LEARNING FROM LAS CUENCAS provides a new perspective of mining cultural landscapes. Despite being focused on a local environment, the coal mining area of the Cuencas Mineras Centrales of Asturias, among its interests is to create a universal architectural story.
The mining areas, after undergoing an intense process of industrialisation, have changed considerably over a brief period of time. In just a few decades, 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. This heretical urban configuration is 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 show new windows of opportunity in contemporary architectural thought and to transform the conventional image of the Cuencas, a place which has been systematically overlooked yet which, when analysed from an unprejudiced point of view, represents a unique environment within Europe’s urban structure.