MODSCAPES deals with new rural landscapes produced by large-scale agricultural development and colonization schemes (ADCS) implemented in the 20th century throughout Europe and beyond. Conceived in different political and ideological contexts, the underlying agricultural development and colonization policies (ADCP) were pivotal to Nation-building and State-building, and to the modernization of the countryside. Such policies and schemes provided a testing ground for the ideas and tools of agronomists, environmental and social scientists, architects, engineers, planners, landscape architects and artists, which converged around a shared challenge. Their implementation produced modernist rural landscapes (MRL) which have seldom been considered as a transnational research topic.
ADCP and ADCS had, and still have an impact on peoples’ lives as individuals and communities, but are largely ignored by mainstream scholarship and policies in the field. As time passes, buildings and landscapes deteriorate, and the people who lived in them as they developed die out, so that MRL become more increasingly difficult to understand as unique forms of cultural heritage.
MODSCAPES aims to raise awareness of this largely underestimated shared cultural heritage which stands today as a tangible evidence of recent European history. Emphasizing the crucial connection between ADCP, ADCS, and MRL, MODSCAPES builds upon the growing but fragmented interest for the topic to lay the basis for transnational and transdisciplinary strand of research.
To this end, MODSCAPES develops a comparative approach which combines research-driven and bottom-up participatory activities based on the collection, processing, elaboration, and critical discussion of visual data and multiple narratives concerning 13 case studies located in 7 EU- and 4 non-EU neighbouring countries.
MODSCAPES looks at MRL as the physical embodiment of policies, borrowing methods to design-oriented disc iplines, tested against three humanities-driven concepts:
- The introduction of modernism – as the cultural and artistic expression of core modern values – in the countryside blurred conventional understanding of modernity. In modernist rural landscapes, “high modernism” – the visual order imposed by planners to make modern societies “legible” – had a crucial role.
- Modern nation-states mediated the contradictions brought by the modernisation of large-scale societies using “imagination” and “creativity” to build new communities and identities. Focusing on reinvention is about identifying the different “styles” of such “national imaginings”, and about how change was “creatively” managed or steered.
- A unifying paradigm for a trans-disciplinary approach to the topic’s tangible and intangible legacies, landscape is used to bridge arts and humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, and to integrate research, policy, and practice effectively. Being the world “as perceived by people”, landscape is a means of approaching history with an action-oriented objective.