Transformation on Abandonment: Toward a Critical Practice in Preservation of Rural Identity

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This paper outlines a research project on the increasing quantity of abandoned houses in the depopulating rural villages, and it reports on how an attempt is made to establish a counter-practice of radical preservation based on a series of full-scale transformations of abandoned buildings. The aim of the transformations is to reveal and preserve material and immaterial values such as aspects of cultural heritage, local narratives, and building density. The responses of local people are used as a feedback mechanism and considered an important impact indicator. Eleven transformations of varying strategies have already been prototyped at full scale in various rural villages. The paper focuses on two of these strategies “the controlled ruin” and “the re-encoded remnant.” Bringing in examples from Sicily, it seeks to contextualize the emerging research practice to three different preservation strategies, which were undertaken contemporaneously after the earthquake in the Belice Valley in 1968. In short, previous studies on consequences of depopulation mainly focused on creating economic development in rural areas; this study seeks to explore, identify, and subsequently activate embedded values in abandoned houses. Transformation prototypes are tested as present manifestations in rural villages as an alternative way to preserve buildings as well as memories.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSpaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventSpaces & Flows: Sixth International Conference on Urban and ExtraUrban Studies - Spaces & Flows Knowledge Community, Chicago, United States
Duration: 15 Oct 201516 Dec 2015
Conference number: 6


ConferenceSpaces & Flows
LocationSpaces & Flows Knowledge Community
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • transformation
  • depopulation
  • ruin
  • collective memory
  • rural districts

Artistic research

  • No

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