The main topic of my MA-paper and my PhD-thesis are changes in the built environment, mostly the urban environments. The issue is closely linked to questions of official and in-official design influences of the publis sphere by means of en-passant-media.
Download of a summary of my MA-paper detailling the case of Manchester Castlefield's invention and re-vitalisation as a city quarter of its own in pdf-format (last revised 1998/1999) in Englishand in German.
The staging of industry in post-industrial urbanity
My PhD-thesis looks into the re-use and treatment of disused industrial sites in urban settings and how they are presented in mass media (focus is on former heavy industries like mineheads, coking plants, steelworks and the like). The thesis looks into positions and tendencies in re-using former industrial sites, their marketing and the staging of those that are considered special. Of course, this connects to the discussion about collective memory, cultural memory, the heritage debate, and suchlike.
Industrial buildings and wastelands like brownfield sites are ubiquitous in the whole of the Ruhr area in Germany. Accordingly, industrial buildings, mostly of the heavy industry kind, appear in mass media regularly. The preference of remains of some industries over others in medial representations constructs a kind of industry-cultural canon of these buildings and sites. Their vacant state teases to use them for other purposes. As they cannot be moved from their sites, the sites are re-designed to fit different tastes, they are framed by artificial and artistic installations and environments.
Industry historical buildings and places get used increasingly for cultural entertainment and events: a staple being stagings of operas, rock concerts, and other carefully planned sparetime activities. The marketing for former industrial regions and the image and identity of these regions cause and stabilise one another. The strategies and the intensity of town marketing do not only result but also cause the fierce competition between cities, municipalities, and regions.
A central aspect of projects of re-vitalisation and re-usage is gentrification, as planning is oriented clearly towards catering for the tastes of social elites. The thesis looks in detail into the former mine and coking plant Zollverein and into the Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord as examples for the treatment of disused industrial structures and buildings that have become landmarks.
For keeping and developing disused industrial sites, these are usually claimed to be elemental for local and regional identity. But in fact, an (over-)abundance of former industrial sites is contrary to this claim - some areas simply are dominated visually by these ensembles, waste tips, brownfield sites, etc. But they ahve ceased to be part of the collectively used spaces. Other aspects of local and regional history are much less obvious in comparison and are hardly dwelled on. Documentation and critical reflection on the industrial history of the region is not emphasised in public, much, and not at all in the context of the city-developmental staging of selected aspects of mining, coking, etc. To conclude: industrial sites that are staged as landmarks are selected from the still existing variety of industrial remains, their design and staging commemorates the industrial age in reductionist idealisation and partly idolises the industrial past.
Download of the pdf-file of the revised thesis in German here
or of the original version at:
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Jakob F. Dittmar: Inszenierte Industrie in der postindustriellen Stadt. Vom Umgang mit stillgelegten Industrieanlagen
Essen: miless 2002, 175 Seiten.