Franz Nahrada / Neue Vorträge /
Bring The Best Of The City Back Home To The Country







Impulsreferat beim Terra Forum (Форум Развития Территорий) In St. Petersburg am 23.9.2014 https://vk.com/terra_forum

I am sending heartfelt greetings to this forum, which is based on the recognition that the future of mankind depends on the reversal of the century old trend towards urbanisation.

My name is Franz Nahrada, located in Vienna Austria and I am studying since 25 years the potential, the Gestalt and the conditions of a post industrial lifestyle. I want just to give you some points that maybe are rarely heard in the debate about rural areas.

The End of Urbanisation and the Rise of Global Villages

It is important to remember that our real home, where we all stem from, is the countryside. For many thousands of years, with a few exceptions, humans lived in small communities. Cities have only grown in a very short timespan, and they are clearly rooted in a particular mode of production. This mode of production was the industrial mode, enabled by powerful machinery, that allowed for mass production and created mass employment.

This concentration of humans in cities was eventually connected to an industrialisation and mechanisation of agriculture; together with the feedback cycles within the cities - between production, administration, communication and services - this led to an imbalance of historical dimensions. In 2007, the treshold of half the worlds population living in cities was crossed - whilst these cities are chaotically expanding to urban agglomerations of unprecedented size.

For a long time, cities were the engines of wealth and productivity. They gave place to an ever accelerating economy of scale, and only recently we found out that this economy of scale is now destroying its own basics. Mankind has outgrown the growth paradigm. High volume automation brings marginal costs of good down to near zero, which means that profits from industrial production are shrinking. It also brings unemployment and lots of redundant population. These problems are even worse in the developing world.

Urbanisation nowadays poses more problems that it can solve. I could present you a long list, from resource problems down to psychological depletion

Just some of them are:

  • the problem of shere size: overcrowding and vast demands on infrastructure, transport, waste disposal, sewage etc.
  • the problem of rising unemployment and social negligence, poverty and crime
  • the problem of large resource footprint (reversal of the original urban effect by increasing marginal costs of resources, e.g. water)
  • the problem of affordable housing
  • the problem of anonymity and psychological depletion.
  • the problem of increasing volatility of global competition.
In this situation, on the current rural sidem we are also feeling the deep impact that the migration of humans away from peripheral areas has on the quality of landscape and soil. Industrial agriculture is far less sustainable than the intelligent interplay of small farming and nature.

It seems that time has come for a new era in the history of human settlements.

"If we take what we’ve developed in terms of information technology and begin a shift towards decentralisation of our urban populations we can start to build a hybrid of the highly localised pre-industrial economy and associated low impact systems for producing food, energy and goods, and the highly globalised information economy." (Iain Dooley, Australia)

This hybrid form that takes the best from city and villages we call "Global Villages".

What we will bring from the City

It is essential to recognize the many progresses that the city has brought to human civilisation. The sophistication of technology, the patterns of density and collaboration, the possibility for the human individual to learn from a mix of cultures - all this we do not necessarily have to compromise. We just need to bring it to a different form.

  • Density. We need not live on lone farms, but could well establish a minituarized city pattern which allows us to mostly do without cars and commuting
  • The freedom to choose. In local economies, there seems to be lesser choice, but what is really important that we choose an environment and people that really reflect our values. Villages or small towns can be connected to cultural themes as inner rationale of settlements. Neighboring settlements can have complenmenting themes. The foundation of villages will be based on intentions, developed in a participatory way.
  • Establishing a rich circular local exchange rather than export orientation; diversify what we do for each other.
  • Use of automation in its truest sense to reduce the burden of work and free us for creativity. Automation will include ecosystems, it will work with them, not against them. We will also build enhanced ecosystems like aquaponics and other forms of hydroculture. There will be no waste, but reuse of almost everything based on a chemistry of plants.
but there is one more thing that I consider the most important:
  • A global mindset. We can use powerful media for global knowledge exchange and cooperation, informing ourselves in real time as how any human problem can be solved. This type of knowledge based economy will lead to unprecedented synergy on a global scale. And one could say: we bring the city with us, we always have it handy when we need it. And the real cities of today will have a role to play in this, as hubs and noodes of knowledge and as service and tool providers.
What We Need To Make it Reality

  • Intentional cultural communities which thrive in diversity - develop local themes, connect to each other in global networks.
  • Pilot cases: we need to study, experiment, improve in real life.
  • Focus on education: we need to build a virtual university of the villages.
  • not only architects, planners, technicians - we need all professionals who are crucial to this process forming global networks, like medieval guilds, to improve our practical local abilities.
Lets work together on this on a global scale and form a network of village builders that is neither hostile nor dangerous, but constructive and determined.