryside combined with verbal commentaries, like travelling to narrate a story by embedding the researcher in the performance of the setting. As a team, we drove around the larger-scale former socialist model farm, while filming and recording comments about route and area. We created a continuous space at large scale, a sequence-like encounter with the fields, meadows and houses, unfolding through the discussions in the car. We then explores the places by hand-held filming of situations representing everyday movement cycles, invoking an atmosphere of modernist life. The last step took a resident’s perspective to understand how the landscape impacted the perceptions of residents, which gave a deeper insight by the interviewee reflecting and us turning the camera from the interviewee to the respective element (Figure 5). We uncovered spatial relationships, which would have been impossible in separated observation and interview steps.

We interviewed two former workers, while letting them walk us through places which mattered to them personally, giving us a glimpse into their daily life routines as workers and settlers. They commented with pride on the overgrown fish ponds in the forest: “Europe's largest fish farm on dry land had to come here with hectares of ponds. Now everything is overgrown with bushes. It turned out that the water was too warm, so it was decided to build a fake caviar factory here. We have lived in capitalism in a country in the country. We had our own clothes designers here and we did not have to pay for the kindergarten. At another Sovkhoz farm we followed a former inhabitant into her familiar environments and tracked the places she would go to back then, still remembering the socialist cultural life. She mentioned the Sauna as a manifestation of collectiveness (Figure 6): “The communal sauna for women and men from the Soviet times is empty now. When Estonia became independent again, everything to do with collectivisation collapsed or went into bankruptcy. (…) There was a fire-place with a bar and a little club-room (…) so it was their relaxing place.” (KUHLMANN 2019).

Figure 6: Stills from the Go-along at the Sauna

Moving around in their natural environments encouraged interviewees to talk about people they passed and then integrated them into their story, leading to unplanned thought processes. The interviews have connected past and present together by showing the landscape as it has changed to the people who have worked there which fill them it their stories. It has enhanced our understandings of how individuals connect and integrate the diverse regions of their daily lives and identities. What we found is far from being a negative period for the people, as life in the collective farm was not all bad. There were good working conditions for some, pride in their achievements and appreciation of cultural life. An identity of a contemporary rural landscape unfolded between the interviewer, the device, the space and the interviewee, to create awareness towards these landscapes for future development and in return giving something back to their inhabitants and stakeholders.

Making Proudscape
Rivers and streams are closely related to the identity of a community and its related region. A debate on urban river landscapes could stimulate social pride and communal empathy towards river spaces: There are river spaces all around us and we can perceive and access them; this is our local river and we share it with other people; we may engage in developing and maintaining it. Regional awareness towards urban rivers is enhanced by developing and intertwining main aspects of sustainability: provision of space for water, for flora and fauna and for people. As mentioned above, sustainability is achieved when the interaction between people and their environment is visible and negotiable. If people depend on their region or are proud of it, they will tend to contribute to its development.

Contemporary dense river landscapes are a product of actions by common users and stakeholders, they perform in the river landscape narrative. Urban rivers differ from natural rivers as a result of activities, such as regulation, canalisation, burial and rediscovery, converting natural flow into complex linear infrastructures at multiple scales. The contemporary perception of urban river landscapes is thus generated from a contradiction between an image-driven notion of nature and its related bucolic setting and an action-driven notion of traffic, trade and maintenance. They form a technical, constantly working linear landscape element which buries common differences between nature and culture: a landscape in the making. However, the gap between contemporary life on the river and the idealised images of the past may be a challenge, since it has to be constantly thought over and created, in order to accommodate new uses and to solve new problems. (KUHLMANN 2021)

Figure 7: A rurban boardwalk system

The Wet Meadow and Source of the River Norges project (2013) by Agence Territoires in France is a wooden boardwalk system accompanying a small stream on the edge of a village-like peri-urban settlement in the vicinity of Dijon. Norges-la-Ville has been recently developed from different rural villages. As more and more urban commuters have moved to the countryside, the settlements have changed in appearance and identity. This new condition beyond rural and urban asked for a different design approach, including the dynamics of water and seasonality (Figure 7). The boardwalk crosses a symbolic border into the meadow, transferring between the environments, from domesticated to the natural and thus more unpredictable. Its overall design respects the natural stream environment and keeps the pathway above the stream level during seasonal overflows, which transforms the whole meadow into a temporary swamp. The walking route along the river connects both village parts parallel to the road by concentrating the movement of visitors and limiting the impact of the intervention on the fragile environment. It actually forms a new settlement centre, providing easier access to the interim landscape.

Living Proudscape
In his 1981 travel journal Netzkarte, Sten Nadolny puts no emphasis on what is good and what is bad, as if he interrupts the progressive thinking connected to the landscape: I register, what is going on outside: caravans, stockyards, old wagons, an old watermill, a huge beech-tree, hay-stack, insulators. (…) Beautiful high-voltage pylons are rising across the horizon, aloof majesties. Behind the gates the country-side begins, merely without fences and even without bungalows, settlements and gas stations (NADOLNY 1981).

Full Metal Village introduced the rural landscape by alienating from it and loading it up with a curiosity, the immediate inhabitants would be far too immersed in to understand it as something to be proud of. In the same way, the Go-along method explored a cultural landscape by alienating from the everyday environment, turning information into narration at a journey, where the landscape works as an integral. Finally, the French rurban design approach is completing this itinerary of Proudscapes, by utilising a natural waterbody and seasonality instead of simulating an extinct past.

Landscape is an image of collective desires, connected to home and permanence. Being loaded with these desires, a cultural landscape turns into something whose intents have past. But reality works different and the claimed cultural character is a merry farce. Paul Valery referred to beautiful landscapes when he wrote about concretized habits of language that have set up barriers around perception: we prefer looking through the goggles of a lexicon instead seeing them with our own eyes and we block off our view of the real. (VALERY 1919). The landscape is not something that only has to be protected or modified, because it is a form of perception and not constant it has to be thought and created. Still, the post-progressive cultural Landscape will not be developed by simulating an assumed historical authenticity, much more it constitutes from the cultural patterns of any future actors and players in landscape. We will not find a contemporary landscape, if future intentions represent an excessively unequivocal and hence poor image. Of course short-term capital profits might be gained and even precious nature can be preserved, but place does not emerge if the cultural landscape is just seen as an argument for sale or protection, no matter who buys it or who protects it.

To understand the practices of everyday life and the processes, which constituted the recent landscapes, we need to question the regional everyday life, by understanding the superimposition of the rural landscapes with latest cultural indications. In response to the loss of the traditional cultural landscape, the melancholic one makes places in response to the loss of integrity, which can no longer rely on the establishment of traditional images or correspondences. The perception of an unfamiliar landscape much more requires a view that comprises, in equal measure, the prejudice and the action-oriented comment on the place — as a strong image. Since there is no special demand on the post-progressive cultural landscape, it becomes a disposable product. It neither reflects the disunity of the landscape, nor attempts harmoniously to cancel it, but continues building it by staging future purposes. Maybe it is our task to lose control, to dispel, to mislead and to stimulate activities we do not know about yet.


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Picture 7: by Nicolas Waltefaugle