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Re-inventing rural territories : a small-town response near Bordeaux Cloup, Catherine

Abstract

In France and Northern Europe, the traditional countryside landscapes are now subject to the pressures of a population perpetually on the move. In addition, the development of the tourist economy is geared towards an exploitation of the countryside as a commodity. Both alter landscape independently of the intentions of its producers. The city repels as much as it attracts and most of the growth is now taking place on the city's outskirts placing new demands on rural landscapes encompassing aesthetic, symbolic and recreational services. The rural world is undergoing profound changes in its significance to both the urban dwellers (for whom the countryside is an antidote to the city) and the rural inhabitants (who see it as a resource of agricultural landscapes, there to be contemplated and enjoyed rather than worked). This is demanding a shift in landscape production modes. The approaches developed by landscape architects demonstrate a capacity to renew the forms of rural life recognizing the visible countryside and acting on it when the shift takes place from a rural countryside managed by and for agriculture to an urban countryside to be used by city dwellers. A number of issues are raised by the capacity of the design process to overcome the inertia inherent to the representations of the rural culture - while renewing with the historical continuity of the place and making it possible for locals to re-appropriate the territory together. The response is in the site, regarded as the departure point in itself rather than the landing place for the project. It is in the process of unearthing, interpreting the phenomenal specificity of the site with an inventive attention to its past that allows us to reinvent desirable futures. These attitudes and processes are applied to a site in the Bordeaux region, southwest of France where rural villages are under assault from the expanding city. The site comprises two villages, Le Tourne and Langoiran, both on the right bank of the Garonne River some 25 km upstream from Bordeaux. Separated/connected by a stream, I'Estey, the two villages share similar positions regarding development risks and opportunities. The dynamics of the site's underlying layers, as well as its phenomenal and its formal/visual qualities are explored. The project for a better, more sustainable place is derived which proposes a new reading of the place for visitors and inhabitants, encouraging them to participate in its renewal.

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