Everything shaped by humans is culture. This includes the territory. Cultural landscapes are created by the constant interaction of humans with nature. Their regional characteristics are due to natural conditions and increase with the growing technological development of the society inhabiting them. Cities are also part of the cultural landscape. Countless negotiating positions between the most varied actors have made them the densest and most differentiated living environments. But they cannot be understood or planned, without taking into account the surrounding and manifold intertwined territory. Also beyond the large cities multiple claims of peri-urban and peripheral rural space interfere with each other: the use of ground and space has to be renegotiated time and again between residential areas, agriculture, forestry, mobility, leisure activities and energy production. The demographic and socioeconomic change of our increasingly cross-linked society additionally compound this process.
The bipolar pattern «city–countryside» does not exist anymore, neither in spatial nor in socio-economic or cultural respects. The rural areas, in many aspects, do not differ from urban agglomerations anymore: they are, in central Europe, relatively densely populated, easily accessible and easy to supply with goods, they have the same access to the global communication networks and they offer the same or similar living conditions. Farming as a defining economic activity loses increasingly its significance. So much so, that the Swiss Government declared years ago, that the whole of Switzerland can be described as urban.
If the urbanization of the country is looked upon as an opportunity, central questions about the future of the cultural landscape can be raised on the basis of these changed and newly formed structures: What are the potentials of these varied uses? What new imagery and concepts can be devised for these spatial structures? What sort of urban qualities will emerge? Will the agricultural country turn into a leisure country? Will it remain the idyllic setting for the dream of a homestead for over 80% of Europeans? Where does the public domain start and end? What about the vitality of villages and small towns? How can food and resources be produced and transported in a cost-effective and energy neutral way? Which forms of energy production are landscape compatible and in what way? And what consequences for our lifestyle and settlement models arise from this?
Negotiation processes concerning the use of territory have a direct bearing on residential development and can also present architects and planners with new challenges. Based on observations and analyses of changes in cultural landscapes, case studies, teaching formats, research projects and publications will be used to examine how synergies can be achieved through the coordination of the various interested parties, how stimuli for sustainable residential development are created and how, based on local settings, to design spaces offering a high quality of life.