Transformation on Abandonment: a new critical practice?

Publications: Book / Anthology / Thesis / ReportPh.D. thesis


At the moment the Danish rural population are abandoning their home villages and moving into the cities. Thus, the economic and social inequality between the urban and rural populations is increasing. The implications for rural villages are conspicuous and exemplified by a rapidly increasing number of decaying abandoned buildings. Thus, the physical appearance, as well as the identity of the Danish rural villages, will undergo fundamental changes in the coming years. Abandoned buildings in the Danish rural villages are the crux of this doctoral research.

Today, the Danish government attempts to address the problematic presence of ruins in the rural village-scape, through large-scale state funded demolition projects. Despite good intentions, these demolition efforts emphasize the fast eradication of cultural values under the guise of state-authorized clean-up projects. The question remains whether something is irrevocably lost when buildings are demolished overnight and replaced with grass lawns. Nevertheless, there is an urgent need to enable public discourse with a more nuanced view on abandoned rural houses, alongside bunkers and spent industrial plants.

This research peroject investigates the potential threat to material and intrinsic immaterial values embedded in the abandoned buildings, as well as how the threat to these values influences the local identity and damages community cohesion. The aim is to develop and test different strategies to identify, preserve or activate values such as aspects of cultural heritage; density and structure of the rural village; and narratives of place.

This research has been conducted as a counter-practice to the state funded demolitions. It seeks to reveal and activate the endangered intrinsic values through implementing a series of transformations of abandoned buildings prototyped at full scale in various rural village settings. Each of the transformations serves two purposes. First, they represent implemented prototypes of different strategies on the impending and inevitable future transformation of the rural village-scape. Second, the transformations act as catalysts in an attempt to sway the residents’ attitude towards a more nuanced view on ruins, thus influencing the public discourse on rural transformation. The residents’ responses are considered a significant impact indicator, supplementary to the physical transformations themselves. As such, the responses of the local people are valuable markers in navigating and maneuvering the practice towards refined future generations of prototypes as well as adjusting the already existing ones.

The counter-practice of radical preservation evidenced that physical transformations of abandoned buildings could act as a catalyst in the process of provoking an exchange of memories of buildings and places among the residents in rural villages.
Today’s state authorized funds for demolition projects, if redirected, could easily contribute to the on-going rural transformation through integration into radical preservation strategies. Instead of posing a threat to the local identity of rural villages, their density and cultural heritage, as instruments of rapid eradication of history, they could be utilized to contribute to community cohesion.
An anxiety towards ruins permeates the Danish debate on rural transformation, however the counter-practice indicates that this anxiety may not be legitimate. Time, when stretched in a ruination process or prolonged demolition, acts similarly to a mourning process, thus creating an exchange of memories of what is lost.
Translated title of the contributionTransformation af det forladte: en ny kritisk praksis?
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAarhus
PublisherArkitektskolen Aarhus
Number of pages463
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2017


  • transformation
  • rural areas
  • collective memory
  • preservation
  • abandonment
  • ruin
  • Research by Design
  • practice based research

Artistic research

  • No

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