Call for abstracts

  1. Topic

One of the major issues of sustainable development of the built environment is the adaptive reuse of heritage. Adaptive reuse can be described as « the process of wholeheartedly altering a building by which the function is the most obvious change, but other alterations may be made to the building itself such as the circulation route, the orientation, the relationship between spaces ; additions may be built and other areas may be demolished »[1]. In contest, beside retaining the material values of buildings or sites, an important aspect of reuse is the preservation of immaterial significance. This is particularly important in the case of symbolic buildings or sites where the spirit of the place is important, such as those with social, political, commemorative or religious meaning, or those with a negative or ‘infected’ history.

The workshop addresses some difficult questions : how to combine the reanimation of such a building or site with the transmission of its material and immaterial values? What are the limits and opportunities in the adaptive reuse of this type of ‘sensitive’ heritage? How is the genius loci – the spirit of place to be preserved?

The Workshop will address these issues in the adaptive reuse of historic buildings that embody special meanings:

  1. Social meaning: Europe is experiencing fundamental socio-economic changes – a shift from an industrial society (product oriented) towards a knowledge-based society (service oriented). This has an important impact on built environments and landscapes. What is the future for the relicts of this industrial past that are strongly imbued with social meaning and collective memory, but that sometimes have limited architectural value?
  2. Religious/sacred meaning: Religious buildings form a rich part of our European cultural heritage with not only important historical and architectural value, but also an important symbolic value. Over recent decades, however, in different European countries this particular type of heritage has faced major challenges: in some countries, a strong decrease in religious practice combined with a general economic decline causes the abandonment of many churches, chapels, convents and monasteries. Together with presbyteries and other types of service buildings, they tend to be privatised. What future do these buildings have? How far can we go in reanimating these sites? Do the new functions need to incorporate the ‘sacral atmosphere’ of the building? Or can we approach these buildings as ‘empty shells’ and convert them into a concert hall, library, hotel or supermarket?
  3. Commemorative/political meaning: Whether intentionally or unintentionally, some buildings or sites carry a particular political message, or memory of a historic event – sometimes tragic, sometimes positive. Is it appropriate to reuse such buildings or sites? How far can we go to be able to exploit them, and make the memory more accessible for the public (musealization versus disneyfication)? Can we afford to simply conserve them? How to prevent them from being ideologically misused?

Participants are invited to submit abstracts addressing one or several of these aspects, related to case studies of conservation and/or adaptive reuse of architectural heritage that embodies special meaning.

  1. Workshop Concept

The workshop will address these themes with lectures and visits to stimulate discussion of the topic. The organising team from Hasselt University and University of Liège will present local case studies and reference projects. The case studies include:

  • Industrial sites in Genk: since the early twentieth century the city of Genk has rapidly become industrialized, mainly through the mining industry. After the closing of the mines in the 1980’s the city was confronted with large unemployment, but also with the question how to deal with the build relicts of the mining industry, and with its surrounding landscape that was also strongly shaped by this industry. New industries were attracted to Genk in order to create jobs and give a new dynamic to the city and the last decade, several former mining sites were rehabilitated into commercial, social, cultural and educational programmes, e.g. C-Mine. The recent closing of the Ford automobile factory, the largest employer in the region, however, has created a new crisis for the city. Again the question arises how to deal with the desolated industrial site, which has limited architectural value but nevertheless is an important site for the collective memory of this city.
  • The Sainte-Croix Collegiate Church (Liège): built during the thirteenth and fourteenth century, this gothic church is listed as “exceptional heritage” in the Walloon region for its historical and architectural values. During the 1970’s, the demolition of the most important part of the houses of the parish to allow the creation of a speedway connecting the city centre with the highway has led to its gradual desertion. As a consequence, only emergency repair works were carried on. Since recently the church is closed to the public, and its very precarious situation has led the World Monument Fund to list it on the 2013-2015 “Watch” list of endangered monuments.
  • Interallied monument(Liège) : composed of a memorial tower and a former pilgrimage church, the complex was built between 1923 and 1968 in a geometrical Art Deco style by the architect Jos Smolderen. Although the monument’s crypt and esplanade still regularly host new sculpted monuments offered by former allied countries as well as commemorative ceremonies, the church, in a very heavy state of deterioration, has been abandoned by the parishioners and many private functions have already been considered, without leading to any satisfying solution. Besides its obvious symbolic and artistic values, the site, built on a hill overlooking the city station, is also a key-element of the city landscape.
  • Military fort of Loncin: Built in 1888 as a component of Liège’s fortified belt, the fort has the particularity of being not only a piece of fortified heritage, but a important necropolis: bombed in August 1914, the ruins of its powder keg still shelter the corpses of the 350 soldiers who were killed by the explosion. Besides its commemorative value, the combination of the natural environment and the partially wrecked concrete structures confers to the site a very powerful landscape value.

During the workshop participants will work in groups, discussing the theme of ‘adaptive reuse of heritage with symbolic values’. The groups will be formed based on the three themes outlined above, and may evolve during the workshop. At the end of the workshop, each group will present its statements during the closing seminar.

Following the workshop, participants will be asked to contribute to the proceedings by writing a paper. The paper should develop the substance of the abstract submitted, using case studies proposed by the participants. Participants may also develop their reflections on the sites visited during the workshop.

It is envisaged that the workshop proceedings will be published in two sections: a Discussion section and a Research section. Participants can indicate whether they wish to submit their paper for the ‘Discussion section’ or for the ‘Research section’ of the proceedings. Discussion papers are between 1500 and 3000 words and present a general reflection on one or several issues addressed during the workshop in relation to at least one of the Belgian case studies, or in relation to their experience (practice, research, education) in their home country. Research papers are between 2500 and 3500 words and require the highest standards of scientific writing; these papers have to present original ideas in relation to one or several of the issues addressed during the workshop, based on the Belgian case studies and/or other examples abroad. Specific guidelines for the papers will be posted on the website.

All papers will be reviewed by the Scientific Council. The Council may wish to allocate received papers between the two sections. The selected papers will be published in 2017. All participants will receive the proceedings, as will all EAAE Member Schools.

  1. Call for abstracts

You are invited to prepare an abstract (400 words) addressing the topic of adaptive reuse of buildings with symbolic value, through case studies or theoretical reflections. The abstract should explain your possible contribution to the workshop. Participation in the workshop will be on the basis of the Abstracts submitted. All abstracts should be written in English or French.

Abstracts should be sent by 15 June 2015

e-mail: conservation15@uhasselt.be

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