On 1 February, Diederik de Koning has started his PhD research on agro-industrial construction and rural settlement, provisionally entitled 'Re-forming the Hinterland' .
In this research, innovation and standardization are considered to be the driving forces behind the high-tech, low-cost agro- industrial structures we find in rural territories throughout the economically developed world and which are slowly transforming the picturesque countryside into a generic hinterland. These agro-industrial structures are driven by increasingly complex techniques and innovations that reside outside of the discipline of architecture. This technical nature of agro-industrial construction, together with the lack of a public audience in the hinterland, results in architects having trouble intervening in this condition adequately.
Throughout history, two particular branches of architecture and planning proposals for the hinterland can be distinguished: one that tries to reconcile the city with its agricultural land into one productive semi-urban region; another that considers the hinterland as being an independent condition in relation to its urban counterpart. Both approaches seem to be failing these days: projects of the first approach often disregard the economic-geographical forces behind the process of urbanization, leaving the projects unfeasible and thus unrealized; projects of the second approach seem unable to overcome the increasing gap between architecture and the technologies that drive the agro-industry and its construction.
This research picks up on the second approach, putting forward the hypothesis that there is such a thing as an agro-industrial territory that can be studied as a condition of its own. The demarcation of this territory is done topologically rather than topographically. Its territory is further understood through an inter-disciplinary narrative that starts from the standardization of agro-industrial construction, and continues with the resulting question of design, the influence on its territory, architectural spin-offs, and ends with cultural expressions. Ultimately, the research aims at defining the adequate architectural tools that are now lacking, by redrawing the hinterland actively. These tools can help both in understanding the condition of the territory and in designing for it adequately.