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Aim and rationale

Rurality can be defined as a body of economic, ecologic, societal and ethical attitudes, values 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 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 and moral economics; sustainable food production; proximity and recycling of resources; renewable energy management; mediation networking; reasonable mobility; rootedness in nature as an ongoing process of renewal, diversity, complexity, variety, intensity: these are only some of them. The – conscious or unconscious – importance of rurality relative to the construction of human identity is another one.

Rurality exists: we meet it everywhere, in ways of living and ethical attitudes that are technologically advanced but cannot be qualified as urban.

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.

The project runs the Alter Rurality Platform (see, which maintains an archive of Alter Rurality events (including images, stories and videos of lectures) and announcements of future activities.

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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
Anna Sofi Hvid, Ruralagentur, Jystrup Denmark


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

Economic Transitions and New Ruralities, towards “metromilieux”? , Guillot Xavier et Versteegh Pieter (editors), ERPS vol 8, Publications de l’Université de Saint-Etienne, 2019


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

Rurality. 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. GMIT Letterfrack, Ireland, June 6th-9th, 2016 (organisation Sophia Meeres, Deirdre O’Mahony and Dominic Stevens)

Transforming economies. ENSAP Bordeaux, may 2017 (Organisation Xavier Guillot and Pieter Versteegh)

Metromilieux. University of Belgrade, spring 2019 (organisation Andelka Cirovic and Pieter Versteegh)

Contemporary ruralities // changing grounds, Danish Architecture Centre, Copenhagen and Rural Agentur, January 2020 (Organisation Anna Sofie Hvid and Pieter Versteegh)

The animal gaze reconstructed, London Metropolitan University, March 2020 (Organisation Jane McAllister)

Re-scaling the Rural, Aarhus School of Architecture in collaboration with Thisted Municipality and Rural Agentur, Denmark, forthcoming Spring 2022 (Organisation Mo Michelsen and Anna Sofie Hvid)

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