Publication: Cinematic Open Spaces of Flanders : Spatial Planning and the Imagination of Flemish Open Space in the Fiction Films Bullhead and Kid
Who does not know An Inconvenient Truth (Guggenheim & Gore, 2006)? Most people remember this as the title of a documentary film about global warming. Even people who did not see one image of it, know the film raised international public awareness on the subject. In fact, according to various studies (Butts, 2007; Jacobsen, 2011), awareness of climate change translates into behavioral change and in carbon offsets after watching the documentary. In any case, the film and its narrative concerning climate change and its consequences set things in motion. When coping with the effects of climate change in Flanders (northern region of Belgium), open space is considered to be primordial. In a densely populated and highly urbanized region such as Flanders, open spaces are crucial to retain water in the event of drought or sudden rains, to provide biodiversity and natural resources, raw materials, food production, and more. Although open space is of vital importance, it lacks a strong narrative. The concept or definition of open space remains often as diffuse and fragmented as its appearance in this so-called ‘rurban’ area, the blurred zone of urban and rural. Morphological differentiation with open spaces as the opposite of the city determined traditional planning discourses of the last 45 years (Leinfelder, 2007). However, this dichotomous planning model, urban development versus conservation of open space, has lost its relevance as the Flemish countryside is also characterized by urban sprawl. The building pattern takes 33% of the total land cover and is scattered over the area without concentration in big metropoles, leaving the remaining open spaces fragmented between the built-up plots. For a long time, open space was considered as the unbuilt area or residual space, which remained after all other developments and served as potential ground for agriculture or residential expansion. Similarly, comprehension of open space based on functional frameworks in terms of land use and land cover is equally incomplete and does not fully grasp the complex spatial mix of functions. The basic principle for open space is then the unsealed or non-built condition of land units by any unnatural cover. Consequently and according to this interpretation, open space coincides almost exclusively with nature and/or agriculture, the two major conventional land use categories. The increase of newcomers in land use and the transformation into hybrid ‘rurban’ spaces with mixed and multifunctional uses as urban agriculture, private gardens, horse meadows, etc., abolishes this categorization. (Brandt & Vejre, 2004; Dewaelheyns, Vanempten, Bomans, Verhoeve, & Gulinck, 2014; Wilson, 2007) Moreover, these transformations consolidate the inefficient spatial organization which is accompanied with economic and ecological problems. Prices for farmlands rise as the non-agricultural functions increase in agricultural areas, the cost for construction and maintenance of road and utility infrastructure is seven times more in a dispersed settlement pattern compared to concentrated city centers (VITO, (Vermeiren et al., 2019), traffic jams on these roads as a result of high frequency of daily commuting movements, are only a few examples of economical damage. Furthermore, this spatial organization, with amongst others this high amount of road infrastructure and traffic jams, also generates an ecological impact. Spaces for nature disappear as paved areas provide further development.