Claiming identity: a counter-practice of radical preservation?

Publikation: KonferencebidragPaperForskningpeer review


At the moment most of the countries in the western world are experiencing severe demographic changes. The population in the rural areas abandon their home villag-es and move into the cities. In Denmark, this social migration is mainly caused by a decline in employment in food production based on farming. While the major cities in Denmark experience population and economic growth, the villages in surrounding rural areas face abandonment and decay.
Despite the good intentions, today’s widespread EU and state funds for demolition projects generally emphasize the fast eradication of cultural values under the guise of state-authorized clean-up projects. Therefore, there is urgent reason to enable the discourse with a more nuanced view on abandoned rural houses and in particu-lar, on their bearing on the rural identity.

Based on six generations of implemented transformations of abandoned buildings prototyped at full scale in various rural village communities, this paper argues that the increasing quantity of abandoned houses in rural areas in Denmark still has in-fluence on the community cohesion. An attempt is made to establish a new critical practice in cooperation with the local municipality and residents, as an alternative to demolition. The responses of the local people are used as a feedback mechanism and considered as real life peer reviewing and an important impact indicator and supplement to the physical transformations. The aim is to reveal and activate en-dangered material and immaterial values such as aspects of cultural heritage, local narratives and building density in depopulating rural villages.

The paper reports on and compares three of the latest fulfilled transformations of abandoned buildings as well as the local discussions and the exchange of memories they triggered:
1) The controlled ruin: March 2014 (figure 1)
This strategy involves partially demolishing of the abandoned building and subse-quently allowing the remnants to decay naturally. A precisely defined partial demo-lition transformed the abandoned building into a controlled ruin and exposed the building's private history. The private past becoming the public future provoked an exchange of memories of the building. Subsequent decay of the ruin proved to in-fluence the attitude of the local community. This resulted in the ruin being taken into their care.
2) The Re-encoded Remnant: 2015 (figure 2)
The Re-encoded Remnant strategy tests the physical importation of a predeter-mined public program into the remnants of an abandoned house. Thus, selected remnants are to be spared in the demolition process and subsequently integrated as visible features in a new building. This prototype was implemented as an addi-tion to a soup kitchen. The intense presence of the past triggered a broader discus-sion among the users, the volunteers and the community in general.
3) Theatre installation: spring 2016
This prototype is implemented as an event based transformation of an abandoned confectionary into a theatre installation, focusing on the entire period of the pro-cess, thus from the time of loss of function to the completion of the demolition. The strategy is executed in cooperation with an experimental theatre, local residents and the municipality. In contrast to the two previous strategies the Theatre installa-tion does not leave physical remains, as the intention is to create an immaterial impact.
In short, previous studies on effects of depopulation of the rural areas mainly fo-cused on creating economic development in rural areas, this study identified and activated embedded values in abandoned houses. Transformation prototypes were tested as present manifestations in rural villages as an alternative way to pre-serve and activate buildings as well as memories.
Antal sider4
StatusUdgivet - 2016
BegivenhedalterRurality3: Fieldwork Letterfrack -
Varighed: 6 jun. 20169 jun. 2016



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