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Brief Published: 28 Feb 2020

Countryside, The Future Reconsiders the Urban/Rural Dynamic

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Countryside, The Future

Is it time to turn our focus from urban to rural environments? Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas thinks so, as evidenced by his exhibit Countryside, The Future at the Guggenheim Museum’s New York location. Exploring history, practical strategies and tech tools, the exhibit demonstrates how society’s cultural, political and economic future is dependent on non-urban locales.

The exhibit picks up key themes we note in our report Beyond City Limits, such as the technology potential and transportation prowess of rural areas. Koolhaas predicates the exhibit’s importance on the fact that cities cover only 2% of the earth, leaving the remaining 98% to what he deems “countryside”. Suburbs, deserts and underdeveloped regions all come under Koolhaas’ umbrella term. 

This wide-ranging view allows the exhibit to cover projects ranging from the Sahara Green Wall to China’s Taobao cities. Historical movements, such as the 19th-century co-operative communities designed by French philosopher Charles Fourier, mingle with contemporary struggles, such as Qatar’s endeavour to protect its food supply against blockade or the global ramifications of Siberia’s deteriorating permafrost.

The exhibit also explores technologies making non-urban environments hospitable for people of all ages. Visitors learn about the exo-skeletons elder workers wear in Japanese e-commerce fulfilment centres, and the year-round micro-green farming facilities from Dutch indoor-farm complex Koppert Cress (there’s a mini one sitting outside the museum). Taken together, the examples showcase how investing in technology and design for non-urban centres can benefit daily life for all people, regardless of environment.

From City Quitters to next-gen suburbs, the city/country dynamic is no longer binary. Instead, consumers are choosing the environment that enables the highest quality of life for their specific life-stage. As technology liberates individuals from urban work environments, there will be a renewed appreciation for the role rural communities play in driving the global economy.

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