Industrial Heritage

Industrial heritage has become a compelling and contemporary issue, as though less and less a thing of the past. A browse through this book, which marks the end of the series of international Biennials ‘Vestiges of Industry’, should provide ample proof of this fact.

The very first meeting in the Biennial series, held in the Old Sewage Treatment Plant in Prague-Bubeneč in 2001, was accompanied by a sense of impatience and worry. This mood no doubt stemmed partly from the fact that industrial heritage was still viewed more as a curiosity on the margins of public interest, and it was difficult to tell what kind of response it would garner. By the time of the fourth Biennial in 2007 the view of industrial heritage had changed in the Czech Republic, and it has now come to be seen as a challenge. No longer the exclusive interest of just a handful of enthusiasts, the topic now draws attention from the media and the general public. It is has been accepted by the professional community, which until recently was divided over the issue, by official institutions, which were initially wary of the issue, and even by the commercial development sector.

Yet questions arise for which we cannot make do with just simple answers. Even in this altered atmosphere we still encounter a sense of unease and concern, and the reason is that, as time passes, there is less and less space left for reaching the right solutions and realistic options. Paradoxically, a side effect of the general increase in the level of interest in industrial heritage has been a swell in uninformed and speculative decision-making, so that what has managed to survive so far is now at risk of being devalued. The value criteria that were identified, and which were beginning to gain ground, seem to be gradually slipping through our fingers.

The dilemma that constantly plagues the topic of industrial heritage is where to draw the line and say from this point words need to be put into action. The ‘Vestiges of Industry’ Biennials have therefore always tried to be a kind of notional umbrella, encompassing conceptually wide-ranging and more or less autonomous exhibitions, performances, concerts, and conferences on the possibilities, significance, and difficulties surrounding the adaptive re-use of industrial heritage. Their main objective, alongside encouraging general reflections about fading values, was to bring life back to a particular site that had remained outside the sphere of interest for some time.

This was exactly the case of the unique technical structure in which the first conference was held in 2001 – the Old Sewage Treatment plant. In subsequent Biennials attention turned and events spread, to other industrial structures in Prague, then to abandoned industrial sites in nearby Kladno, and then on to other towns in the Czech Republic, such as Liberec and Ostrava. For a few days on each occasion it was possible to bring together the experiences and often conflicting professional interests and education of architects, civil engineers, conservationists, developers, sociologists, people in the sector of culture, visual and dramatic artists, and musicians. And on each occasion we were consequently able to take the discussion beyond aspects of architectural creativity and heritage conservation to the level of more general reflections, where industrial heritage must be seen as a part of a world that we still reside in, even as we are simultaneously consumed by the aspirations of a society with its industrial age apparently behind it, leaving just the shadows of vanishing industrial enterprises in the aftermath of the decline of industry and the liquidation of entire sectors. Industrial heritage constitutes a lasting cultural experience, a memento, a truly unique aesthetic experience, and an explicit material legacy.

The international conferences were primarily directed at sharing and comparing experiences of similar efforts around the world. Therefore, the selection of papers presented at the conference in 2007 and some of the papers presented at the 2005 conference form the core of this book. For easier orientation it is divided into fi ve chapters. The wide spectrum of perspectives presented herein offers a more or less comprehensive idea of current practices relating to industrial heritage.

The book’s opening and, for an orientation in this topic, highly valuable essay is by Sir Neil Cossons, and in it he elaborates on the thoughts expressed in his keynote speech at the fourth Biennial in 2007. The second chapter contains a summary of outstanding projects in past years, mainly represented by German, British and French experiences, and we can trace the way in which they are interconnected as examples of the important and pursued goals of an integrated Europe. This is followed by a current overview of the arguments for and examples of the adaptive re-use of former industrial buildings and sites as the formative hubs of urbanisation and the sustainable development of urban centres and rural areas. The third chapter contains papers presented by participants from abroad, followed in the fourth chapter by texts on the changing atmosphere and value criteria in the domestic scene, attested to with examples of the buildings and projects discussed.

The International Biennial ‘Vestiges of Industry’ and its many accompanying events, exhibitions, concerts, and performances, signified a stride beyond the usual framework of such meetings. The fifth chapter rounds out the description of this atmosphere, weighing the strength and value of personal experience in encounters with an industrial environment and the potential and limitations of artistic communication as a source of inspiration for action.

Given the length and the large number of conference papers it was impossible to include all the texts in both Czech and English as they were presented (in simultaneous translation) at the conference. The full versions of all the texts in Czech or in Czech translation are accompanied by an English translation of the titles and illustration captions and a reference to the page number where the text is printed in full or abridged form in English at the end of the book. The aim is to provide as complete as possible an idea of the atmosphere of the conferences and the topics they addressed, and to do so within the relatively limited space afforded by a publication.


Benjamin Fragner (ed.), Industrial Heritage, Prague 2008.

344 pages; Czech/English, 245 images, ISBN 978-80-01-04067-6 / authors Lukáš Beran, Louise N. Boucher, Neil Cossons, Eva Dvořáková, Vladimír Dvořák, Wolfgang Ebert, Keith Falconer, Axel Föhl, Benjamin Fragner, Blažena Gehinová, Marie Hesková, Meritxell Puig Jodar, Müjgan Bahtìyar Karatosun, Eva Kráľová, Michael Mende, Jiří Merta, Györgyi Németh, Radka Pittnerová, Petra Rydvalová, Dan Senn, Lars Scharnholz, Radoslava Schmelzová, Paul Smith, Jan Světlík, Tomáš Šenberger, Josef Štulc, Dagmar Šubrtová, Norbert Tempel, Petr Urlich, Vladislava Valchářová, Miloš Vojtěchovský, Tomáš Žižka / contributing editorial work Lukáš Beran, Vladislava Valchářová / proofreading Olga Groszová, Eva Příhodová / translation Robin Cassling, Kateřina Hilská, Jiří Mareš, Yveta Johansen / graphic design Jan Forejt / typesetting and print Studio Element / published by the Research Centre for Industrial Heritage CTU Prague in conjunction with the Technical Monuments Committee of the Czech Chamber of Certified Engineers and Technicians and the Czech Union of Civil Engineer

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Industrial Architecture Gets its Second Wind

A collection of student projects presented in an exhibition organised during the 4th International Biennial “Vestiges of Industry” in September 2007, focusing on the applied new use of industrial heritage as a stimulus and instrument of regional development.

The objective of this exhibition and volume of student projects on the theme of the applied new use of industrial sites is to present alternatives to established planning and development practices. These projects confront the atmosphere and values of the industrial age with the contemporary aims of the architect and the real world of construction. The volume also contains comments from teachers and students, and it should therefore serve as a valuable aid in teaching and in planning work. Students’ opinions tend to reflect the wider picture of the general changes in lifestyle, the environment, and attitudes, and provide a cross-sectional view of the state of contemporary architecture and architectural education at schools of technology, the humanities, and art.

Exhibitions and publications of this kind moreover do much to better inform the public about this topic and consequently also to protect the values and material substance of industrial sites. To this end, after the exhibition of student projects opens in the former grounds of Jeřábek’s Ham Factory in Prague-Holešovice (symbolically, at the centre of the reviving industrial neighbourhood of Holešovice and in the raw industrial environment of the M Factory, revitalised according to designs by Olgoj Chorchoj Studio), it will then travel to other towns, and the published volume of work especially will be available as a source of information.

In the 2006 / 2007 academic year, the Research Centre for Industrial Heritage approached universities specialising in architectural education with a call for students to take part in this thematic exhibition. It is necessary to admire the willingness of the teachers and especially the students who took up this initiative as an opportunity to exhibit their projects outside the confines of the school and perhaps even to contribute to changing the way society regards and values industrial heritage. Many of the students clearly took the authenticity of the atmosphere of industry to heart and made the idea of sustainable development and the conservation of the vestiges of our collective past their own. However, it should also be noted that assignments in which students are asked to develop projects for the applied new use of industrial heritage sites has long been one of the more popular activities at universities. The frequency with which industrial heritage conversion projects are published in the professional architectural press is moreover a sign of the pressing and relevant nature of this topic today. Perhaps that, too, is why the disinclination of some of those approached to participate is surprising.

The projects included in the exhibition and the publication were submitted by students from the Faculty of Civil Engineering and the Faculty of Architecture at ČVUT in Prague, the Academy of Arts, Architecture, and Design in Prague, the Faculty of Art and Architecture TU in Liberec, and the Faculty of Architecture VUT in Brno. The forum for this confrontation of ideas was organised by the Research Centre for Industrial Heritage ČVUT in Prague as part of the 4th International Biennial “Vestiges of Industry” 2007.
Each of the student projects addresses a very specific assignment of converting a selected industrial site or zone, but each project also incorporates conceptual and more general ideas about formulating value criteria and strategies of urban development.

From some of the projects it is apparent that the powerful atmosphere evoked by a deserted site can at times be detrimental, because it influences the creators of such projects to such an extent that they rely more on their feelings and their emotional artistic perception of the topic and a rational analysis of the site’s historical context is somewhat overshadowed. Nevertheless, all the student projects are united by an effort to preserve at least something of the site’s genius loci. The conceptual focus and key to a successful project seems above all to be the right choice of a new function.

An interesting motif that runs through most of the projects is the emphasis on meeting spaces, communication, culture, and pleasant environments and an effort to revive and invigorate a space – perhaps as a reaction to the directed, mechanical, and impersonal planning conducted by the socialist apparatus. But this tendency may also be a result of the post-modern humanisation of the living environment or be influenced by the poetic atmosphere. Or it may simply derive from the fact that avid sociability is a natural part of student life.

Many of the views are based on a concept that in this country unfortunately has thus far only been reflected in academic circles. This is the assumption that the revitalisation of industrial heritage cannot be viewed as just a one-off investment effort and instead must be conceived as a long-term project – divided into stages and incorporating flexible strategies or creating the right conditions for natural, long-term development – and as an environment that will have a higher utility value because it is able to respond better to the changing conditions. This very broad spectrum of approaches to this understandably also reflects the diversity and innovativeness of contemporary architecture, ranging from Utopian, poetic, and graphics-inspired visions, to Neofunctionalist aesthetics, the prevalence of which obviously stems not just from current events but also from the rationalism of the industrial structures the students were working with. The selection of materials also usually has a strong influence on the atmosphere.

The powerful atmosphere of industrial heritage almost eliminated the differences between individual schools and studios – each project was more a reflection of the individual nature of each student, sometimes slightly steered by their teachers (but not necessarily). In this regard it is interesting to compare identical assignments addressed by different studios, showing that a simulation of the real environment is somewhat lacking from the assignments in school. A single assignment is addressed in one case purely in terms of urban development, in other in terms of landscape, in another as an interior, or eventually as an unrealistic Utopian vision. Perhaps this is a mistake – students enter into practice unprepared to confront reality. Or maybe this is a good sign, that they are still able to dream, usher in fresh air, and inspire.


Petr Vorlík (ed.), Industrial Architecture Gets its Second Wind, Prague 2007.

170 pages;  Czech, English summary; ISBN 978-80-01-03805-5 / translation Robin Cassling / graphic design Štěpán Macura  / published by the Research Centre for Industrial Heritage CTU Prague

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Waterwork in the Landscape

The interdisciplinary conference, organised by VCPD, had been held on the board of the ship Malše on her cruise from Poděbrady to Mělník on 21 June 2006 through ten lock chambers. Its proceedings are accompanied by the itinerary for the cruise, along with period writings about hydraulic structures and the landscape, descriptions of relevant people and firms, and various synopses, tables and maps.

The objective of the conference was to try and shed new light on this long-ignored topic. The earliest hydraulic structures to emerge on the Vltava and Elbe rivers date back to the late 19th century, a time when bold technical projects were being developed for the construction of canals, railways, bridges and tunnels. Regulation was intended to ensure the navigability of the rivers, to make use of hydro energy to supply industry and agriculture in the surrounding regions, and to protect the area from flooding. The papers presented at this conference offer a range of different perspectives on this topic: from a chronological overview of how the legal and financial requirements for the river’s navigation were set up, to a look at the founding of the field of hydraulic engineering at the Prague Technical University, along with other related fields that facilitated the rapid development of electrification, to a look at the technological transformation of the equipment used in waterworks (turbines, control mechanisms), which had an impact on the practical aspects of their design and their appearance. From a geologist’s perspective the river is perceived as an awe-inspiring and dynamic part of the landscape. An art historian examines the symbolic sub-text and visionary outlook of the architects involved, against the background of the technical pragmatism behind the objective assessment of the effect (corridor effect) waterworks have on the surrounding landscape.


Lukáš Beran ­– Vladislava Valchářová (edd.), Waterwork in the Landscape, Prague 2006.

170 pages; Czech, English summary; ISBN 80-01-03510-7 / contributing editorial work Jan Čábelka, Libor Doležal, Zuzana Drahotušská, Benjamin Fragner, Václav Jandáček, Linda Mašková, Jakub Potůček, Zlata Šámalová, Tomáš Šenberger, Jaroslav Šnajdr, Silvie Tučková, Jan Vojta, Petr Vorlík, Michal Zlámaný / translation Robin Cassling / graphic design Milota Schusterová / print Astron print s. r. o. / published by the Research Centre for Industrial Heritage CTU Prague

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Vestiges of Industry

Catalogue to the “Vestiges of Industry” exhibition on the Architectural Conversion of Industrial Heritage in the Czech Republic 2000–2005. 

The exhibition presents a selection of conversions of industrial heritage sites to new uses in the Czech Republic during the past five years, most of which have already been completed and are particularly illuminating and informative for the public. The exhibition and the exhibition catalogue present examples of newly completed and planned conversions in the Prague neighbourhoods of Holešovice and Karlín, along with the much discussed Gallery Vaňkovka in Brno and alternative uses of industrial sites in Ostrava. The exhibition highlights the varying approaches that architects and investors have applied to converting dozens of industrial sites, many of which were consequently saved from destruction.

The exhibition curators are Benjamin Fragner and Alena Hanzlová. “Vestiges of Industry – The Architecture of Conversion in the Czech Republic 2000–2005”: 6 September–5 October / Karlín Studios, Křižíkova 638, Prague 8-Karlín.


Benjamin Fragner – Alena Hanzlová, Vestiges of Industry. Architectural Conversion of Industrial Heritage in the Czech Republic, Prague 2005.

185 pages; Czech/English; ISBN 80-239-5440-7 / authors Benjamin Fragner, Šimon Caban, Alberto Di Stefano, David R. Chisholm, Ladislav Lábus, Josef Pleskot, Karel Spáčil, Tomáš Šenberger, Martin A. Tomáš, Jana Tichá / contributing editorial work Lukáš Beran, Vladislava Valchářová / proofreading Eva Příhodová / translation Martin Tharp, Jana Tichá / typesetting and grahic design Magda Fišerová / print Astron Print, s. r. o. / published by the Research Centre for Industrial Heritage CTU Prague

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Vestiges of Industry: Twelve Sites at Risk

The book presents twelve sites at risk and it was prepared by the Research Centre for Industrial Heritage CTU Prague (VCPD) as a part of 2nd biennal Vestiges of Industry.


Vladislava Valchářová (ed.), Vestiges of Industry. Twelve Sites at Risk, Prague 2003.

49 pages; Czech, English Introduction; ISBN 80-260-2159-2 / editorial Benjamin Fragner / translation Robin Cassling / grahnic design Adam B. Bartoš / print Tiskárna GTA / published by the Research Centre for Industrial Heritage CTU Prague

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