Jasmijn Vervloet & Inge Molenaar – To the cradle of industrial heritage

Industrial heritage is everywhere. Old warehouses are transformed into restaurants, an old power station functions as a meeting place for city dwellers, and an old garage is now a microbrewery. The Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam and Strijp-S in Eindhoven are just some of the Dutch examples of industrial transformations. Developers’ dream of places that are blessed with a  ‘ raw’ and ‘ edgy’ Industrial character. Small businesses owners prefer these places rather than the standard office building and even individuals are looking for a home with a unique, authentic atmosphere. Industrial heritage is hip, hot and happening!

We went to the birthplace of Industrial Heritage: The Ruhr area. After the slow decrease of heavy industries in the region, the landscape of the Ruhr area changed radically. Abandoned mining installations, vacant factory buildings and Halden – hills made out of industrial debris- still dominated the area.  The sounds of the Industry that once determined the rhythm of life, faded away.

This fieldtrip was organised as part of the MA Heritage Studies course Transformations: meeting Designers and we were joined by a group of interdisciplinary students from the honours program of Leiden University. Under the watchful eye of dr. Linde Egberts and prof. dr. Hans Renes we took of to the Alsumer Berg near Duisburg. After a short but intense walk up the pile of mining waste, we had a perfect view on the surrounding landscape. The landscape of the Ruhr Area has a unique character. The surface of the area is around 4500 km2 and has around 5 million inhabitants. Yet there are no big cities. There is a lot of greenery dividing the closed network of small cities, railways, canals and roads, creating a unique rural-urban character mixed with remembrances of the Industrial past.

From there we left for a small, yet enjoyable walk through the former industrial village of Margarethenhöhe, the first example of a Garden city in Germany. After a refreshing cup of coffee, we arrived at Zeche Zollverein. This UNESCO World Heritage site is the first and the most well-known industrial heritage site in the world. This Bauhaus style 1920’s mining complex was closed down in the late 1980’s and has since then been transformed into a multicultural event site, while also being placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2001. Different groups of students went on their way to explore the area and to discuss how the area was transformed. We proceeded with some small presentation of various topics that brought up critical and analytical questions such as: Whose heritage is it? Is the new purpose of the area socially and economically sustainable? And of course, a heritage experts favourite question: Was the authenticity of this place kept intact?

This inspiring excursion evoked more questions than it answered. We definitely need to go back, learn more about the area and keep discussing industrial transformation projects. One thing is certain; the transformations in the Ruhr area have been an inspiration for the transformation of desolated industrial sites worldwide and made industrial heritage part of the heritage debate and our daily surroundings.

Example of a house in Margaretenhöhen.

The redeveloped complex of Zollverein in Essen.

Here is a view from the Alsumer Berg near Duisburg, show the industrial appearance of the area.

During the last presentation of the day, with a model of the Zollverein complex to give clarification.


Hans Renes – Heritage in times of war

The Temple of Bel at Palmyra before and after IS. Photographs by Joseph Eid, who visited the site in 2014 and 2016 (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images; see The Independent, April 2, 2016)

In recent years the press gave much publicity to the destruction of Palmyra by Islamic State. This shows that the destruction of heritage in wartime is not ‘collateral damage’, but is part of the war itself. The reasons for destruction are usually symbolic and political and one of the aims is to undermine the morale of the enemy population as well as, in this case, to raise a middle finger to Europe and the US.

It is good to realise that this type of behaviour is not something new, as we can read in a recent book by James Noyes, The politics of iconoclasm; religion, violence and the culture of image-breaking in Christianity and Islam (London 2013). The history of ‘iconoclasm’ goes way back and includes, for example, the Iconoclast Fury of the 1560s in Europe (most outspoken in the Low Countries in 1566) and the destruction of religious symbols during the French Revolution. During the First World War, the German army deliberately destroyed the most important medieval library of the Low Countries, at Louvain. The Second World War saw widespread destruction of old city centres on both sides. After English bombers destroyed the medieval town of Lübeck – chosen as a target because of the many wooden houses – the German Luftwaffe stroke back with the so-called Baedeker-raids. Anthony Grayling, in his book Among the dead cities (Bloomsbury 2006: 51) quotes a certain Gustav Braun von Stumm of the German Foreign Office (24 April 1942): “We shall go out and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker Guide”. In the remaining part of the war, the majority of old city centres towns in Germany was bombed. On both sides, the aim of demoralising the victims was not reached, as most populations became more determined to fight until the bitter end. But the loss of heritage is still being felt by present generations.

Again, cultural heritage was destroyed during the wars in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. For me, the scale of destruction of heritage first became clear in a book by the English journalist Robert Bevan, The destruction of memory; architecture at war (London 2006). He showed how the destruction of mosques and churches was part of processes of ‘ethnic cleansing’. The Yugoslav civil wars were part of a programme of building nation-states based on ethnic and religious uniformity, a programme that was developed during the nineteenth century and has destroyed the rich multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies in Central and Eastern-Europe in a succession of wars during the twentieth century. The destruction of religious and symbolic buildings would make the eviction of minorities irreversible. As Adolf Hitler, a well-known expert on these matters, once said: “Who remembers the Armenians?” (in fact, many people do).[1]

Perhaps the most important observation by Noyes is, that iconoclasm is not an inherent part of any religion or political movement, but is typical for specific periods and circumstances. Nowadays, in a world in which heritage is more valued than ever, is an important economical resource and is often connected to national identity, the message given by the destruction of heritage may be stronger than ever.

In the meantime, the destruction of heritage is no longer seen as a part of war damage, but as a crime in itself. In September 2016 the International Criminal Court sentenced an Islamic militant who helped destroy historic shrines in Timbuktu (Mali) to nine years in prison. It was the first time that the court focused solely on cultural destruction as a war crime (The Guardian, September 27, 2016).


A mosque destroyed by Serb military or paramilitary forces on the road between Prizren and Djakove, Kosovo. Photo by Gary Knight (http://www.garyknight.org/evidencepersecution/ [19-3-2017]).


[1] https://www.quora.com/Did-Hitler-really-say-After-all-who-remembers-the-Armenians-when-contemplating-killing-the-Jews [21-3-2017]

Linde Egberts – Heritage in Coastal Landscapes. A research visit to Lea-Artibai


Fishing boats in the historical harbor of Getaria (the birthplace of Cristóbal Balenciaga, for the fashion-minded reader).


They lay-out of historical harbour villages is often very dense, like here in Gipuzkoa.


Coastal landscapes in Europe are historically interconnected. For centuries, shipping was the easiest and safest way to travel and trade with people in other parts of the world. And trade came the exchange of food and exotic products, but also ideas, values, fashions, immigrants and of course diseases. Moreover, from the seventeenth century onwards, the beach became regarded as a place of leisure in the Western world. Starting in Britain and spreading across continental Europe, coastal towns evolved from port- and harbor towns to seaside resorts.


The Hericoast colleagues prepare the next project workshop. Picture by Inge Gotzmann.


So, historically speaking, coastal landscapes have a lot in common. When we look at the heritage in coastal landscapes throughout Europe, it is not surprising that they face similar challenges, despite their differences in climate, morphology, politics and cultures. Questions they share are for example: how do we protect unique fishing and boat building traditions, if industrialization has pushed small fisheries out of the market? And how do you balance the popularity of the beaches among tourists with developing  historical coastal villages in a sustainable way? Or how do you include local guides, hoteliers, slow food cooks and tourism operators in conveying stories about how people in these coastal areas lived in the past? It is for this reason that six coastal regions have joined forces and exchange their expertise on how to manage heritage in these coastal environments in a project called HERICOAST.

Xabier Agote shows us the Albaola wharf, where an historical reconstruction is built of the sixteenth-century whaling ship San Juan. The wharf annually attracts around 50.000 visitors.


We are take part in this project, by advising the partners on the ways in which the can learn from each other most effectively. In order to get to know the regions better, it was time to pay a visit to the partners in the Spanish Basque area: Lea-Artibai. Our colleagues from Norway and the European platform on landscape policy, Civilscape, joined me for three days of meetings, visiting heritage sites and learning from the expertise of our Basque colleagues Bidatz Basterretxea, Iñigo Uriarte,  Leire Arrizabalaga and Nekane Irusta.

Dirk Gotzmann of Civilscape visits the pilgrim chapel of Markina-Xemein.


What struck me most in this visit was how intensively the Basque heritage preservationists are connected to tourism entrepreneurs, especially when it comes to regional cuisine. The Basques are proud of their international fame for blending historic cooking traditions with innovative gastronomy. The involvement of local guides, cooks, cooking experts, fishermen and farmers in the regional promotion of food as heritage is very strong. Moreover, these stakeholders manage to address the relationship of food production to the historical coastal landscape and the typical ways of life of the Basque people. Surprisingly, they don’t seem to regard globalization as a threat to their regional tradition and heritage. Rather, they embrace the small-scale possibilities of re-telling the stories from the past to new audiences. They appear to accept the fact that many precious things are lost in the course of change, but many new chances for telling stories and getting a taste of the region might emerge.


A local fisherman cleans a small shark for dinner.

Hans Renes – Two phases of post-war reconstruction in Rotterdam

Rotterdam has never been a city I really liked. In my scarce visits, I preferred to go directly to the river (I have always been fascinated by shipping). In the town, my interest was mainly in the remains of the pre-war town, although I sometimes did some shopping in the Lijnbaan. However, during the last few decades something was happening in Rotterdam. Or, perhaps I should say, Rotterdam and I both have changed. New developments brought the most impressive skyline of any Dutch town. The spectacular new Market Hall, but also the revival of the old harbour districts – the large-scale architecture of the ‘Kop van Zuid’ and the reuse of the RDM shipyard and the ‘Lloydkwartier’, as well as the museum harbour – made Rotterdam into a tourist attraction, not only for students of modern architecture but also for a much larger public.

On October 21st, 2016, a group of students in Heritage Studies visited Rotterdam. During the preparations, a central theme popped up in the many ways Rotterdam lives with the memory of the destruction of the historic centre by German air raids on May 14th, 1940.

The perfect starting point for the excursion was the Rotterdam Museum that has recently been moved to the Timmerhuis, part of which is the original building from which the post-war rebuilding of Rotterdam was coordinated. An extension of the building, designed by OMA (Rem Koolhaas) was finished a year ago. The director of the museum, prof. Paul van de Laar, guided us around through the temporary exhibition on the rebuilding of the town.

Models and posters showed not the loss of one of the country’s main historic town centres, but the spirit of optimism in the post-war period. This was a town that did not look back but forward, guided by architects and town-planners that used the opportunity to build a new town. In fact the plans were already in development before the bombings and the completely levelled city that is often shown on pictures is as much the result of demolition after the bombings as of the bombings themselves.

The new city became a showpiece of modern town planning and particularly the Lijnbaan, the shopping-mall designed by Van den Broek and Bakema, reached the architecture handbooks. Planners loved the clean, modern and well-structured town, that was so much better equipped for modern times than the crumbling and crowded city centres elsewhere. However, these opinions changed. However, during the 1970s, the interest in heritage grew. Historic city centres were restored and became popular places for shopping, recreation and living. Now it became clear that Rotterdam lacked beautiful old buildings, intimate and small-scale streets and places to recreate.

Therefore, the second phase of post-war reconstruction was characterised not only by post-modern high-rise buildings, but also by ‘cozyfication’. This started in the late 1970s with experiments in small-scale urban planning, such as the forest of ‘cube houses’ situated next to abandoned harbour docks that were now reused for museum ships. The second reconstruction was accompanied by a wave of archaeological research that shed light on the earliest origins of the town of Rotterdam. In some places, such as the spectacular new market hall, these traces have been visualised. During the second reconstruction, Rotterdam rediscovered its own history.

The ‘cube houses’ by architect Piet Blom.

The new market hall, built at the heart of medieval Rotterdam. On the background the medieval St Lawrence church, built on the boards of the river Rotte.

Ankie Petersen – Looking Up and Down The High Line

This past summer I spent a few weeks of my holiday in New York City. With a couple of days all to myself I took the chance to see some of the city’s highlights. My guidebook, a brand new Dutch 100% New York guide, provided me with some good references of where to eat the best taco’s, when to visit museums for free and where to visit some best-kept-secret spots in New York. Following my guidebooks tips I ended up at one of New York’s most recent redevelopments of industrial heritage: the High Line.

The High Line is an elevated, 1,5 mile long park which runs through the Chelsea district. The redevelopment of the High Line started out as a grassroots endeavour aimed at preserving a piece of ‘Old New York’, as the decades-old railway would have otherwise been torn down.

The rail line was originally built in the 1930’s parallel to -and about a block east of- the docks along the western spine of Manhattan Island. A mere 30 years later it was deemed obsolete, due to the trucking industry’s domination over rail freight and the relocation of commercial activities from the Port of New York to nearby New Jersey.[1] For several decades the High Line stood abandoned in West Chelsea as a characteristic piece of industrial engineering.

The transformation of this abandoned line into a public space began as a bottom-up initiative started by neighbourhood residents, but soon the Bloomberg administration discovered the space as a highly visible, symbolic opportunity for historic preservation through adaptive reuse. As the design of the park was being championed by socialites and celebrities, the city rezoned West Chelsea for luxury development in 2005. Gentrification found its way into the burroughs.

My guidebook described the High Line as “a walk on the city’s balcony, providing an unique view of the Chelsea district, a public space above the crowded streets, where nature gets a chance to soften the concrete look of the city.” As I stood between the beautiful vegetation and old rusty railroad tracks approximately 10 meters above ground level I felt my book’s description was spot-on.

My view as a critical heritage student slowly replaced that of a tourist however when I started thinking about the impact of the project on the initiators of the project, many of whom never wanted to add to the gentrification process which was already taking place. Developments in Chelsea’s housing market have changed the makeup of the district significantly. Street venues are changing into tourist-friendly restaurants that cater to the crowds of passers-by and passers-through. The High Line – being such a beautiful piece of urban design and heritage – has the potential to attract groups powerful enough to diminish socioeconomic diversity and reconstruct the neighborhood into a more glamorous version of New York.

But as in any redevelopment case: there are winners, and there are losers; groups that benefit and groups that don’t. Perhaps just as many people see the High Line as a design-driven force for good, a shining example of adaptive re-use and a triumph of democratic initiatives over top-down urban development. They choose to look at the industrial heritage that’s been preserved and see an attraction that contributed to the neighbourhoods safety. Others see a former neighborhood of mostly working-class residents and light-industrial businesses that is rapidly and drastically changing. Where the initiators set out to create a public space shared by the people of New York, paradoxically they created a park for tourists instead. But is it even possible to foresee the exact outcome and control the consequences of these complex and potentially disruptive projects? The High Line redevelopment case illustrates that even bottom-up initiatives for preserving heritage can be so successful that they surpass their original goals, as we find more and more that everything is interconnected. We as heritage professionals-to-be should therefore always remain aware of the big picture when it comes to seemingly straight-forward urban revival projects.

[1] Phillip Lopate, “Above Grade: On the High Line,” Places Journal, November 2011. Accessed 1 Oct 2016. https://placesjournal.org/article/above-grade-on-the-high-line/

See also:

Phillip Lopate, “Above Grade: On the High Line,” Places Journal, November 2011. Accessed 1 Oct 2016. https://placesjournal.org/article/above-grade-on-the-high-line/

Ian Baldwin, “The Past Is Promenade: On the High Line,” Places Journal, September 2009. Accessed 1 Oct 2016. https://placesjournal.org/article/the-past-is-promenade-on-the-high-line/

Moss, Jeremiah, “Disney World on the Hudson” NY Times, August 21 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/22/opinion/in-the-shadows-of-the-high-line.html?_r=0

Chan, Kelly, “Getting to the Bottom of the High Line Controversy: How Good Design Spurred Chelsea’s Gentrification” http://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/821368/getting-to-the-bottom-of-the-high-line-controversy-how-good


On the 29th of September I attended the first UNESCO-debate, held in Leiden at the ‘Museum voor Oudheden’. The event invited two speakers to talk about the consequences of pointing out world heritage in war zones, in response to the ongoing destruction of Mosul by Isis. The first speaker is a Dutch columnist, political scientist and filosopher, Stephan Sanders. The second speaker, Sada Mire, is the only active archaeologist in Somaliland. After both speeches the two speakers engaged in a short debate, led by chairwoman of the national UNESCO committee, Andrée van Es.

In his opening speech Sanders focused on the importance of having world heritage to establish a certain universalism for mankind, the creation of a global uniting history. UNESCO was created with the vision to unite nations by their shared cultural heritage and prevent another world war from happening. Sanders’ point of view on world heritage can be described as large scaled and top-down. The protection on heritage by UNESCO helps to develop a universal history which will contribute to world peace.

Mire in her responding speech agrees with his view that world heritage should receive protection, but supports this statement not large scaled and with a top-down view but with a bottom-up point of view on a small scale. In her opinion heritage is a big part of regional identity and, even smaller, individual identity. She said that protection by locals rather than by UNESCO would work better, because it is part of their history and that is why they are strongly connected to it. She also expresses that the destruction of heritage has always been a problem.

The closing debate was supposed to be about the question if world heritage is either a treasure or a target, but in fact they only briefly attended that problem in the last five minute. Both of them said that it is a target as well as a treasure. They both felt that world heritage should be shared with the world, but that we should be more aware of the political consequences of the UNESCO world heritage list.

Then someone from the audience asked if they thought that the UNESCO list turns the heritage on it into superstars, or that the heritage already had superstar status and therefore is added to the list. Sadly, they didn’t answer the question at all. In my opinion, it differs for every heritage site. In some cases, like ‘Schokland’, it may have had superstar status viewed by experts, but was not known to the big public. The UNESCO label draws attention to the site, through which it gains superstar status. Other cases, like the Pyramids or Machu Picchu, are obviously extraordinary and through their qualities they cannot be absent on the list. So by pointing heritage sites out as stars, it wouldn’t necessarily make a difference, because they could have been stars already through the eyes of, for example, local communities. Therefore I think that every heritage site is a treasure, but adding it to the world heritage list of UNESCO does not always turn it into a target.

Maybe heritage can play another role, one of building bridges. By realizing what men was capable of in the past, it could help us see what we could be capable of in the future if we set aside our differences. I would like to conclude this reflection with the words of Mire, which contain a challenge and opportunity for heritage: ‘if we can accept difference and diversity in our own past, we can accept difference and diversity in our present’ (Sada Mire, personal communication, 29-09-2016).

Linde Egberts – Heritage in the Dutch Wadden Area: The Future of an Extraordinary Past

The Wadden Area is protected as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO , mainly because of its outstanding natural values. Its unique cultural landscape is often overlooked in the way the area is managed and planned. Yet, making a division between natural and cultural values is not so productive when thinking about historical landscapes.

This is a short summary of the paper I presented at the Landscape Archaeology Conference 2016 ( LAC2016) in Uppsala, Sweden, this August. Contributing to conferences is one of the ways in which I share my new insights and gain feedback and reflection on my own research. This is part of my work as a lecturer and researcher at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Apart from teaching courses in the master Heritage Studies, I investigate the role of heritage in coastal landscapes in Europe in the context of the HERICOAST project, in which I represent the research institute CLUE+ of this university. The combination of research and teaching is inspiring, as doing research challenges me to stay dig deep and contribute to the development of the discipline. At the same time, teaching offers me the chance to share my knowledge with others and reflect on my own interpretations and viewpoints through the questions I get back from students.

The presentation at the LAC2016 conference was an interesting challenge. I learned what questions colleagues ask themselves when working with coastal landscapes. And the response they gave me on my presentation is invaluable, as I will use that to rethink my argument and write it down in a publication for an academic journal, for example International Journal of Heritage Studies, Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development or Journal of European Landscapes.

One of the joys of going on a conference is that I get to see new heritage sites. Our Swedish colleagues organised a wonderful excursion to Gamla Uppsala, where we climbed three (or maybe there were four!) giant burial mounds from the Early Middle Ages at sunset. And although archaeologists talk about their excavations a lot, there was a lot in there for me as well. Have a look at this runestone: a stone carving from the Viking age. It is found in the wall of the cathedral of Gamla Uppsala, from the 11th century. This is a beautiful example of how the builders of the cathedral did heritage: they reused a stone carving from the earliest Christians in the area in their new place of worship. And they did not do this by accident, or just because the stone is conveniently shaped and large. No. The church builders wanted to send out a message: this church builds forth on the legacy of our ancestors, the earliest Christians in the area. The cathedral became the centre of religious power in the region for many centuries to come.

Presenting my paper at LAC2016 in Uppsala.

Burial mounds at Gamla Uppsala.

Runestone in the former cathedral of Gamla Uppsala.

By the way, the runestone was set up by a Viking man called Sigviðr, who was also known as the “traveler” to England. But “travelling” meant something different than a touristy trip; Sigviðr the Viking probably did not pay for the souvenirs he took… but that’s a different story.
Presenting my paper at LAC2016 in Uppsala.
Burial mounds

Karim van Knippenberg – Challenging Eternity

The Colosseum, the Vatican, the Trevi fountain. Some of the buildings that immediately pop-up in your mind when you think about the city of Rome. But why are these monuments photographed by most of the tourists whereas other heritage sites rarely attract any visitors? Are these sites indeed more valuable than ´ordinary´ heritage buildings in ordinary Roman neighbourhoods? What is this heritage value? And for whom is it valuable? Questions that are probably rarely posed by the majority of the tourists. As a heritage student however, these questions are crucial since you´re always questioning the role of heritage and trying to deconstruct the dominant stories at a certain location in order to understand what the value of a monument is.

In the master heritage studies, you often discuss certain concepts, ideas and approaches of heritage management. Although these discussions are often lively and educational, it is way more interesting to discuss this at a heritage site in Rome. This is exactly what a group of about twenty students did during the international summer school Challenging Eternity in Rome. For example, at the Via Appia where we discussed whether the preservation of the monuments is justifiable. On the one hand you might say those monuments need to protected and preserved for educational reasons (e.g. science, research) whereas other might argue for a more romantic approach. In this approach monuments are liable for decay while they are used by the public (e.g. recreation). Yet, some might say that decay is a form of bad heritage management. Besides very practical factors play a role in this discussion as well. For example, the struggle against urbanism, the annual amount of money spent on preservation and protection and the accessibility for recreational reasons. In the end though, this discussion was not about choosing one approach. Rather, the aim was to understand why and by whom a certain approach is chosen and what for what socio-political reason? Nevertheless, it was very interesting to see how some students had a very strong opinion about how to preserve those monuments.

Figure 1: students discussing the heritage approach at the Via Appia.

Figure 2: walking the Via Appia.

This discussion about who decides about heritage continued at other interesting locations. We discussed for example the democratisation of heritage management and concluded that the current heritage management approach is too much influenced by certain, dominant socio-political ideas. As
an alternative we discussed other strategies where multiple values and visions about the future of the past are included. How can we include the public in a more democratic decision process without only focusing on short win solutions? And do we really need to overcome selectivity and create a
sustainable heritage management strategy or are we just afraid of losing certain monuments. Eventually, the focus of the discussion shifted towards our own role as future heritage managers. Most likely we are not educated to take decisions about heritage in the future, rather we have to
mediate between various opinions and visions.

One of the most inspiring parts of the summer school was that we got the chance to work at a case study and to use this case to think about our own (future) role as heritage expert. We were invited to redesign the Via dei Fori Imperiali; a major road built by order of the Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. As such, this roads represents a dark page in history. It was up to us to weight various opinions about the heritage value of this road and to come up with a design for the (re-)development of this area. Some students strongly argued to keep the road as it is right now, according to them it is a heritage site and besides it is a showcase for a certain period in history that we should remember as well. Other students wanted to sacrifice parts of the road to create room for an urban green park area. Finally, there were students who wanted to add a new layer to the history and envisioned some
modern architecture. You can imagine that this led to very lively and interesting discussions. In the end we presented three designs for the area and an Roman architect provided some feedback on
our, sometimes extraordinary, ideas.

Figure 4 and 5: Students presenting their plans.

I think that the summer school very much encouraged the students to think about the role and value of heritage. Moreover, the various discussions about heritage as well as the design exercise made us realize that we, as future heritage experts, are gone play a crucial role in how to deal with heritage
sites. Hopefully, I inspired you to do same when you will visit the Collosseum in Rome, or any other heritage site. Be critical, deconstruct the dominant stories that are being told to you and develop your own opinion about the role of heritage and how to deal with heritage.