Revitalizing Third Places in Rural Areas

Revitalizing Third Places in Rural Areas
Rurbane Realitäten
We support rural initiatives in transforming vacant spaces into communal and cultural spaces.

Rurbane Realitäten
Berlin, Germany
Team members
Nelli Fritzler
Anna Holzinger
Field of work
Architecture, Design, Urban planning, Communication, Research
Project category
Rural spaces
Project submitted

Rurbane Realitäten is a female-lead, interdisciplinary team of architects and urban planners. It was founded by Nelli Fritzler and Anna Holzinger 2021 in Berlin. We investigate, accompany and design rural and urban transformation processes.

The field of architecture and urban planning needs to rise to current and future challenges: climate change, socio-political and economical shifts, migration and military conflicts. The way planning disciplines operate has and will shape the way we live. We believe that it’s time to change our discipline: the future is collective! We need a bottom-up approach that empowers people to shape their living environments sustainably and to work towards the common good. We believe in the power of co-creation: between experts and amateurs as well as between people from different disciplines and backgrounds.

Transforming vacant spaces for social initiatives instead of investing in top-down planning of new-build real-estate (architectural mainstream) shows a caring for our resources as well as our social values as citizens of the European Union. Throughout our project work we’re continually pushing the limits of our disciplines and we believe that change comes from showcasing new methods, realising inspiring concepts and engaging with people. Our urban-planning expertise allows us to explore rurban (rural and urban) realities on a broader scale (local, regional, national, European). Based on the knowledge we gain from our research we’re developing small scale, hands-on design solutions to contribute to a socially and ecologically sustainable future.

For the past decades, planning disciplines have almost exclusively focused on urban areas. As a result, rural areas have been financially and structurally neglected for far too long. With rapidly rising housing prices, fewer people can afford living in cities. Rural areas will therefore play an important role in shaping our future.

Based on the work of sociologist Ray Oldenburg, so-called Third Places are crucial to inclusive and resilient communities. They add to our home (First Place) and to our place of work or education (Second Place). The Third Place is a communal space accessible to all, focused on leisure and social exchange. They are acting as social levellers and provide a space for the civil society to connect and to build bonds that cross social status and cultural differences. Independent, comunal-lead places are disappearing in both urban and rural areas. This can have a drastic effect on rural communities as the narrative of neglect, loneliness and the lack of a positive outlook can easily be utilised to drive social division.

At the same time there are countless outstanding cultural initiatives led by people dedicated to serving their communities. Nonetheless, there are skills and knowledge that can’t be expected to be covered by volunteer work. We take action and provide both a design and a process that focuses on people’s needs. Before creating our designs we go through several rounds of interactive workshops that we’ve created ourselves. We allow the future users to be involved in the design process and express their needs and challenges. It’s an important and innovative approach that offers an alternative to the mainstream approach of abstract planning that doesn't actually connect with the users or the local context. The project aims to change how we think about our built environment. Instead of continuously developing new buildings, we need to learn how to use and repurpose the existing.