Immaterial Preservation of the Abandoned Society: A Critical Practice

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At present, the western world is experiencing severe demographic changes. The population in the rural areas are leaving their home villages and moving into the cities. In Denmark the major cities experience population and economic growth, whereas the villages in surrounding rural areas face abandonment and decay.
Despite the good intentions, today’s widespread state-funded strategic demolition projects, undertaken in the Danish rural villages, generally emphasize the fast eradication of local identity. Therefore, there is urgent reason to enable the public discourse with a nuanced view on the abandoned rural houses of everyday life and in particular, on their bearing on the community cohesion.
The paper reports on a practice-based research project that has emerged as a counter-practice of radical preservation of the rural built environment in Denmark, as an alternative to strategic demolition. This has involved agelong cooperation with rural municipalities and residents. So far, the counter-practice manifested itself through six generations of fulfilled building transformations prototyped at full scale in various rural villages in Denmark. Interaction with, and engagement of, local residents and were actively utilized. Some of the prototyped transformations included an integrated ruination process and age-long timespan, whereas others were event-based and terminated with full demolition.
All of the undertaken transformations had in common the use of the physical section as method to simultaneously reveal several historic material layers of the involved building to unleash the entirety of the buildings’ private history. The private past becoming public triggered a local discussion on the merits of the building and the people who used to live there.
The aim was to constitute temporary catalysts of a local exchange of personal memories of place. Thus, the buildings were sought preserved as part of the collective memory prior to their absence regardless whether this absence was caused by decay or demolition.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date4 Oct 2019
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2019
EventThe 2nd Annual Design Research Conference: Real/Material/Ethereal - Monash University, Melbourne , Australia
Duration: 3 Oct 20194 Oct 2019


ConferenceThe 2nd Annual Design Research Conference
LocationMonash University
Internet address


  • research by design
  • section as method
  • rurality
  • action research

Artistic research

  • No

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