Transformation in and of “lost spaces”: Mapping utopian landscapes in urban settings

JProf. Dr. Maida Kosatica, Prof. Dr. Isabelle Buchstaller, Prof. Dr. Evelyn Ziegler (Anglistik/ Germanistik/ Linguistik)

The project aims to explore places in the Ruhr Area that have a burdensome heritage, focusing on the ways in which post-industrial pasts are (re)constructed for the benefit of a “better” present. Our project seeks to look into semiotic interventions and transformational practices implicated in the production of space in the Ruhr Area, including
processes of rehabilitation, revalorisation, musealisation, and commodification. To this aim, we are planning to conduct three small pilot studies of sites where post-industrial transformation processes are brought to the fore. Reinvention processes will be explored on the basis of the following three case studies:

  1. The artistic commodification and revalorisation of mining waste tips (Halden)
  2. The Nature Line as part of the Green Capital bid and active travel/transport mobility around major greenery stops (including the Krupp-Park in Essen and Schlosspark Borbeck)
  3. Musealisation processes at the Gasometer (Oberhausen) and Zeche Zollverein (Essen)

On the basis of these three pilot studies, the collaboration aims to forge a coherent theoretical ground for analysing discourses and meta-discourses about nostalgia, urban/rural revival/revitalisation, memory, erasure, layering, and the rehabilitation of often tenuous pasts. The overall aim of this project is thus to understand the meaning-making of these transformative processes in urban spaces, in particular the most common communicative strategies and semiotic practices in relation to their socio-political and historical contexts. On the basis of this collaboration, we aim to formulate a MERCUR application for a two-year project with colleagues from the Ruhr Universität Bochum (Prof. Dr. Stefan Berger) and GESIS, the social science research center in Cologne.