Background to the Global Village movement

Franz Nahrada recently wrote a letter to Claude Lewenz of the Village Forum, which contains useful background information on new participatory architectures and urban visions.

Lewenz wrote the book “How To Build a Village” in which he has applied pattern theory to create a flexible and parallel village scheme to be realized around the world.

Franz Nahrada is currently planning a world conference on global villages:

In the early 90th many of us became aware of the urgent need to deeply change the prevailing economic patterns and our ways of life to become more sustainable instead of merely “protecting the environment” or asking for “political change”. My personal experience and passion rooted in the concern about the decline of Greek mountain villages. I had the privilege and the subsequent grief of experiencing them “before” and “after” the region was hit by mass tourism and so called modernisation. I saw that the village pattern was on one side valid and at the same time deadly threatened. My favorite villages became ruins within 10 years.

But at the same time, in a completely different region of the world, I made another experience that shaped my thinking and helped me to find a way: being one of the people involved in Apples HyperCard developer support, I had the unique chance to see that there are many options in technology, that we can do the best and the worst with technical progress.

Technology developed in a process of dialogue, as requested by Douglas Engelbart, would look very very differently.

I decided to tie these two things together. If we can shape the surface of the computer from stupid commandline to human interface, why not also shape our physical environments according to our best knowledge and the new possibilities we have? I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Joseph Smyth, a village developer in the United States, who introduced me into the disastrous history of suburbia and showed me plans of new villages in urban and rural contexts, which he called the “New American Dream”. I learned to see our traditional European reality with new eyes, because many of the patterns he seeked to create anew in America were allready existing in Europes existing small towns and villages. And they still are!

Yet our own European Society despite all of these structural advantages tends to “americanize” itself in the speed of light. But also a growing number of people are against this. We saw very early the need not only to safeguard “village-structures” in urban environments as well as in the countryside (“Stadtteilarbeit”, “Dorferneuerung”), but the necessety to drastically improve them – to have them survive and thrive against a powerful wave of “business districts” and “suburbias”. My special aim became to showcase the village of the future, and to put particular effort on the communication side of things. Joseph Smyth had shown me the “Lewitt-Car-Media Conspiracy” between suburban housing developers, car manufacturers and Hollywood media producers that created a very powerful “mass-dream”, and we agreed we needed a similar “public conspiracy” between various forces interested in the village principle and a “mass-awakening”. I started to do the “Global Village” conferences in Vienna and invited various visionaries, and our networks grew steadily.

We have not been without permanent success, but it came at a point where it was not really expected or planned. We increasingly focussed on things like access to cultural Heritage and Education. In 1998 I initiated a European Community Presidency event called “Cultural Heritage in the Global Village” with the help of my dear friend Kim Veltman. Especially on the communication side of things, we made interesting findings and inventions – for example the “Video Bridge”, a special way of applying videoconferencing technologs to strengthen future Universal Village Education Centers and provide a plethora of useful offerings beyond what normally is in the reach of such an institution. This happens by the power of cooperation and sharing between many villages. So we encourage local education institutions to broadcast and interactively tie together their best educational events.

Cooperation and cultural creativeness is a principle that we also want to apply to craftmanship and material production. A great example is the recently released “Open Source tractor” of our American friend Marcin Jakubowski. (see at Another one is Christine Ax, who is a well-known writer about the renaiscance of craftmanship and a succesful innovator in the small business world tied to local development. With her support, new structures could be built like the one that enable shoemakers to custom-tailor a wide array of shoes for their customers at more moderate prices.

So I am now leading a workgroup and virtual community of more than 200 people around the world (Globalvillages) that is investigating the role of communication for the strengthening of villages.”

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