Learning from las Cuencas. Artefacts of Memory

Curated by

Sara López Arraiza, Nacho Ruiz Allén


Rocío Gracia Ipiña, Patricia Villanueva Illanes (exhibition coordination)


Bis Dixit (graphic design), José Francisco Arias, Oscar Ávila, Basurama, Edu Comelles, Cómo crear historias, Antonio Corral Fernández, Bárbara Fluxá, Fran Meana, Marcos Martínez Merino, Mind Revolution, OSS Office for Strategic Spaces, Recetas Urbanas, Daniel Romero (artists), ACXT, Jose Manuel Álvarez, ECOSISTEMA URBANO, Miguel Ángel García-Pola, LONGO+ROLDÁN, MTM arquitectos, Rogelio Ruiz Fernández y Macario Luis González Astorga, TECTUM Ingeniería, ZIGZAG Arquitectura, ZON-E (architects), Jessica Carranza Muñoz, Teresa Jiménez Cuevas, Marina Kindelán Calvo, Enrique López Rodríguez, Marta Niño Saco, Mónica Ortíz Álvarez, Bárbara Palacios Orozco, Jerónimo Quevedo Cabrera, Hugo Anaximandro Rodríguez Rial, Marta Torres Párraga (ETSAM students)

Collaborating institutions

Grupo de Investigación del Paisaje Cultural. GIPC – UPM Dirección General de Patrimonio. Consejería de Cultura y Deporte. Gobierno del Principado de Asturias Asociación de Comarcas Mineras. ACOM Asociación Arqueología Industrial, Patrimonio Cultural y Natural. INCUNA The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage. TICCIH España. Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Asturias. COAA Sociedad Geológica Asturiana. SOGEAS Real Instituto de Estudios Asturianos. RIDEA, Archivo del Grupo Duro Felguera de Langreo Archivo Histórico de Hunosa, Pozo Fondón, Langreo Archivo Histórico Minero Archivo Histórico Ortiz y Sobrinos Archivo Histórico Asturiana de Zinc S.A., Castrillón Asociación Cultural “Amigos del Valle de La Güeria” Asociación Cultural y Minera Santa Bárbara, Mieres Centro de Interpretación Armando Palacio Valdés EMULSA. Empresa Municipal de Servicios de Medio Ambiente Urbano de Gijón Fondo gráfico y documental del Museo de la Memoria, San Martín del Rey Aurelio FMCE y UP. Fundación Municipal de Cultura, Educación y Universidad Popular de Gijón Instituto Geológico y Minero de España MUMi, Museo de la Minería y de la Industria, El Entrego Museo del Ferrocarril de Asturias, Gijón Muséu del Pueblu d’Asturies, Gijón MUSI, Museo de la Siderurgia de Asturias, Langreo Portal “Memoria Digital de Asturias”.


Sala de Exposiciones SabadellHerrero. Oviedo, Asturias




Prize (2016) - XIII Spanish Architecture Biennial. Research Category. Madrid, Spain
Shortlisted (2015) – DAM Architectural Book Award. Frankfurt, Germany
Shortlisted (2015) – Premios FAD. Thinking and Criticism. Barcelona, Spain
Silver Medal (2015) – Independent Publisher Book Awards. New York, USA
Laureate (2015) – EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards. Oslo, Norway
Selected (2015) – IV Cultural Spanish-German Conference. Architectus Omnibus. Berlin, Germany
Selected (2015) – Fetsac’15, A Coruña School of Architecture Festival. A Coruña, Spain
Runner up (2015) – XXII Asturias Architecture Award. Oviedo, Spain
Mention (2014) – IX Ibero-American Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism. Research Category. Rosario, Argentina


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.