Post-industrial landscapes

Evolving concepts

Authored by: Wolfram Höfer , Vera Vicenzotti

The Routledge Companion to Landscape Studies

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  February  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415684606
eBook ISBN: 9780203096925
Adobe ISBN: 9781136220609


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After two centuries of industrialization, the adaptive reuse of brownfield sites is a major topic for landscape architecture and landscape planning worldwide. Brownfields show great similarities internationally, because industrial production was primarily shaped by economic opportunities and technologies that were not related to local population or the characteristics of a region. By way of a cross cultural comparison between North America (with a focus on the United States) and Europe, this chapter brings to the fore the ways in which the discourses on post-industrial landscapes differ considerably in different cultural contexts. Although the challenges of brownfield sites are similar, the perception and definition of the problems at hand – the ‘facts’ – are culturally determined. We demonstrate this following three lines of argumentation. First, we will argue that even though the sites themselves resemble each other, their perception as landscapes may differ considerably, and consequently the approaches within landscape architecture and planning on how to reuse and develop former industrial sites also differ. Hence this chapter reviews conceptual changes and paradigm shifts in both the North American and the European discourses (taking the German discourse as representative). Second, the heuristic frame of our argument is the thesis that these different interpretations and approaches are a consequence of historically diverse concepts of ‘landscape.’ Finally, we touch on the impact of landscape ideologies on the design and planning of post-industrial sites and sketch the impact of this phenomenon on landscape theory. As one can observe the evolution of a new vernacular character in post-industrial landscapes on both sides of the Atlantic, our text develops the question whether this development leads to a congruence of the different concepts of landscape in North America and Europe.

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