The impact of the Modern Movement and modernisation processes on rural landscapes in Europe and beyond is a widespread but little known, recognised or understood phenomenon which still exerts effects today. Within the third joint research programme of HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) dedicated to “The uses of the past” which started in 2016, this subject is now being studied through several lenses within the MODSCAPES project. 

In recent decades, fields as diverse as geography, rural sociology, cultural studies and a number of design-related disciplines such as landscape architecture and architectural and planning history have turned their attention towards the rural landscape as an emerging field of practice and conceptualization, endeavouring to reverse the so-called ‘divorce’ between design and agriculture occurred after the Second World War. The Modern movement started to make an impact on rural landscapes as early as the mid-19th century (with the experiments of utopian socialism, radical state reformism, and enlightened philanthropy), and even more from the 1920s onwards, especially in the frame of late colonisation as well as the new political movements of the time – such as Fascism, Socialism, Communism, Zionism, Anarchism, Communalism, the Co-operative Movement…In an attempt to cope with a “problematic” social group, an unproductive or underproductive land, and the dramatical backwardness of the agricultural sector, different actors such as Nation-States, government assisted organizations, bottom-up movements or groups, and even individuals, engaged in more or less extensive campaigns to dramatically reshape the countryside. With the help of experts in many different fields, they started imagining, planning and implementing radically new ideas. Through selective uses of the past and tradition, they “reinvented” unprecedented ideas of rurality. The resulting landscapes of intensive agriculture and mechanisation, the many new rural settlements and agricultural building complexes, the impact of large-scale drainage schemes as well as the social and cultural legacies of the times make for a rich field of research.

The conference is combined with the Baltic Landscape Forum 2018, and has applied for a European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 event label (awaiting approval on December 7th 2017). The European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 highlights landscapes and looks what we have shared and still sharing cross Europe in this field.
Therefore it would be nice to emphasis also which actors, ideas and concepts have influenced each other when the modern movement implemented new concepts of landscape planning and management forming our current day cultural landscape heritage.

The conference invites researchers from any discipline (including but not limited to those noted above) to come together and share their work. Themes which are of interest include:

  • The role of political systems in rural settlement planning, internal colonisation and state building
  • Modernism in rural settlement planning and rural architecture 
  • The impact of modernisation (eg mechanisation, land drainage, plant breeding, mono-cultural cropping, fertilisers and pesticides) on the structure and function of the rural and natural landscape
  • The image of modernisation of rural landscapes as presented through film, photography, art, propaganda and literature
  • Changing social structures which emerged through political and economic processes
  • Memories, stories and the voices of the people who helped to drive the modernisation process and who lived through it as farmers, villagers and colonists
  • The physical legacies of the modernisation period as expressed in the landscape and built elements, (eg whether continuing in use or abandoned and ruined)
  • Pilot and model experiments: experimental farms, exhibition villages, prison farms, model agricultural schools  
  • Alternative plans and schemes: paths not taken to modernize the countryside
  • The place of the rural house within discourses and debates around vernacular, traditional, and modernist architecture, in the countryside as well as in the city
  • Current practices and experiments in conservation, preservation, heritagization, and landscape restoration of modernist rural landscapes and architecture
  • Social engineering: the making, remaking and unmaking of new rural identities
  • Who are the policy-makers? The role of experts, companies, settlers in modernist agrarian policies
  • Which modernisms for which modernities? Concrete evidences and rhetorical symbols of power, coercion, freedom and emancipation
  • Appropriation and inhabitation: adoption, rejection or subversion of agrarian policies, schemes, blueprints, spaces and buildings by their inhabitants through time
  • Major and minor political, agronomical, planning and design theories of agrarian modernization  

Proposals may address modernist rural landscapes at any scale, ranging from the single building or site, to nation-wide policies, or transnational comparative approaches.
The period of interest is focused on the “short” 20th century, but may as well deal with case studies dating back to the “long” 19th century. Papers dealing with current issues, challenges, practices or experiments in planning, design, landscape architecture or stewardship, etc. for modernist rural landscapes are most welcome.
The geographical focus of the conference is mainly Europe, and its influences beyond its borders. However, proposals dealing with case studies in any geographic location are welcome.

Over and all, the conference aims at offering, probably for the first time at this scale, a broad overview of the wide range of experiments and conditions testifying of the engagement of modernism towards the rural question. In particular, it aims at verifying to which extent the concept of “modernist rural landscapes” can help to frame a multitude of local, regional or national episodes in the history of architecture, planning and landscapes, as a trans-national phenomenon.

Within this frame, successful proposals will focus on documenting concrete and well delimited case studies, but will also strive to develop their theoretical implications, related methodological issues, and current significance. In particular, participants are invited to elaborate on the three main concepts underlying the MODSCAPES project: “modernism”, “reinvention”, and “landscape”.


Abstracts are invited on any of the above themes for oral presentations, posters, or training sessions/workshops. Abstracts should be no longer than 300 words and should contain a short introduction, the research aim or question, a brief statement of the methods used and some main results and conclusions, supported by up to 4 references, and up to 2 images.

Bottom-up proposals of full sessions (3 to 4 papers) expanding the conference theme’s subtopics, built around existing research projects and/or current debates, and engaging with recent contentious research, exciting new approaches, or theoretical interventions are welcome. To apply for a full session, the proposing session chair(s) should submit a regular abstract including: a list of the foreseen authors and paper titles, and a clear rationale for the session’s collective goal (300 words). The papers themselves should be submitted as any other regular proposal. Full sessions may be chaired by one or 2 persons affiliated to distinct institutions. Sessions composed entirely of participants from a single department at a single institution are not likely to be accepted. Graduate students are welcome as session participants, but sessions composed entirely of graduate students are less likely to be accepted than panels that include senior and postdoctoral presenters together with graduate students. Full sessions will be dedicated 90 minutes time slots in the conference program.

Training sessions & workshops: We welcome proposals addressing public officials, decision-makers, and practitioners in the field, providing practical tools or insights in the topic from a decision-making, action-oriented or professional perspective. Training sessions or participatory workshops may be animated by up to 2 persons (or will include a clear rationale for more persons), will address groups of at least 5 and up to 30 participants. Any practical or technical requirement to be provided by the organizers should also be clearly stated in the proposal. Training sessions or participatory workshops will be dedicated 90 minutes time slots in the conference program.

Full papers and posters will make use of the template provided by the organizers and comply with the editorial guidelines provided; they will have no more than 3.000 words (in addition to footnotes and references).

The conference’s working language is English. Non-native English authors are strongly encouraged to have their papers reviewed by a professional copy-editing service. Upon request, the organizers may suggest contacts.


All accepted papers will be published in the conference proceedings (electronically).

The conference organizers are also taking provision to offer the opportunity to a selected number of participants of being invited to submit a revised and expanded paper to special edited issues of international peer-reviewed journals (JoLA-Journal of Landscape Architecture, CLARA Architecture/Recherche,…).


  • Abstracts should be submitted by December 21 2017 to the conference management system
  • Abstracts will be double peer reviewed and decisions on acceptance, rejection or revision will be sent out by January 31 2018
  • Revised abstracts should be submitted by February 14 2018
  • Full paper text should be submitted by March 31 2018
  • Papers will be double peer reviewed and decisions on acceptance or revision will be sent out by April 30 2018
  • Final papers should be submitted by May 14 2018