Big things

We live midway between a number of huge abandoned industrial sites.

Ten kilometres in one direction is Portland with its cement works closed since 1991,

and ten kilometres in another is Lithgow blast furnace, site of the first steel production in Australia, abandoned since 1928.

About thirty kilometres away as the crow flies is Glen Davis with its shale oil refinery abandoned since 1952. And that is just the big sites, there are numerous smaller ones.

Its part of what attracted us here and explains why we have an obsessive interest in similar abandoned sites around the world. What can you do with these things? Depending on how you look at it they are either disasters or they are fantastic assets that open up all sorts of possibilities. And we aren’t the only people facing this dilemma.

Look at the famous Bethlehem Steel Works, in Pennsylvania, left stranded by globalism. These works once produced 23 million tons of steel per annum but now lie rotting.

As its passionate supporters

struggle to produce plans for adaptive reuse,

at least some people treasure it’s sublime industrial-gothick beauty.

But there are some great success stories in the adaptive reuse of big industrial sites. We’ve mentioned Duisburg Nord’s gasholder concert hall before but it is just one small part of an enormous site adaptively reused as a park.

You can even climb its chimneys. We’ll do more on it in the future.

In the UK Wilkinson Eyre Architects won the Stirling Prize in 2001 for Magna, its conversion of a steel mill in Rotherham UK into a science learning centre. They constructed four pavilions inside the 400 metre long main building,

here is the earth pavilion

and this is the air pavilion. The pavilions are packed with interactive science exhibits.

But not everything is perfect. Once again, one of our pet hates, their web site is another of the world’s worst, full of flash animation rubbish, hard to navigate, poor content and basically just a monument to some web designers ego. A real pity.

And apparently the roof leaks and it’s a very difficult place to clean. As in other human activities (like wars), reality always catches up on you.

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  1. […] Although the developed world is full of abandoned mining and industrial sites like the Bethlehem steel works, the problems they pose are nothing compared to the difficulties of numerous sites in the third world. Africa is now facing major pollution issues, for instance, but South America has an even longer history of western exploitation. […]

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