There is more to it than meets the eye: Strategic design in the context of rural decline

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Based on a Danish case, this paper investigates how strategic urban and landscape design can contribute to positive developments in rural areas that are challenged by population decline. From 2007–2012, the municipality of Bornholm conducted a strategic planning process, which aimed to enhance quality of life by strengthening place-based qualities and potential through local physical projects. Guided by actor-network theory (ANT) we analyse the socio-material effects of the new assemblages of people and things around the design interventions that were made. We find that strategic spatial projects can contribute considerably to quality of life in declining rural areas. From a wider strategic perspective, they can also define new spatial development perspectives rooted in place-based resources and potential. Methodologically, ANT offers a pertinent framework for studying the long-term performance of strategic spatial projects and how design actions can continue to gather new actors, spark new initiatives and, thereby, fuel repercussive effects.
Strategic spatial design, socio-material effects, rural decline, actor-network theory, Denmark