Aim and rationale

Rurality can be understood as a body of economic, ecologic, societal and ethical attitudes, richness and qualities. Exploring rurality in a contemporary setting of sustainability can help us rethink the human habitat.

Understanding rurality today requires reaching beyond, or behind, often pejorative or restrictive current representations, connotations and feelings (ranging from culture/nature dichotomy, economically unsustainable agriculture or the “primitive” character of peasantry, to notions of aesthetic landscape, nostalgic nature, urban resource landscape, suburban dormitory, land to be urbanized, tourist attraction, and so on). While facing new emerging economic, societal and cultural stakes, can we learn from rurality? Can we uncover its lost or hidden values and potentials? The village as a critically sized urban prototype, social equilibrium, centrality of food economy, proximity of resources, cyclic resource and renewable energy management, mediation networking, reasonable mobility, a way of living and ethical attitude, presence to nature as an ongoing process of renewal, diversity, complexity, variety, intensity, are only some of them. The – conscious or unconscious – importance of rurality relative to the construction of identity is another one.

AlterRurality may then be a condition, phenomenon or value of contemporary renewal: can aspects of the rural re-inscribe themselves within our dwelling modes? A new, contemporary imaginary of rurality needs then to be constructed. By connecting researchers and inducing new trans-disciplinary leads and attitudes (from production to fertility, from building to caring, from planning to maieutics), the ARENA rurality network aims to explore new sensibilities for the future of human habitat.

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Pieter Versteegh, PhD, head of, free-lance professor of architectural project and theory

Partners / scientific committee:

Sophia Meeres, lecturer at University College Dublin
Chris Younès, professor at ENSA Paris la Villette and at ESA
Dominic Stevens, architect and professor at Dublin Institute of Technology
Ben Stringer, architect and professor at University of Westminster, London
Andelka Cirovic, lecturer at Univerity of Belgrade
Mo Michelsen Stochholm Krag, Aarhuus School of Architecture
Jane McAllister, London Metropolitan University, London


Versteegh Pieter, Meeres Sophia (editors), AlterRurality, exploring representations and ‘repeasantations’, ARENA, 2015.


The network organizes annual events hosted by different schools and countries:

AlterRurality. Seminar, Western Switzerland University of Applied Sciences, Fribourg, April 8-12, 2013 (organization Pieter Versteegh)

Re-imagining Rurality. Conference and exhibition, FABE, University of Westminster, February 27-28, 2015 (Organisation Ben Stringer)

Fieldwork: AlterRurality 3. GMIT Letterfrack, Ireland, June 6th-9th, 2016

Transforming economies: AlterRurality 4. ENSAP Bordeaux, may 2017

AlterRurality 5. University of Belgrade, spring 2018

Image Ref: Yannick Lodari, 2014 AlterRurality studioImage: Yannick Lodari, 2014 AlterRurality studio