Franz Nahrada /
Rural Design Days Video Series







This endavour starts as a mini - series of videos shown at the Rural Design Days 2021. Instead of a speech, there will be several videos of 15 minutes each. The idea was originally to feature fore-runners of "Rurbanisation", but was further refined with Richard Lowenberg to a conversation about the two central elements that influence the theme of Rural Design. ˧

Those two elements could be characterised as the "local-material" component and the "global-virtual component". Their interplay creates a universe of possibilities. ˧

"Local-Material" is a combination of natural conditions and cultural traditions building on these. Design has to do with material objects, anorganic or organic, as well as with indigenous or imported cultural tradition and practises. ˧

"Global-virtual" means the processes by which information and communication streams influence the creative process, the scope of activities and even the overall significance of a given rural community. ˧

Our main focus will be the potential of information networks to redefine the way we live, work, think and interact in the countryside and between city and countryside.

First Part: The Village Metamorphosis

My name is Franz Nahrada from Austria and I volunteered to do a mini - series to fire imagination about rural design, and I do this together with a likeminded, kindred spirit from America, RichardLowenberg. We both share a long lasting and ongoing passion for rural areas as optimal human habitat. We both think along the line of wisely combining the two elements of "the indigenous - natural, local, physical and spiritual" on one side with the "the external - global, universal, ubiquitous and immaterial" on the other. The dance of this new elements is not exclusive to our time - it has always been the mother of innovation and creation. But in our time, the intensity and the potential of this dance has reached a new quality. ˧

In this first edition describe the little acts and steps where in our own experience networking has had influence on rural life. ˧

Introduction: can we squeeze our life in 10 sentences each?

Richard how would you characterize yourself in 10 sentences? ˧

some assumptions by Franz = toDo ˧

  • Equally artist, architect and activist, and my activities converge in the development of ecologies/economies/cultures that include and thrive on information. ˧
  • My life path led me to strong places and local communities that were idealy set for augmenting them with an information ecosystem ˧
  • I had a long preparation for that, working not only with adobe and timber, but also with photography and film, and increasingly also with plants and brainwaves, in the most creative environments, Bay Area, NYC, Santa Fe. ˧
  • There were key moments in my life that brought me in touch with the emerging electronic networks at a very early stage, I was artist in Residence at NASA and discovered the Internet, at the same time I was involved in rural community planning in Telluride, CO. ˧
Franz how would you characterize yourself in 10 sentences? ˧

  • I consider myself a future reseacher, based on my studies of sociology. But I think my job in this world is to bring people together who hold answers to the essential questions how we can build our future better. ˧
  • Still the dominating question in my life has to do with the rupture between city and village ...toDo ˧
  • My passion for villages has to do with the experience of a greek village plaza where all villagers would come together at night to pick up company for the evening. ... toDo ˧

Second Part: The Village Dreams

We describe the most compelling ideas and iconic expressions of desireable futures for remote and rural communities in the age of global networking. ˧

Rurbanism as concept - Urban Villages

Franz: JosephSmyth http://www.give.at/give/Salzburg/sbg1.html and following page


I would like to start with a birds eye view. Two images of the Los Angeles area, one from the present and one from a more or less distant future. ˧

You can easily recognize that this future image, based on the assumption of "Suburban Densification" and renaturalisation of land, pedestrian oriented, clustered communities and a dense public transportation network, looks very similar to a sattelite map of a rural area in Europe, maybe in Germany. ˧

You could imagine a similar process in the countryside, just developing the other way round. Josph Smyth is what you could call a typical rurbanist, a person that thinks we can apply similar patterns in the transformation of rural and urban areas alike. ˧

More references: RichardRegister digging out the creeks in Berkeley and recreating landscapes ˧

cf /RurbanismConcepts (This is a German page with the most current scientific buzzwords) ˧

One Man, One House, One Acre

Another approach of that kind - and yet in some respects sharply different - is Frank Lloyd Wrights Broadacre City - the iconic vision demonstrated in 1935 that many people helped to pave the ominous way to suburbia. ˧

https://archive.curbed.com/2017/1/4/14154644/frank-lloyd-wright-broadacre-city-history ˧


Each “childless family” would be guaranteed one acre of land in a Broadacre City, though larger families would require more. Distances would not matter; Wright was almost obsessed by the car, radio, telephone, and television. But he also sought to support entrepreneurial attitudes and allow people to work at home as much as possible. There’d be room for every type of activity, just on a personalized, manageable scale: ˧

"....little farms, little homes for industry, little factories, little schools, a little university going to the people mostly by way of their interest in the ground, little laboratories on their own ground for professional men. And the farm itself, notwithstanding the animals, becomes the most attractive unit of the city." ˧

One can recognize a slight kinship to the modern anti - technocratic concept of "family estate villages" popularized especially in Russia and Eastern Europe by the Anastasia writings of Wladimir Megre. ˧

Of course this empowerment on spot which was behind Wrights plan and maybe its very essence did not happen. Instead, existing cities created endless "bacon belts" of seeminly cheap houses, traffic jams on freeways to office centers and factories and inner city slums. Rural areas were outperformed by monstrous metropolitan areas. ˧

Its an irony that the miniaturisation of production happened only many decades later. Today we can look at the concept with a fresh perspective. ˧

Urban Shells

Another Rurban Dreamer who was trying to find a synthesis between urban and rural was italian born Paolo Soleri. When he came to the US in 1946 he spent a year and a half in fellowship with Frank Lloyd Wright, just to take an entirely different direction. In Soleris concept the electrical-automotive-telematic complex was destined to fail. The accumulating costs of distance would lead to collapse and also decay. ˧

Soleris solution was quite radical: create frugal urban structures, hyperdense, and put them as pearls on a chain - when we hear today about Saudi Arabias NEOM Plans the conceptual origin is the "map of hope" and the "linear city", Paolo Soleris attempt to make cities integral parts of landcapes and yet have them somehow connected by a certain "flow of man and material". Soleris cities were meant to be not only lean and green, but complex organisms designed to immediately interact with the forces of nature, sunlight, heat, wind. He wanted cities to last, as a kind of eternal body that outlives its indwellers, formed by a perfect biomorph design. Never ever did he spend much time thinking about the village, the ecocity with a minimum size of 5000 being the ultimate dream to reach the "urban effect" of human interaction. Soleri did not believe in the ability of the media to connect people. No cars, no commute, not even telecommute. The Inner Sun of Culture was also not on screens, but in the amphitheatre, on the stages. "An optimized communication/information technology may generate a planetary hermitage engaged in a virtual reality and a technology promoting a hyper-segregated Hom(e)o Sapiens".( Six Paradoxes of the Computer Age) ˧


Arcosanti in Arizona, where Soleris ideas took shape, is surrounded by tiny farms and agricultural structures that seem to operate on human walking out of their urban shells. ˧

Similar Concepts: Gene Zellmer, 500 Years City https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xqAOXulLC4 Urban Hills, Density by Stacking homes ˧

Nerve Systems

Another approach that returns to some aspects of Frank Lloyd Wrights Broadacre idea is the concept of biomorphing support lines as in Tony Gwilliams hypothetical settlement "SynchroniCity". ˧

Yet it is also quite different, because the car is replaced by downscaled transportation vehicles that do more with less in almost invisible tubes, and the primary attention is given to Greenways. ˧

" It is not a master plan. It is a pattern of instructions and connections. These connections carry the sensory response of the organism and the instructions are designed to support healthy change springing from the needs of the whole. Density, centers, foci, etc., are not imposed but grow naturally from the continuous flow of energy between the population and their environment." ˧

..... ˧


Third Part: The Information Ecosystem

We dicuss threats and opportunities in regard to the components of an enlivened information- rich countryside ˧