Until recently, the European city has been able to absorb societal shock waves such as industrialization, rural-urban migration, world wars, emigration, not without experiencing radical ruptures and thorough transformations but however without questioning its very, urbanity. Since hardly twenty-five years, a number of phenomena, originating in the 19th century and gradually developing during the 20th century made a quantitative and qualitative jump and started to turn inside-out the city itself as a social and built space fostering modern urban culture. Two phenomena will be highlighted. The traditional bipolarity between city and rural areas - one of the fundamental characteristics of European settlement history - is increasingly disappearing because of the generalization of a third type of built space: a non-rural non-urban realm unjustly designated as although it already spreads far beyond the urban fringes. All kinds of constellations which are hard to define - satellite settlements, ribbon developments, suburbs - originate in this space, constituting often chaotic nebulae (Heynen, Loeckx, Smets 1990). Urban functions - dwelling, business, recreational - leave the city and are being scattered over the former countryside without major logic. In the periphery urban fragments form ad hoc superpositions and juxtapositions without achieving urban symbiosis. Very seldom an identifiable entity is created; almost never a consistent public space emerges. Vagueness, isotropy and fragmentation characterize this periphery. The phenomenon can be considered as a loss of centrality, together with the generalization of a peripheral condition in both the city and the former rural areas. This leads in the city to functional impoverishment, physical degradation, social marginalization and loss of identity. In the former rural areas this peripheral condition is expressed by a spread of an indifferent built space, by insufficient connections, equipments and facilities, and by a new kind of social marginalization affecting particularly those already less mobile and less informed population groups. A second phenomenon of societal transformation affecting urbanity itself has to do with the generalization of networks: road network, metro, bus, water mains, postal services, telephone, telefax, store and fast food chains, mail-order firms, TV, computer ... (Verschaffel 1990). All of these are constituted by circuits and terminals. Networks take no account of streets, squares and houses, 'they only consider trajectories and addresses. Moreover, networks transporting people and matter and therefore somehow defining places (metro stations, post offices) are completed by and even make way for networks which are place-less (or atopical) and which transport only information (TV, fax, computer). Network culture breaks up the urban mass - which guarantees the necessary powers of inhabitation in both private and public urban spaces - into individual subscribers. The TV-screen replaces the city square as a public forum. Whereas public places to a certain degree constitute free urban scenes offering multiple opportunities for mediation, networks operate on a commercial basis defining strict rules for access and exclusion. Here one faces another threat of marginalization since a certain amount of information and financial capacity are essential for the good use of them. Networks spread over both city and periphery. Large distances and dispersal of functions however, particularly make peripheries a suitable terrain for a-topical networks. This also reinforces the absence of real public places in the periphery. Periphery and networks both stimulate a tendency of desurbanization that affects urban space and culture. Desurbanization raises the question of a multifaceted and somewhat in social problem: the urban design issue is only a small part of it. However, design allows to investigate the spatial aspects of desurbanization within a concrete site and to propose tangible approaches for an eventual re-urbanization. The results of several recent design competitions and assignments organised by municipalities, housing societies or private developers in Belgium are on these lines. Going from the city centre to the outmost periphery, several designers are trying - with varying success - to create a built space capable of generating new urban impulses. The revalorization of public space, as a counter-move against spaceless network culture, receives quite some attention in those efforts. However most design efforts seem to concentrate upon the reappropriation of lost spaces in terms of wellknown urban typologies: streets, parks, squares, canals. The question remains: to what extent can the often contempted network places (bus terminals, gas stations, supermarkets) be redesigned into recognizable and inhabitable public areas? Apart from injecting 'traditional' urban typologies it seems to be essential to develop other types of spatial counter-forms to answer new modes of distance, difference and connection emerging in urban and non-urban peripheries. Some designs, offer a first attempt in this direction. Examples: designs for the so-called ((Crossroad Europe)> in the centre of Brussels, designs for the reconversion of the former coal-mine settlement Waterschei (Genk), an urban development study for the renewal of the obsolete canal zone in Leuven, a design competition for renewal projects in the dilapidated immediate periphery of Ghent, an international multiple assignment for the re-organization of suburban areas near Kortrijk and another for the design of a seaport trade center in Zeebrugge.