(1) Heritage of Loss

 

Industrial heritage – understanding loss and digging into future!

Industrie Luftschloss

Industrial sites shape landscapes into settlements and communities. Where there used to be nature, agriculture or wasteland you find buildings, plants, architecture, machinery, products, transport, housing – all of which develops like an island sputtered up from the ocean of man’s industrial and commercial instincts. An island that is projected into the future and based on change. If you visit abandoned plants and look at the material remains of former industries, you’ll often sense the massive loss which their decomposition means.

Industrie Kunstschlaf

On the vast site of former AEG Schöneweide in Berlin-Treptow, where on rural grounds the industrial empire of AEG rose and collapsed in the course of little more than a century, you may find a sleeping giant. He was left behind in the industrial detritus. In his sleep he looks decrepit and promising at the same time, being sheltered under a neatly painted inscription from our days. The lines “Gib der Kunst Raum, dann wird sich die Schönheit ihrer Seele frei entfalten” (1) sounds like the beginning of an elegy addressed to ancient Greek ruins. The words deny the reality of industrial collapse and instead speak of art, beauty and unfolding of souls. As if the strong sense of abandonment, which is still omnipresent here, has miraculously given way to a new space for people to get started again, differently.

(1) “Lend space to art so that it may unfold the beauty of its soul in freedom”

Industriegebiet Kaisersteg

The ruins of social change are unlikely to raise romantic outbursts as those from ancient days do, particularly not so in affluent modern societies. Maybe the reason lies in the anonymity of the relics. We don’t see the people who once worked the plant but disintegrating industrial material. Moreover, these industrial leftovers are a shameful reminder of social defeat. Adaptive re-use didn’t work out, abandonment became inevitable and now decay has taken over. But however “marooned in time, we should understand that ruins have a value” (2) so that they can remind future generations of a “common wealth” which brought about products, skills and knowledge just as well as work identification and social progress.
Kaisers Neue Kleider
So, there are riches in the detritus which the former industrial community has left behind. If the ruins stay, future generations will have the opportunity of digging for them. Obviously, there are enough people who know that they don’t need the deception of the emperor’s new clothes and who get started with genuinely new projects. Walking about on the former industrial sites of Schöneweide you get a feeling that although the past is not yet over some digging into the future has already begun.
Industrie Kunsthallen

 

Former industrial communities – “(…) these are the nameless people. Our job is to pierce their anonymity so that future generations may understand their extraordinary achievements.The future of these working places is in our hands; to preserve for posterity, to recycle for tomorrow,
or to leave alone so that future generations can make choices for themselves based on our prudence and their values and judgments. We have a choice over whether it is treasure or trash.” (3)
Neil Cossons, Industrial Heritage: Treasure or Trash, Abstract for TICCIH (2), (3)
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