MADRID – Amid rising house prices in urban areas, increasing work from home and the traumatic impact of the pandemic, thousands of city dwellers are moving to the countryside in search of new forms of domesticity and community.
A significant portion of Spanish projects shown worldwide now involve small-scale, often sustainable residential architecture in rural areas. These projects, often built with traditional materials or recycled structures, reflect a shift from the urban to the rural. Such homes, often located in small villages, are a refuge for middle-class city dwellers retreating to the countryside.
Crisis in the city stimulates advance in the countryside
This trend is a response to the new urban crisis in Spain, where cities such as Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia, and Palma de Mallorca are displacing their residents. El Mundo writes that this does not happen because of economic decline, but rather because of success: rising housing prices, weak rental markets, and increasing tourism make traditional middle-class neighbourhoods inaccessible. Many residents are forced to migrate to the suburbs or even choose rural villages within an hour’s drive of work or cultural centers.
The role of teleworking and the pandemic
The rise of remote working and the claustrophobic effects of the 2020 lockdown have accelerated this shift. The ’empty’ Spain, as described by Sergio del Molino in 2016, is not so empty anymore. Since that year, 1,695 Spanish municipalities with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants have seen a population increase.
Individual stories, such as that of designer Faustino de la Carrera, highlight the benefits and challenges of living in nature. His story started with the crisis of 2008. He bought a piece of land 105 kilometres from Madrid and built a prefabricated wooden house on it. Although life there was idyllic, it also brought challenges, especially for the children.
The romantic side of the countryside
Arturo Franco’s experience in O Fieiro (La Coruña) represents the more romantic side of rural life. He transformed a hundred-year-old stable into a habitable space while retaining the authentic stones and a minimal approach. The village was practically deserted when he arrived, but that is slowly changing. He also discovered that his region is not as isolated as one might think. Climate change is working in the region’s favour with milder winters and an increase in new residents enriching the local culture.
The trend of moving to the countryside raises questions about sustainability and the need to get used to a new way of life. This movement illustrates the search for a more authentic, more connected life to nature, away from the city noise and the high cost of living.