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Heritagization and Endurance: False Friends? The Case of the ′′Industrial Abbeys′′ in Belgium.
Macaux, Mathilde; Houbart, Claudine
2021ARCHITECTURE AND ENDURANCE – EUROPEAN ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY NETWORK THEMATIC CONFERENCE, 30 SEPTEMBER – 02 OCTOBER 2021
 

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Keywords :
endurance; industrial abbeys; heritage
Abstract :
[en] The rural landscape of Belgium abounds with ancient monasteries not far from which you can still sometimes perceive the silhouette of a smokestack or the shape of a saw-tooth roof. These remains are witnesses of the industrial fate that many rural monastic sites knew from the 19th century onwards. Sold as Biens Nationaux, as a consequence of the French Revolution (1796-1813), they took part in the early industrialization of Wallonia, second industrial power of the world in the 19th century after the United Kingdom. Coveted for their many assets (hydraulic energy, vast and robust buildings, significant land heritage), these secularized monastic estates were particularly conducive to the establishment of industrial complexes whose activities continued, for the most remarkable, until the second half of the 20th century. During the last decades of the 20th century, many of these sites entered the heritage corpus, as former monastic ensembles. The industrial phases were considered as inappropriate interventions, insensitive to the cultural values of the buildings. Thus many valorisation projects included heavy and costly restorations or evocations of the monastic phases at the expense of later transformations. Today, at a time when heritage can less and less claim an exceptional status, escaping the global effort to save material and financial resources, these pragmatic appropriations, which in spite of everything have enabled these sites to survive the centuries, appear to us in a different light. Among these reused sites, the abbey of Saint-Denis-en-Brocqueroie, used as a cotton spinning mill from 1803 to 1957, is an exception. Here, no major restoration programme with a colossal budget, but rather occasional renovation and restoration works, in constant evolution, undertaken with little means by about thirty families who have been working together for forty years to keep the site alive. Rather than denying the complex evolution of the site, with its ups and downs, the approach is part of the gradual construction of a palimpsest. It significantly contributes to the persistence of the site’s genius loci through different cultural and economic contexts. Unlike many other comparable sites, the heritagization of this abbey has not introduced a break, or even a step backwards, in its history. The site has adapted, almost "naturally", to successive reuse phases and is therefore a model of endurance. Through this counter-current example, set in relation to contemporary cases, we aim to highlight the possible contradictions between the consequences of heritagization and the notion of endurance. In today’s society, is it not sometimes preferable to draw inspiration from the pragmatic and spontaneous approaches of the 19th century industrial reuses, rather than risk freezing the sites in artificial states through restoration, breaking with the "natural" capacity of buildings to adapt to the successive contexts and their constraints?
Research center :
AAP - Art, Archéologie et Patrimoine - ULiège
Disciplines :
Art & art history
Architecture
Archaeology
Author, co-author :
Macaux, Mathilde
Houbart, Claudine  ;  Université de Liège - ULiège > Département d'Architecture > Département d'Architecture
Language :
English
Title :
Heritagization and Endurance: False Friends? The Case of the ′′Industrial Abbeys′′ in Belgium.
Publication date :
October 2021
Event name :
ARCHITECTURE AND ENDURANCE – EUROPEAN ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY NETWORK THEMATIC CONFERENCE, 30 SEPTEMBER – 02 OCTOBER 2021
Event organizer :
Department of Architecture of Middle East Technical University
Event place :
Ankara, Turkey
Event date :
30 September-2 October 2021
Audience :
International
Available on ORBi :
since 30 April 2021

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