Planning rural-urban landscapes : railways and countryside urbanization in South-West Flanders, Belgium (1830-1930)Planning rural-urban landscapes : railways and countryside urbanization in South-West Flanders, Belgium (1830-1930)
Faculty of Arts. History
Landscape research. - Sheffield
39(2014):5, p. 542-566
In the international literature on todays urban condition, Flanders is presented as prime example of urban sprawl, generally described as unplanned incremental development induced by the quantum leap of private car ownership. The research on rural-urban landscapes in south-west Flanders qualifies and substantiates this assertion by analysing pre-war keystone processes of infrastructure planning in relation to land-use patterns and landscape transformations. The research reveals that not only the development of rural-urban landscapes reaches back far beyond the welfare state, fuelled by railways prior to highways, but also shows that the supposedly chaotic hybrid landscape has its roots in drawn-out landscape ideologies inscribed in public works policy. The analysiswhich crosses the divides between disciplines (landscape and infrastructure planning), concepts (rural-urban, modern-traditional), and geographical scales (national, regional, local)reveals consistently planned mechanisms of public works policy and landscape change underlying both the diffuse regional urbanisation patterns and local landscape transformations, which are generally perceived as spontaneous or vernacular developments. Infrastructure planning facilitated a spatial organisation that attributed centrality to the transport network rather than the metropolis, and that conceived a resilient infrastructure framework rather than a stylistic spatial constellation in order to steer and geographically root heterogeneous modernisation processes within the landscape.