Post-industrial landscapes: Evolving concepts

Wolfram Höfer, Vera Vicenzotti

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


After two centuries of industrialization, the adaptive reuse of brownfield sites is a major topic for landscape architecture and landscape planning worldwide. Brownfields show great similarities internationally, because industrial production was primarily shaped by economic opportunities and technologies that were not related to local population or the characteristics of a region. By way of a cross cultural comparison between North America (with a focus on the United States) and Europe, this chapter brings to the fore the ways in which the discourses on post-industrial landscapes differ considerably in different cultural contexts. Although the challenges of brownfield sites are similar, the perception and definition of the problems at hand – the ‘facts’ – are culturally determined. We demonstrate this following three lines of argumentation. First, we will argue that even though the sites themselves resemble each other, their perception as landscapes may differ considerably, and consequently the approaches within landscape architecture and planning on how to reuse and develop former industrial sites also differ. Hence this chapter reviews conceptual changes and paradigm shifts in both the North American and the European discourses (taking the German discourse as representative). Second, the heuristic frame of our argument is the thesis that these different interpretations and approaches are a consequence of historically diverse concepts of ‘landscape.’ Finally, we touch on the impact of landscape ideologies on the design and planning of post-industrial sites and sketch the impact of this phenomenon on landscape theory. As one can observe the evolution of a new vernacular character in post-industrial landscapes on both sides of the Atlantic, our text develops the question whether this development leads to a congruence of the different concepts of landscape in North America and Europe. This analysis is motivated by the belief that a critical understanding of the cultural contextallows a certain freedom from traditional and long-established perspectives. It therefore aims at interpreting hermeneutically the cultural meaning of design elements and approaches, and only refers briefiy to other highly relevant aspects for the adaptive reuse of brownfield sites which aredealt with in a growing body of literature from different disciplines: e.g. contamination (e.g. Hollander et al., 2010), social aspects (e.g. Cross, 1992; Kühne, 2007), economic matters (e.g. Jochimsen, 1991), legal issues (e.g. Guglielmi, 2005; Sattler et al., 2001) or questions of historic preservation (e.g. Falconer, 2007). Furthermore, this chapter deals mainly with a specific type of post-industrial site found in urban and peri-urban situations. For a discussion of such sites in rural areas and the cultural interpretation of, for example, derelict strip mines, see Berger (2002); Mindrup and Elberling (1997); Pütz (2002); Schwarzer (2009). An additional fruitful approach is the discussion of old industrial sites as ruins (Edensor, 2005). Considering Europe, we will focus on Germany because it has brownfield site issues which are comparable to those in North America (Guglielmi, 2005; for a more comprehensive analysis of urban regeneration and development of old industrial sites in England, France and Germany, see Couch et al., 2011; Hauser, 2001).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Landscape Studies
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781136220609
ISBN (Print)9780415684606
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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