About Ruralise

Update: To mark Ruralise’s first annversary, my 100th post was ‘Ruralise in a Nutshell‘ where you will find a two-page overview of the website’s contents. If you want to get the flavour of Ruralise, that would be the best place to start.

Ever since the Urban Task Force presented its report ‘Towards an Urban Renaissance’ to the new Labour government in 1997, UK planning policy has been driven by the need to regenerate towns and cities with a ‘sustainable urbanism’. But previously-developed or ‘brownfield’ land in towns and cities will only accommodate 1.2m of the 3m homes that we need to build over the next 20 years; the other 1.8 will be built in rural areas*. But the thinking about these new homes is still distinctly urban; urban designers plan ‘urban extensions’ next to market towns, with new Local Plans favouring large-scale condensed development – new eco-towns – to make easier the provision of schools, healthcare, shops, community facilities and public transport.

Developers and architects have been enthusiastic supporters of the urban agenda, building high and dense in city centres – flats, schools, shopping centres, art galleries – while out in the countryside it has remained almost impossible to build anything except a tiny number of large private houses and small groups of affordable homes. If towns and cities are the natural territory for progressive left-of-centre politicians, the countryside is the heartland of the Conservative vote, and it is no surprise that the new government is putting a new emphasis on rural development issues.

I have spent most of my career to date working on urban projects in a London-based practice, but as country-boy, Norfolk-born-and-bred, I have always been interested in the rural landscape and its towns and villages. I have no strong political convictions, so my interest in this rural renaissance is professional…and perhaps emotional. Over the past few years I have been keen to find like-minded souls – professional peers, clients, critics – who have a similar interest in rural architecture, but with only limited success.

Through Ruralise I will ‘up-load’ my thoughts on the subject of rural architecture in general – and the Community Right to Build in particular – in the hope of finding kindred spirits…those already working ‘towards a rural renaissance’.

Using Ruralise

There are two broad themes in the blog so far: the Community Right to Build and more general issue about rural architecture, traditional and contemporary. Use the Categories if you want a more focussed read.

*Source: Social Market Foundation

4 Responses to About Ruralise

  1. Hi Matthew

    kindred spirit calling!

  2. ruralise says:

    Thanks for making contact Rob; come back soon!

  3. john elwyn kimber says:

    Your site caught my eye while I was looking for information on Wenche Selmer, on whose work you have commented. I think that your initiative with Ruralise is very welcome. Do you have more case-studies of exemplary buildings which might serve to illustrate what you had in mind? I admire Selmer for her pragmatic melding of art-and-crafts habitability with a modernism that has no architectonic self-consciousness about it. She was an almost exact contemporary of my mother, eho had a similar design-philosophy.

  4. Matt Wood says:

    Hi John, Glad you found Ruralise, and I hope you’ll come back. I think I mentioned Wenche Selmer in a teaser for ‘coming soon’ posts way back before Xmas, and still haven’t got round to it. I found the book ‘Norwegian Wood; The Thoughtful Architecture of Wence Selmer’ at the RIBA bookshop early last year and was very taken with it. I was also promising a post about Peter Aldington’s houses in Haddenham, Bucks; do you know them? Again, a very good book is available: ‘A Garden and Three Houses’ by Jane Brown. It has recently been re-printed, I think (I paid £80 for a used copy through Amazon shortly before it was!). I don’t think there are too many modern developments I could point to as an examplar of what Ruralise is arguing for, with the possible exception of the the work of Dualchas Building Design on the Isle of Skye. I’ve written about them a couple of times on the blog…and then there’s Tayler and Green of course, Norfolk’s own Modernist (anti-)heroes. Again, theres a fair bit on the blog about them already and I’m planning more. Try using the ‘Categories’ on Ruralise to islolate articles about ‘Design & Architecture’ and you might be able to pick out some more exemplars – and do check out a post called ‘Thatch-Fest’, which is my most-read piece…

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