What are the differences between cities and villages

Cities, villages, discussions

And then there was silence again. After the news last year that city dwellers could be lured to the countryside thanks to digitization found a little echo in the daily newspapers, the exciting topic of how a nationwide development could connect metropolises, agglomerations and rural areas is back in the dark Technical discourse disappeared. Perhaps not even by chance - it is not always clear what is actually being discussed. Suggestions for a discussion on how it could be conducted.

Image: Christian Holl

The topic is bulky and complex - and therefore hardly suitable for headlines. There are places in rural regions that are developing well, there are rural regions that could be described as what, in political terms, means abandoned. Under certain conditions, the typical urbanites are also ready to leave the city centers: the artists, start-ups, the young high-income earners. But there are few left. And the question remains whether the symptoms that are observed can be explained by the difference between town and country at all. Districts of large cities are also left behind. Here, too, it is difficult to attract those who are elsewhere decried as the pioneers of gentrification. The mobility behavior of big city dwellers is not necessarily ecologically better, just because, due to the density of offers and the public transport network, they could afford to do without their own car - they then maybe fly more or just at the weekend to Barcelona, ​​there there is currently the offer of a cheap flight. Industrialized agriculture rarely helps to preserve biological diversity - here the gardens of single-family houses are far from the glyphosate deserts.

Topics of urban planning and regional development are on the National Congress Archikon2020 on March 31, 2020 treated.
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No simple answer is right

City landscape (Bern). Image: Christian Holl

But: The thesis that deficits or qualities cannot be traced back to the large-scale context is not true either. The routes are further in less densely populated regions and thus generate traffic. Supply and supply are often poor. With passions and hobbies outside the mainstream, the fewer people living in the immediate vicinity, the less chance you have of finding like-minded people - it's a simple calculation of probability. In other words: a socio-spatial view is not wrong just because it cannot be generalized. To act differently in terms of planning and politics in rural regions and to abolish the sectoral logic in one area and to look for integral solutions is not wrong just because the causes of the problems do not coincide with the area that is being dealt with. And yes, there are rural communities in which the situation is precarious, in which people in political offices and administrations are overwhelmed. But are they being helped to make decisions for them?

“The country” and “the city” are in any case unsuitable terms for grasping the complexity of realities; the boundaries are fluid, the distinctions between land and suburban areas are often a question of perspective. And individual behavior. Places that are still visibly rural can be used as commuter locations; in districts on the outskirts of the big city, there can be strong ties to the place. It is still comparatively banal to state this, even though some people who admit to the future of planning persistently refuse to acknowledge that the design of our environment must not be based solely on the dense inner city and cannot be improved by moving between public and separates private rooms. You are much more private in the public space of the big city than in the private front yard in a village, and that's how we behave. But that's probably more of one of those mirror-fights that only illustrate the problem instead of helping to deal with it.

A discussion that tries to do justice to the complexity, to detach itself from the old thought patterns of the urban city and the provincial village and which persistently places the topic above all beyond the specialist circles already involved in it, and then examines the facts there too, which can be staged less glaringly shining, it would be necessary.

How to discuss

Suburban. Or the edge of the village? Image: Christian Holl

In all modesty and knowing that such a list is incomplete, here are a few suggestions for such a discussion - perhaps more in the form of friendly recommendations from an observer, which could prevent falling back into the schemes that have been persistent for long enough and talk about loss experiences rather than making constructive contributions to improving deficits.

Argue specifically and problem-oriented - The opposite would be: argue with prejudices and generalizations. Of course nobody does, it's clear. Here, however, no accusations should be made, but rather encouraged to critically examine one's own positions. Many a problem does not become easier to solve if one describes it as typical for “the country”. “Das Land” is not the refuge of intact and geographical family associations. “The city” is not the place of free independence, which in the worst case leads to anonymous loneliness. If the cause of an area-related problem (area designation in rural areas that misses the need) is related to the directly active actors (mayors, local councils who are accused of church tower thinking), hardly anyone is helped. Right, single-family house areas are shown bypassing the need - older houses, including those from the post-war period and in the town center, are then empty. However, the question arises as to what makes it attractive to speculate on an increase in the number of residents, even though a high risk is sometimes taken. Because the crux remains that it is not worthwhile for one municipality to forego the designation of building land if the other then also benefits from the waiver of one.

Switch between dimensions - In an article in the ARL magazine with the focus on “Rural Areas” you can read: “The distance between the regional conceptual approach and the local level of action is very large and makes the connection between the two more difficult (...) With inter-municipal cooperation and regional networks this intermediate level will be filled. " (1) But that's not the only way. Regional effects are generated by actions on a small scale: Spatially effective processes are triggered by smartphones, internet trading, new mobility and communication behavior. They should also be considered, including the question of how behavior that takes place on a small scale can be controlled and rewarded. In this case, keeping an eye on the whole means above all to remember that the region is created individually through the networks of relationships and connections in people's everyday lives - administrative boundaries are only part of reality. (2)

Image: Christian Holl

Rethinking subsidiarity - Subsidiarity is a principle of European spatial policy. It is intended to settle the handling of the upcoming challenges on the level at which suitable solutions can most likely be found, and to shift tasks to higher levels if they can no longer be perceived on a smaller scale. But that this is exactly what is happening must be questioned. Because this principle is in contradiction to neoliberal thinking and the Lisbon strategy, as Uli Hellweg had described it in the Bauwelt: “In the competition for growth and taxpayers, according to the neoliberal theory, people should 'vote with their feet' where they are want to live. In the structurally weak rural regions, especially in eastern Germany, the ungs result of the vote ’was certain from the start”. (3) In other words: If municipalities are given insufficient room for maneuver - for example due to budgetary law or unfavorable conditions - they will be crushed by developments that they cannot influence. And are left alone with it.

Separate treating symptoms from treating causes - Even if deficits can be addressed at levels where they are not caused, that does not mean that they should not at least be alleviated. And even if the causes of undesirable developments cannot be eliminated, their consequences must be cushioned if it helps people cope with their everyday lives. There is no question here that this will be done. But you have to become aware of the difference in thinking and speaking - that also means accepting dealing with the symptoms as a permanent task that will not be done by perceiving them at some point. In discussions about the Socially Integrative City program, this was an accusation that was often heard: that it had not brought about any (or no significant) improvement. The question must then always be: could the program have done that? And even if it does in some cases, is that a reason not to?

Don't be afraid of big questions - It must therefore also be allowed to ask the big questions in the discussion in order to name the causes of the developments that one wants to counter. What is our concept of justice? How much is climate change worth to us? How is land policy related to regional inequalities? All questions can always be asked about spatial disparities and regional effects - with possibly surprising answers. One of the messages from Ottmar Edenhofer at the DASL congress “The Soil of the European City” on March 8, 2019, was that the existing land policy continues to be favored by the wealthy and that centralization developments are strengthened as a result Question: Is the scientific examination of questions of spatial development and rural areas sufficiently promoted and adequately taken into account in teaching?

Stories from the Edge. Image: Christian Holl

function and Take a look at the narrative - And finally, it is important to ask the question of regions and spaces in terms of their potential for scope for design. “A sovereign personality must be able to perceive, recognize and help shape the things that structure his or her actions. There is hardly a utopian goal of the 20th century that we are further away from ”, says Kenneth Anders (5) Planning based solely on the functionality of the room leaves little room for stories with which people can give meaning to their lives. unless from an economic perspective. Identities, meanings, communities (including new ones!) - they are an important part of spatial development. As a conscious and unconscious framing, they determine self-perception, including the opportunities that one is actually considering to seize - and can therefore open doors especially on this question of the opportunities that could exist. As success stories from other places, as activating past topics, as a shift in emphasis in the everyday world. “Telling stories thus means a reflective examination of the past, but at the same time also the preparation of future development options”, says Martin Heintel (6). And these stories are always stories of a landscape and can thus open our eyes to the bigger picture. Kenneth Anders once again: “Freedom in the sense of personal and social opportunities for movement and appropriation can only be achieved if the landscape is viewed as a whole. The landscape is a measured part of the world. Everyone who lives in it belongs to it - and together. " (7)


(1) Peter Dehne, Anja Neubauer-Betz: Integrated rural development. The concept of integrated rural development. In: Nachrichten der ARL, 2/2019, Rural spaces, Hanover, pp. 16-21, here p. 20
(2) See: Agnes Förster: Region S, M. L. Living, working, mobility et cetera. In: Holl, Nowak, Vöckler, Schmal (eds.): Living the Region. Tübingen 2018, pp. 24–33
(3) Uli Hellweg: Is the city's renaissance over? An opportunity for a new urban-rural relationship. In: Stadtbauwelt 223, bauwelt 19/2019, pp. 14-19, here p. 16. Online at https://bauwelt.de/das-heft/heftarchiv/Ist-die-Renaissance-der-Stadt-am-Ende -One-chance-for-a-new-town-country-ratio-3429661.html
(4) Christian Holl: The soil of the European city. Scientific colloquium from 08.-09. March 2019 in Berlin. In: DASL Kompakt, 2/2019, pp. 12–16, here p. 13
(5) Kenneth Anders: Experiment on freedom in space. Why we need discourses about the landscape. In: Holl, Nowak, Vöckler, Schmal (eds.): Living the Region. Tübingen 2018, pp. 60–65. Here: p. 62
(6) Martin Heintel: Rural and peripheral? Spatial development and the power of attributions. In: Nachrichten der ARL, 2/2019, Rural spaces, Hanover, pp. 12-15, here p. 14
(7) Anders, op. Cit., P. 63