Thursday, 5 June 2008

Tourist industry

I have a fascination with old industrial sites given new use. I like the idea that huge buildings, warehouses and factories can be recycled and presented to a different generation, with a different purpose. Rather than being demolished, which might suggest that the industrial age was a shameful period (re: the environment and labour conditions), these structures endure as proud examples of human endeavour that look ahead to the future. Look at the Tate Modern in London, Trafó in Budapest and Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam, for example. These arts and cultural centres inhabit buildings that were once power stations and gas factories, and the duel attraction is obvious: colossal industrial-era architecture and the cream of contemporary creativity combine industrial history and avant-garde. In Germany's Ruhr Valley this type of refurbishment has been taken to the next level. Over a dozen sites along the former "rust belt of Europe" have been gradually rehabilitated as centres for the arts and activity. You can now watch Björk singing from a smokestack or scuba dive in a flooded gas holder if you want. I wrote a story about the Ruhr's reversal of industry for the August/September issue of WizzIt magazine. (

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