Urban Rural Planning

Capacity to deliver planning services as well as architecture has been a commitment of ours in order to strengthen our ability to discuss architectural concepts at the scale of urbanism through a holistic approach to large scale development. The wide scope of our planning praxis accentuates certain elements and provides us with a unique perspective to rethink fundamental dichotomies that pervades contemporary discourse.

Spanning different regional contexts, we come to see urban and rural as poles within the same overarching process of centralization. Ever since the consolidation of the nation state, centralization has followed in the wake of development. Norway’s determination on an oil-founded regional and rural development policy may have delayed, but far from halted the process. Urbanization pulls people and capital towards the cites, while the rural areas has undergone decades of degrowth. Centralization is sought made sustainable by densification – as an ironic parry, we see the use of densification as an active strategy also in rural areas. Here densification takes on a different meaning.

Densification as consolidation may also take the form of rolling back civilization. Norway’s low population density spread over a mostly rouged terrain leaves a proportionally large infrastructural footprint, and a following huge loss of wilderness. We partake in planning processes where consolidation means withdrawal of people and activity in a pervasive approach where all traces of human activity is brought along – every bit of buildings, roads, paths, flotsam and jetsam. The material culture is extracted and the landscape is ecologically restored up to a level where it may fully heal itself. This question the very dichotomy of culture and nature. If nature by definition is something not manmade, then what is
the conceptual status of the resulting reconstruction of ecological system? Conceptual conundrums aside, at the rate we are going it is no longer sufficient to preserve wilderness, we acknowledge the need to recreate it.

In the city, and even more so in the countryside, the paramount outcome through planning we give form to environments that ease and promote an active, social life – first and foremost through the layout and programming of open public space. What we can call social capital if seen from a structural perspective – is tantamount to quality of life if we take on the perspective of the individual. At the time of writing, in a world unhinged by a pandemic, it is all the more clear how vital the social capital of civil society – social relationships, networks and trust – is as a foundation for resilience and the ability to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

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