The Aarhus Port area [Aarhus Havn] is currently undergoing the most comprehensive restructuring phase in the history of the city. As previous European Capitals of Culture (e.g. Liverpool 2008 and Marseilles 2013), the docks and waterfront are regarded as key elements in the urban re-orientation.
The CHL project takes up this challenge by investigating the Port of Aarhus as heritage-in-progress. It seeks to (1) explore the ways in which the port area can be reconceptualised as industrial heritage in relation to the Aarhus 2017 agenda, including analyzing barriers and boundaries in conventional heritage practice and thinking; and (2) to develop a range of site-specific public activities in 2017 that represent a rethinking of existing heritage and sustainability paradigms.
'Heritage', in this context, is taken to signify both the academic preoccupation with those elements of the built environment prioritized for 'safeguarding' or protection, and the innovative utilization of the huge dock areas and their layers of history and identity in the present. The Port of Aarhus can be seen as a major, and partly neglected, storehouse of industrial heritage. While on the one hand comprising an eminently physical, literally concrete space of modernity, and on the other it is arguably full of immaterial traces, cultural traits, and human memories that have gone largely uncharted. Not all of this is necessarily 'heritage', but the CHL project seeks to explore exactly the very processes that serve to label certain historical elements or traces as heritage while leaving others out.
As for the port area, much of the physical space is shrouded in inaccessibility, even mystery, to those thousands of citizens not directly involved in its operation or everyday life. Hence, in CHL we seek to open up (parts of) the docklands, not just as a valuable built environment but also in terms of local involvement and discussion of the extent, meaning and value of 'heritage' and 'preservation' in itself.
International discussion partners
Ellen Braae, University of Copenhagen