This is the first posting on the Center for Rural Design's new blog. We are starting this network to introduce people around the world to the new interdisciplinary design discipline of rural design and its potential for assisting rural citizens to manage change while improving quality of life.
Over the past 50 years rural regions in North America have undergone enormous changes impacting rural quality of life and economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Critical global issues such as climate change; renewable energy; water resources; food supply and security; and human, animal, and environmental health will further impact international, national, and local rural policy for years to come.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rural regions in the United States contain twenty-one percent of the population and comprise ninety-seven percent of its land area, yet design schools and the design and planning professions have largely ignored rural problems. They have concentrated on urban and suburban issues, and when they have addressed a rural issue such as urban sprawl and loss of agricultural lands, it has been from an urban perspective.
Urban design and rural design are similar in that both endeavor to improve quality of life. However, rural design seeks to understand and preserve the unique characteristics of open landscapes and systems in which buildings and towns are components of the landscape, rather than use buildings and infrastructure to define public space as in urban design.
The Center for Rural Design (CRD) at the University of Minnesota was founded in 1997. It is the first and only center in the world dedicated to the new design discipline of rural design. For over twelve years CRD has been working with rural communities in Minnesota, USA and this experience has clarified the practical and intellectual basis for rural design and the tasks necessary to solidify its leadership worldwide.
Human and natural systems are dynamic and inextricably coupled and engaged in continuous cycles of mutual influence and response. Rural design provides a foundation from which to holistically connect these and other rural issues by nurturing new thinking and collaborative problem solving. As a new design discipline, rural design can address contemporary problems while continuing to evolve as research-based evidence is accumulated. The principles and methodologies of rural design can be utilized anywhere because it is by definition rooted in the nature and culture of place.
The assets of a community are often hidden to its citizens, and rural design provides community engagement methods that involves the community in a process of inquiry to review alternative scenarios to see the likely results of different decisions. The guiding ethic of rural design is not to impose a vision or solution a community, but to give them the tools, information, and support they need to address problems, manage change, and clearly envision and achieve the future for their community that they deserve.
We hope that this blog site will be the beginning of a dialogue with people who are concerned about the future of rural regions and communities around the world. We are interested to know what people think about rural design and it's potential. If you would like more information please visit our web site.
Over the next few months we will be posting some examples of where rural design has worked well and links to where you can gain further information. We look forward to a worldwide discussion and your ideas for the future of rural environments.
Dewey Thorbeck, FAIA, FAAR