Echoes of Immensity

Research team

Sara López Arraiza, Nacho Ruiz Allén

Collaborating institutions

Ayuntamiento de Mieres


José Francisco Arias, Alejandro Braña, Antonio Corral, Pablo Fernández, Sara López, Estefanía Luces, Luis Montero, Fernando Prieto, Francisco Ruiz, José Luis Soto, Eduardo Urdangaray, Sergio Vega




There are hardly any active coal mines left in Asturias. Despite this, many mining facilities that once populated the region are still scattered throughout its territory. They are the last vestiges of an activity that has radically transformed its social, economic and cultural structures in the last century. Among the buildings that refuse to succumb to the passage of time are the headframes, perhaps the most unique of all the constructions erected as a result of mining.

Their verticality and metallic profile contrast significantly with other industrial elements, heavy, massive and anchored to the ground. Despite the tons of steel and concrete that make up their structure, these constructions can transmit lightness. Especially when their height, usually around 25 meters, is compared with the depth of the shaft excavated beneath them, sometimes more than 500 meters deep. In fact, it could be said that they do not belong to the landscape where they emerge, but rather they are the constructed reflection of another landscape, hidden underground and subject to its own laws and complexities. They are instruments created to modulate the echoes of immensity.

Contrary to what might appear to be, there are headframes of all kinds: stone, wood, steel, concrete, slender, tiny, cyclopean, double, in pairs, isolated, urban, hidden... Behind apparent functional uniformity, there is surprising constructive and typological diversity. Some headframes are protected and have been analysed through studies, seminars and publications for several years. However, no systematic analysis of all the still standing headframes hasn't been made, nor even any attempt to elaborate on their resemblances and divergences.

This project collects and displays the 50 headframes that currently populate the Asturian landscape through the work of different photographers dedicated to the recording of industrial heritage. The purpose is to provide society with a closer look into the most unique and, at the same time, forgotten architectural elements of our territory.