Industrial space and collective memory
Department of Social Policy - Urban Studies Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki HELSINKI, FINLAND
After most of the industrial built environment in Europe has been made obsolete, speculation in real estate destroyed large part of it. This has called for an increased discoursive activity for conservation of industrial architecture, justified by references to historic awareness and collective memory. Paradoxically, this has often lead to emergence of heritage "enclaves", where history is treated as a set of vague signs of past, in the similar way that new speculative developments present a set of vague signs of future. Any traces of change are removed in order to expose selected "significant" historical moment.
In contrast, I want to focus on a different concept of collective memory, based on the notion of historicity. Here, memory is not based on an illusion of static and eternal time, but arises from the awareness of temporal change. Remembrance is derived from the consciousness of historical crisis or failure written in the obsolete architectures and spaces.
In theorizing this distinction, I will rely on Freud's Mourning and Melancholia and refer to theorizing of collective memory by Huysens and Nora and its application on architecture in the writings of Benjamin and Koolhaas.
The difference between two concepts of collective memory leads to the difference how do we understand and produce monuments. I am interested in a notion of a monument that does not relate to collective memory by offering a definitive version of the history, but by preserving the sense of historicity that emerges from the contrast between functionality and obsolescence of industrial urban space.
While the industrial environment stands today between total effacement and mythical narrative of heroic past, there are attempts for such practices of collective remembrance that relate to the very obsolescence of industrial space as its defining category.
As an empirical evidence, I will refer to discoursive strategy of the Pro Kaapeli movement during the transformation of the Cable Factory (Helsinki, Finland) between 1989 and 1992, which developed a specific idea of industrial monument as an "empty space". I will also refer to artistic works exploring the relation of collective memory to the historicity of architecture and urban space.