LEARNING FROM LAS CUENCAS. ARTEFACTS OF MEMORY
The research project Learning from las Cuencas oﬀers a new gaze on the cultural landscape of the Cuencas or coal mining areas of central Asturias. To this end, the project aligns itself with some of the key architectural manifestos of recent decades, arising from seminal analyses of places that had once been overlooked. The interpretations made by Reyner Banham, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, Rem Koolhaas and Atelier Bow-Wow about Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York and Tokyo, respectively, are now considered turning points in their subsequent evolution.
As happened with these cities, the Cuencas or mining areas have changed considerably over a brief period of time. After undergoing an intense process of industrialisation, what were once natural valleys with basically rural economic and social structures came to host busy urban agglomerations of unexpected density in their very heart in just a few decades. While it obviously cannot rival the reputation of the above-mentioned examples, this heretical urban conﬁguration is equally the result of the impact of economic interests in a speciﬁc space and in a relatively short lapse of time. Consequently, the co-existence of natural, rural, industrial and urban landscapes came about in a totally uncontrolled and unplanned fashion. The fuzzy limits between the diﬀerent landscapes foreclose the possibility of identifying their areas of inﬂuence. The Cuencas are perceived as a mesh of opposing yet interconnected identities. This has given rise to incredibly heterodox building patterns that contain the conﬂict on which they are erected embedded in their genetic code. These are hybrid architectures, mutating artefacts which, despite the invisibility of their inevitable marginality, can oﬀer really interesting lessons in architecture today.
In analysing them, we endeavour to rehearse new windows of opportunity in contemporary architectural thought and to transform the conventional image of the Cuencas, a place that has been systematically overlooked yet which, when analysed from an unprejudiced point of view, represents a unique environment within Europe’s urban structure.
At the SabadellHerrero exhibition hall, Artefacts of Memory showcases the documentation and cataloguing carried out during the research process. The exhibition content is based on a study of forty of the most outstanding artefacts identiﬁed in this territory. The reﬂection is expanded at LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial in dreamlike speculation based on the contents of the research process divided into three categories: Spectres, Projections and Fantasies.