Ateliers > De-industrial landscapes

Deindustrial Landscapes: the (more-than) representations of Industrial Decline


Session 1 : Vendredi 3 novembre, 9h-10h30


Between rubble and ruin: explorations of (de) industrial landscapes

George Jaramillo, The Glasgow School of Art, UK

The desire to return to industrialisation in western ‘developed’ nations has garnered more interest in today’s politically volatile world. These perceptions of a ‘better’ past are filled with ambivalent appeals to nostalgia and multifaceted cultural phenomenon, involving political, social, and environmental concerns that are present in different deindustrialized landscapes and in their multifarious representations. This talk examines the long-term social and cultural legacy of deindustrialization, focusing in particular on the concept of landscape (Wylie 2007) disseminated through various narrative forms and media. The ideas of landscape studies shows this development in the way that memory identity and particularly industrial cultures are perceived (DeSilvey 2010, Edensor 2005, Petursdottir 2012, Stewart 1996). Similarly, reflecting and influencing public memory at the same time, the study of postindustrial landscapes also offer insights into the continuing struggle over the meaning of industrial work and its loss, revealing unresolved social, cultural and political tensions, yet existing representations of deindustrialization, for example, have been criticized as ‘smokestack nostalgia’ (Mah 2012; High 2013). In order to chart how we understand domestic industrial decay in our political, cultural and economic climate, this presentation explores the rhetorical exploitation and discursive representations and more-than representations (Thrift 2008) of loss and regeneration in post-industrial landscapes.



Industrial past as a  contested border  and a cultural borderland: the case of Upper Silesia

Juliane Tomann, Imre Kertész Kolleg, Friedrich Schiller Universität Jena / Princeton University


Upper  Silesia is one of the most densely populated and highly industrialized regions in Central Europe. Since the fall of communism in 1989/90 the region has been undergoing processes of transformation on different levels. Changes in the economy and deindustrialization are surely the most visible and recognisable ones, they are, however, accompanied by a transformation of regional identity as well as the image of this former “black heart” of Poland. I will discuss two opposed examples. Notwithstanding the geographical proximity, the cities of Katowice and Zabrze count as two opposites on the scale when it comes to representations of deindustrialisation and deindustrialized landscapes. I will argue, that the more-­‐than-­‐representations approach can help to understand the processes of dealing with the industrial past in Katowice: Despite the city’s official policies of breaking up with the industrial past, processes of redefining the meaning of “post-­‐industrial” are underway. On the interface of identity building processes within the minority of Upper Silesians and the urge of coming to terms with the industrial past by some strata of the city’s inhabitants, new attributions of “post-­‐industrial” are being negotiated at the moment. A creative young elite tries to establish new interpretations of “being Upper Silesian” that are combined and overlapped with an understanding of “living post-­‐ industrial”. These processes also reshape the urban texture and landscape of Katowice: Social happenings like painting murals on post-­‐industrial venues in the city centre or changing the landscape of the city through opening up cultural facilities or bars in former industrial complexes are only the most telling examples.


There's bugger all left, except in wor hearts": Durham pit closures, landscape change and embedded memories

Pete Hodson, Queen’s University Belfast, UK


The paper looks at place, occupation and landscape attachment in the deindustrial pit villages of County Durham. The National Coal Board closed the Durham coalfield in 1993 after a rapid withdrawal. Coal mining, once the dominant economic activity in North East England, was eradicated. Almost without exception, colliery sites were quickly bulldozed and turned into open spaces or housing developments. Memories of these sites as thriving industrial, social and cultural hubs has, however, proved more durable. For the pit closure generation, former colliery sites (and Miners’ Welfare clubs which remain) are cherished and stamped with a sense of ownership. Former miners take sanctuary in the past and their memories of the industry, though often tinged with bitterness, are used to escape the uncertainty and social decay of the present. Using oral testimony collected in pit villages, the emotional attachment between people and industrial sites will be explored. For the generation born after pit closures, the eagerness of former mining families to commemorate what was widely acknowledged as a dirty, dangerous job, is met with puzzlement. For the post-pit generation, the colliery site is of peripheral importance, eclipsed by more pressing issues such as social hardship and job scarcity which continue to afflict former mining areas. Deindustrialisation is an intensely personal, lived and ongoing process. The paper will offer some thoughts on the tensions implicit in coalfield memory, and acts of defiance by former mining families to guard against the complete cultural erasure of ‘their’ industry and heritage.




Percorsi di ricomposizione del paesaggio urbano a Sesto San Giovanni:il caso dell’ex area Breda

Dino Gavinelli, Giacomo Zanolin, Università degli Studi di Milano


Sesto San Giovanni, quinta città lombarda per popolazione e polo rilevante nel contesto dell'area metropolitana milanese, è stata fortemente connotata, nel passato recente (secoli XIX e XX) dall'arrivo e dallo sviluppo del settore secondario. Tra i principali fattori localizzativi che hanno prodotto una massiccia trasformazione della Sesto San Giovanni preindustriale in un grande centro industriale si ricordano i meccanismi, tipici della città moderna di inizio Novecento, legati alla rendita e al costo delle aree edificabili rispetto alla contigua Milano, la presenza di collegamenti con le regioni del centro Europa per mezzo della ferrovia del San Gottardo (1882), la disponibilità di fonti energetiche, la presenza di uno scalo merci, la vicinanza alle popolose aree lombarde. Le industrie sestesi, che hanno fatto la storia dell’industrializzazione italiana (per la loro capacità innovativa, la qualità e quantità di brevetti industriali, le scoperte e le inedite forme del design), hanno anche inevitabilmente trasformato il contesto territoriale e paesaggistico dando allo spazio urbano una forte connotazione di “città delle fabbriche”. A questa fase è subentrata poi l’epoca attuale, nella quale si assiste a una sovrapposizione di molteplici narrazioni, che si stratificano trascendendo il tradizionale valore del paesaggio manifatturiero, un tempo efficace elemento per l’auto-identificazione degli individui che vivevano, lavoravano o fruivano dei luoghi industriali.


Il presente contributo intende proporre una lettura delle trasformazioni territoriali in atto e del conseguente processo di ridefinizione delle forme del paesaggio negli spazi un tempo occupati dagli stabilimenti della Breda, impresa italiana che, a partire dall’inizio del XX secolo, ha avviato un importante processo di sviluppo nei settori meccanico, elettromeccanico, siderurgico, ferroviario e aeronautico. La ricerca geografica qui proposta si apre quindi all’analisi degli spazi intermedi localizzati tra Milano e Sesto San Giovanni, spostando l’attenzione da segni dotati di un forte potere referenziale (iconemi), che tendono a perdere il loro valore univoco, per aprirsi verso valori produttivi, del consumo e del loisir, che invece rappresentano i reali contesti di vita delle generazioni contemporanee.



Session 2 : Vendredi 3 novembre, 11h-12h30



Amaia Caunedo, Irene Díaz & Rubén Vega (University of Oviedo)


The Asturian labour movement has carried out numerous episodes of struggle during the twentieth century. During last decades, a long and deep declining in the mines and industries has been transforming both the social structures and the landscape of a region that continues, however, identifying itself (and being identified from outside) with its working class past. Our purpose is to tour around those places which have been scenes of important moments in different struggles of workers. In each of them we’ll offer: a story about the events, the socially constructed accounts around them, and a comparison between their current state and the state they had when those facts took place, taking into account the way in which these spaces have been preserved, transformed or destroyed and trying to find out if the History imprint is still present, into what extent and how.



Time capsules in post- industrial landscapes: A view on coal miner’s collections in the Ruhr area

Stefan Siemer, Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum


In my presentation I will explore the phenomenon of coal miner’s collections as part of postindustrial landscapes. Since the 1980s and foremost in the 1990s retired miners set up initiatives to refurbish former mining places in order to make them accessible to the public. In a specific way these amateur museums reflect and narrate the process of de-industrialization. The paper presents material from an ongoing research project about German coal mining museums at the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum.

From different perspectives current research has chartered the process of deindustrialization in the Ruhr area and the emergence of post-industrial landscapes (Berger). Especially the role of museums has evoked attention. Since the late 1970s “Industriekultur” (industrial heritage) appeared as a key word leading to the conceptualization of industrial museums reflecting the past of the local coal mining and steel industries. Today museums and their collections of industrial debris took a crucial part in the ongoing process of memory work and post-industrial identities. In a complex way they set a framework for a specific space oriented memory: They refer to a closed pit as well as to an overall memory landscape around them.

In my paper coal mining will serve as a case study. Shortly after pit closure amateur-museums and collections opened in former buildings which otherwise would have been destroyed. They are deeply rooted in the process of de-industrialization, reflecting the problems and burdens of the past. But with their non-professional approach they appeared as well outside the academic discourse on industrial heritage and heritage politics. Amateur-museums could be seen as a kind of bottom up heritage activism forming a specific view within the de-industrialized landscapes of the Ruhr area.

As “Theatres of Memory” (Raphael) they present their own view of mining history. Working tools and machinery refer to workspaces, objects of memory are containers of personal recollections about everyday life and miner’s communities.  Both have in common, that they are representatives of a post-industrial landscape. But this mode of representation via physical objects works in a specific way. Other than industrial museums with their academic staff and the protagonists of industrial culture former miners present their own view of the process of de-industrialization. Quite in contrary to the fragmentized landscapes of relics and ruins, of industrial nature and mine heaps coal miner’s collections present a self-contained and cohesive picture of the industrial past which refers prominently to mining traditions and a glorious past. Though essentially part of it these museums negate the process of de-industrialization. In other terms they could be described as a kind of time-capsule within post-industrial landscapes.



What happened to you? Former industrial landscapes in the Hungarian capital

Melinda Harlov, Hungary


Budapest, the capital of Hungary, used to host numerous and diverse types of industrial activities. They were realized in factories, management buildings, at huge areas supporting transport of goods on water or by trains. Moreover, districts were dedicated for the industrial workers that incorporated not just their accommodation, but education, health and leisure services as well. These complex areas defined the urban tissue as well as the social and economic characters of the city. Since the political change in 1989, all these factories and organizations shrank than completely stopped to operate, but their premises have experienced a more varied after-life. Some are still abandoned and left for total demolition; a few could be saved as industrial monuments or museum buildings, and another group of them got transferred. These latter ones have new or modified functions by keeping the characteristic structure or architectural elements. The variety of these transformations alludes not just to the different evaluation of the specific past, organization or profession, but also to the intentions and possibilities of managing these tangible heritage examples. The proposed presentation introduces the trends how these deindustrial landscapes get reintegrated into or eliminated from the contemporary urban structure of Budapest, Hungary especially between 1989 and 2016. The chosen examples will be thoroughly examined with the help of the available documentation and by conducting interviews with relevant actors. Emphasis will be paid on those innovative examples, where the sustainable management of deindustrial landscape in contemporary urban environment could be achieved. By adapting a critical and analytical approach, the presentation has a dual aim on one hand to explore the influential political, economic and social circumstances and on the other hand to identify the possible advantages and challenges of the accomplished projects.



Issues political, social and economic of  Italian deindustrialization between the twentieth and twenty-first century:  the case of the de-industrialization of the mining industry in Sardinia.

Simone Cara, Cagliari, Sardinia


This paper aims to analyze the political debate and launch a comprehensive reflection on the historical events that have tied the deindustrialization of the mining areas in southern Sardinia, in a period which is between the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of XXI. Through careful analysis of the political debate of the period examined and a thorough study of documentary sources and those in the press, we will try to provide a key to understanding the political dynamics that led to the disposal of the mining and the subsequent preparation of programs for the conversion of industrial areas, which provided for the environmental rehabilitation of industrial areas with disused mining activities or undergoing decommissioning. Faced with the gradual liquidation of the mining sector, in fact, regional and national institutions had contributed to the preparation of legislative measures that aimed to offer new possibilities of development for the former industrial areas of southern Sardinia, but the effects of which had no effect significantly in the economic fabric-social of mining areas. Despite the stance of the political and trade union circles islanders, the demobilization of the mining sector triggered a series of events that helped to raise public awareness on the problems of industrial conversion of mining areas, giving rise to an intense debate about the need to claim an alternative economic development to the needs of industrial restructuring, which characterized the period between the late eighties and early nineties. In the nineties, in fact, regional and national institutions will contribute to the preparation of legislative measures aimed at revitalizing, remediation and historical-cultural development of the regional mining heritage, which would have materialized with the birth of the Company Igea S.p.A. and Geo-mineral Park. The period between the nineties and early twenty-first century will mark a turning point in the process of re-industrialization of mining areas, the effects of which would have had a huge influence on the political, economic and social scene in southern Sardinia to the present day.



Session 3 : Vendredi 3 novembre, 14h-15h30






Session 4 : Vendredi 3 novembre, 16h-17h30


Venetian Industrial Landscapes: Porto Marghera

Gilda Zazzara, Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia


Who does not already have in mind at least a fragment of the image of the splendid Venetian landscape suspended on the water? Who, instead, knows that within the confines of the 20th century Venice, there is the immense industrial zone of Porto Marghera residing on the lagoon, a zone that celebrated 100 years in existence in 2017? At its peak in the mid 1960’s, 40,000 blue-collar workers populated this ‘city within a city’; today, only a few thousand workers remain in the industrial sector. During my talk, I will describe the contemporary landscape of Porto Marghera from four diverse angles: the historic center, the railway, the residential neighbourhood of Marghera, and finally the inside of the decomposing fragments. Moreover, these angles can be viewed from the perspective of the controversial memory that surrounds the experience of industrial labour.


Gendered life stories and shifting memories in former mining landscapes: the Sulcis-Iglesiente area

Liliosa Azara (Department of Education, Rome 3 University)

Eloisa Betti (Department of History and Cultures, University of Bologna)


The Sulcis area, located in the Italian island of Sardinia, underwent a huge process of deindustrialization in the last quarter of the 20th century, which had a tremendous impact on both industrial landscapes and mining communities. In the 1997, former mining areas of Sardinia, among which Sulcis-Iglesiente is the largest one, were turned into a

Geomineral Historic and Environmental Park under the aegis of Unesco, which declared Sardinia “the first Park in the geosite-geopark world net”. Since the mid-2000s, Sardinia mining geopark has been part of the newly established Unesco Global Geoparks Network.

Sulcis-Inglesiente landscape, in spite of its changing scope, still preserve a strong mining connotation due to the industrial heritage and ruins spread of all over the area. The literature dealing with this process of deindustrialization, which will be analysed in the first part of the paper, focuses almost exclusively on the economic aspects of the process and the related labour struggles. The life stories of women and men living the former mining landscapes have not been investigated in depth, something this paper wishes to bring to light thanks to oral history. As in the past few decades a relevant stratification of memories and representations of post-industrial mining landscapes have emerged, this paper aims also to compare and contrast these diverse narratives to understand whether concept such as nostalgia and regeneration have played a role.




Critical nostalgia, artistic practice and the negotiation of post-industrial change on Clydeside (Scotland). 

Martin Conlon , University of Strathclyde, UK


 “I’m not nostalgic about shipbuilding, but I am nostalgic about the skills and spirit that went into it – sometimes transcending the tough conditions in the shipyards. Where is this energy now?” - George Wyllie, Artist, 1990. 

George Wyllie (1921-2012) sought to recapture the ‘lost energy’ of industrialism by repurposing Glasgow’s derelict Finnieston crane with two pieces of visual art in the late 1980s. It was an artistic intervention that met critical acclaim, acting as a focal point for the discussion of wider industrial culture, and both the continuity and change encountered by industrial communities overall. 

Despite the increase in academic works that seek to assess the complicated relationship that memory has with the post-industrial condition, there is a noted abscence of academic work on creative practice as a medium of response, and potentially even as a force of resistance, to industrial change. This paper returns to the ‘Straw Locomotive’ (1987) and ‘Paper Boat’ (1989) as artistic interventions that sought to move beyond traditional forms of nostalgia to a more ‘critical’ form of remembering. Combining a critical analysis of material culture entwined with new oral history testimony, this paper will chart the transition of the Finnieston crane from a working object to a cultural artefact. Additionally, it will demonstrate how artistic practice can reanimate post-industrial archaeology to allow a meaningful and broad-ranging discussion of dramatic lived change and its impact on notions of temporal belonging. 


Silent portraits in steel: Duisburg (Thyssen, Germany ), Newcastle(BHP, Australia), Sesto San Giovanni, (Falck, Italy)

Roberta Garruccio, Christian Wicke, Erik Eklund


Historical representations of de-industrial landscapes across the industrialized West differ tremendously. The local opportunity structures for industrial-heritage movements have been so contrained in many places that postindustrial sites often tell use more about the history that has not been told, than about the cultures of labour and associated environmental transformations that have shaped these landscapes. This paper focuses on the narrative silence at three former steel producing plants in Duisburg (Thyssen, Germany), Newcastle (BHP, Australia) and Sesto San Giovanni (Falck, Italy). We shall first discuss 'silence' as related to concepts of history, memory, heritage and landscapes. Subsequently, we will portray and compare the three sites in the context of their historical geography from an industrial-heritage perspective. We will argue that even 'succesful' industrial heritage initiatives, like the one in Duisburg, have not been able to overcome silence, although the material remains have become an important lieu de mémoire in the historical culture of the region. Current initiatives in Newcastle and Sesto can learn from such shining and yet silent example. Finally, we will discuss some strategies to overcome silence in de-industrial landscapes. 













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