“Transformation of abandonment, a new critical practice?”
Abstract. While the major cities in Denmark are experiencing growth in population and economy, the surrounding rural areas face abandoned villages and increasing decay.
This research focuses on the abandoned houses, seeking an alternative to today’s EU and state funded demolition programmes. These programmes are often carried out en masse without anyone questioning the consequences of loss of material and immaterial values such as cultural heritage, building density and local narratives. By way of contrast, this research seeks to establish a new critical practice based on a series of full-scale transformations of abandoned buildings . These transformations, hereinafter referred to as actions, are the core of the research. The actions are implemented as physical interventions, each of which involves an abandoned building. The interventions are of such a radical manner it will not be possible to re-establish the former function of the building.
The aim of the actions is to develop and test full-scale transformation prototypes in varying rural village environments. Interaction with local people and their response to the prototypes can be seen as real life peer reviewing and is considered an important impact indicator and supplement to the physical interventions. The prototypes vary in achievement and in timeframe.
The geographical area for the actions is Thisted Municipality, Denmark, ideal due to its many identified small communities in varied stages of depopulation. In addition Thisted Municipality are facilitating the transformation workshops and will continuously supply the project with abandoned houses.
Nine abandoned buildings have already been transformed. We will focus on the latest generation of the actions, named generation D. Action generation D, executed in March 2014, investigated the transformation of three single-family houses into controlled ruins in different village environments. The transformation of these buildings was performed in order to produce examples of prototypes of a long-term transformation strategy. A strategy in which the controlled ruin will play the role of catalyst of the disclosing of hidden narratives and through decay in the end turn
into nature. The demolition process is simply slowed down. Similarly to the mechanisms in a mourning process it takes time to reveal or preserve narratives of what is lost.
Future actions are being developed. Action generation E tests a partial transformation, which is based on implementation of a new public programme in a part of an abandoned city house. Action generation F is an event based short-term transformation of three houses as a theatre installation, focusing on the entire period of the process, thus from the time of loss of function to the completion of the demolition.
Contrary to common practice, the present research began with full-scale transformations of abandoned buildings and engaging with local inhabitants as a feedback mechanism. Later on it extended into the strategic planning level by engaging politicians.
While previous studies mainly focused on creating economic development in rural areas, this research is rather focussing on identifying and activating values of embedded material and immaterial remains of abandoned houses. Hereby implementing, and testing, remnants as present manifestations in rural villages as an alternative way to preserve buildings as well as narratives.