Promoting Engagement and Interaction in Rural Communities: A proposal for the revitalization of Wetaskiwin, Alberta
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This thesis focuses on Canadian Prairie communities and how architecture plays a role in promoting community engagement and interaction. The ideal components of a healthy rural town include its identity, sense of community and a strong relationship to the landscape, all of which are threatened by both internal and external influences. The large urban centers in close proximity to rural communities are a major influence over the direction of development. The growth of the urban fabric is understood only after studying the historical factors that have shaped its foundation, as well as its relationship to larger regional forces. These forces have changed the urban morphology — shifting from an emphasis centered on community to one that is more focused upon economic development. This change does not suggest that these elements are completely separate from one another, but instead that the emphasis has shifted – bringing with it a whole new set of priorities. Increased development along major arterial highways is favoured over downtown growth; vehicular transportation dominates over the pedestrian; subdivisions are planned and built by developers to maximize economic gain rather than foster a sense of community; and community-based projects are no longer the norm. Unfortunately this has resulted in a loss of citizen participation and engagement. An in-depth urban analysis of the town is central to the development of future design and development strategies. Case studies of comparable cities, towns or villages will help guide the development of design principles, strategies and processes necessary to promote a healthy rural community. By exploring the complexities of rural development, strategies and interventions that address these issues can be articulated and applied.