Monuments to the Future

Flipped

Stonehenge, imagine being there, about 5000 years ago, when people first started building the earthwork enclosure.  If you could linger, perhaps five hundred years later, you may have witnessed the first stone circle being erected.  If you were able to revisit in another two hundred years time, you could have helped remodel the monument and created the unique arrangement of hanging stones which are celebrated to this day.

Earth Avenue

Yet, it is easy to focus on the construction, physical representations of a will to transform, and overlook the long moments of reality when monuments were actively used. Monumental statements (fetishistic moments of monumentality) sit comfortably with contemporary concerns for master plans and iconic buildings : architect-planner-deity.    Perhaps monuments such as Stonehenge, dangerously legitimise the short term political gestures (remember the difficult birth of the Millennium Dome !), grand projects of great people, and as such belittle the everyday, annual or generational uses of places we value?

Mounds

So it is with interest  I have watched over the past few years the emergence of a new complex of stones at Crawick : which if witnessed by the monument obsessed archaeologist of the future could readily, mirroring contemporary archaeo-parlance, be described as a ‘monumental landscape’ but in the absence of overt function be easily classed as a ‘ceremonial landscape’ or ‘ritual landscape’.  Yet Crawick is of its time, as post-industrial imagineering, an overt expression of regeneration, a cosmological dream beyond the short half-life of industrial decay.

Industrial Shadow

A solution to the problem of the blasted legacies of open cast coal extraction.

Terraformed

Emergent

New Mound

Imagine

So again, like Stonehenge, we are encouraged to focus on the monumentality of the project, the grand vision of the architect god.  Yet it may represent a moment in time which is worth studying, as a contemporary archaeology, as an unfolding of possible futures.  Crawick landforming (phase 1) completed 2015, how will decades and centuries of humanity respond to this new space ?

Wandering

Our opportunity is to engage in the moments between monumentality : phase 1 completed 2015 and Crawick landforming (phase 2) due to be commenced in 2215 !  What potentials lie in new birthed spaces, what opportunities to explore and express in the longer flow of time ?

So perhaps at generational monuments like Stonehenge, what sang through the ages, was the joy of the use of the space, dance and music, life and death transforming to place.

Perhaps such monumental places should be other worldly, liminal zones.  Places where we can encounter a pantheon of archetypes, explore the boundaries of humanity and through activities (perhaps challenging our definitions of art, culture and heritage) find pathways to revitalise earth from disturbed ground.

Contemplation

Sound Around

Flight

Ascent Sky Epiphany

Contact

In the line

I found my ... on Silbury Hill

Undetected

Direct

Form

Poised

Motion

Extend

Transitions

Journeys

Gift

Believe

 

Extended

Place is made, not by those who assert their will upon space,

Released

but by the people who dwell there.

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Following an encounter with another Land Formation by Charles Jencks, I learned about the plans for Crawick and visited in May 2014 when ‘land-forming’ works were underway.  A subsequent visit was undertaken in June 2014 when we were kindly allowed in the site to see the work in progress.  The next encounter with Crawick was when it was launched in June 2015.  The opening weekend was alive with the wonderful performance by Alex Rigg and Oceanallover which forms the basis of the peopled images above : and the only time when the monument made sense !

A further visit was undertaken in February 2016 with Kenny Brophy and Public Humanities students from University of Glasgow during which we had a heated debate about the cosmological frame of reference of the monument forms.  A parallel perspective on this contemporary cosmological space was produced by the Urban Prehistorian.

Collectively these visits, revealed the obvious, it is not the monument that matters or who conceived of it or who built it (sorry !), rather it is how it is used and by who and for how long – and that transcends the meaning assigned by the architect.  Thus the stage has been created and the meaning will be writ in the long term by those who perform upon it and dwell with it.

I wonder how the monument might change in use with Crawick landforming (phase 2), provisionally due to be commenced in 2215… … !

 

 

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Heritage Futures of the Past

MSC

This sign has probably been up for more than 25 years…!

The sign reminded me about the ways in which the conservation and regeneration of heritage sites can provide a focus for hopes and aspirations for the future.

The sign is located on the side of Charlestown Limekilns, Fife, which were originally constructed between 1759 and 1790.  When I last visited the site in 2012, this nationally important heritage site was partially overgrown and had obvious significant conservation needs.

Charlestown LimekilnsThe sign is also a reminder of other difficult economic times, which were also very turbulent in social and political terms for many parts of the UK.

The ‘Community Programme‘ was one of a series of government training schemes of the Manpower Services Commission (MSC) which attracted a lot of controversy at the time.  However, through MSC many archaeological excavations and heritage restoration projects were undertaken in the early and mid 1980’s before it stopped in 1987.

TunnelsThe lime kilns imposing industrial forms, were constructed from stone quarried from the sandstone cliffs of the raised beaches of the Firth of Forth, against which they were built.  They now comprise a small network of spaces which made up the bank of kilns.  The functioning of the kilns is explained in interpretative signage, showing the scale of the operation which was as much focused on the upper surfaces of these massive structures.

Heritage InterpretationTwo of the kilns, had clearly been re-purposed, wooden shuttering creating what may have been workshop or storage spaces, probably during the 1980’s Community Programme Project.  I don’t know whether these timber insets were planned as no more than a temporary reuse.  Or perhaps the intention, the heritage future of the past, was to convert all the kilns to a more permanent reuse, which no longer became possible when the MSC funding was cut.

Imagined futures of the past then remaining derelict to this day.

AbandonmentHowever, when we look back on other examples of heritage futures of the past at such difficult times we can see different results.

Then and NowOne example is the industrial cotton mill village founded in 1784 by David Dale and Richard Arkwright and now transformed into the internationally important New Lanark World Heritage site.  When cotton production ceased in 1968 the condition of structures at New Lanark deteriorated to the extent there was need for major restoration by the 1980’s.  This resulted in an ambitious project as part of which there were ‘up to 250 workers per annum on building restoration, funded by Manpower Services Commission Community Programme.’ in the 1980’s.

Newlanark Canmore ImagePresumably if there had not been such an ambitious intervention (and without the sustained passion, enthusiasm and commitment of individuals and organisations who champion heritage sites) New Lanark would have continued to deteriorate and there would have been no World Heritage Site designation.  The associated opportunities for education, tourism and other forms of cultural activity would have been lost.  In an alternative heritage future of the past, we would now have been left with ruinous shells, or perhaps due to safety issues or a desire for quick development of a ‘brown field site’ it would have been torn down and today we would be left with a poor quality flatted development of the 1990’s building boom.

 New LanarkHistoric building regeneration projects can be enormously challenging in technical and financial terms but when completed provide enormous potential to generate hubs of social, economic and cultural activity.  There is a huge resource which provides remarkable opportunities but it takes real vision and determination to deliver such projects.

If we are serious as a society about sustainability, if we want to live in richly textured places, if we want to be part of communities who have a proud sense of identity, we can not keep ignoring the opportunities which historic buildings provide.  Wiping the slate clean, and flinging up a new build, is not always the best option in the long term for society as a whole.  But inaction, (a lack of care and maintenance, no stewardship, no conservation and absence of enhancement of historic buildings), has essentially the same result, just more slowly…

with time

the building is lost to society for ever.

Thus heritage professionals have an important role in reminding people to think in the longer term.  But perhaps we should also be challenging others, such as architects and developers, to propose imaginative new schemes to re-purpose and re-vitalise heritage assets whose value (in social and cultural terms) when actively used only increases with time.

On a positive note the newly launched Inner Forth Landscape Initiative has identified a project for the clearance of vegetation and consolidation of the Charlestown Limekilns, surely a step in the right direction for a new heritage future.

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The black and white image is from the Professor John Hume archive, taken in 1981, and is available from RCAHMS Canmore.  Part of the caption for the image explains:

This view shows the roof of part of the New Buildings being repaired by men employed under the Community Programme of the Manpower Services Agency. The belfry on the left was originally on one of the spinning mills.’

A great example of re-purposing, recycling and renewal.