Architecture and Schools: in search of projects

LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industral in Gijón with Valnalón Educa launch a new projects competition to transform spaces and elements in the Asturian mining areas

Published: Sep 10, 2013
Architecture and Schools: in search of projects

Image: L. Arias/LABoral

Por Naiara ValdanoArt Gossips@art_gossips

Some European cities have a great industrial past behind them and their streets are swarming with factories, warehouses and workshops. Many of the businesses and stores that used to occupy these spaces closed down over the years, but the concrete and brick buildings where they were located still remain as a symbol of this industrial and commercial past. Against this background, an important and necessary question arises: what can be done with these constructions that have fallen into disuse?

Some urban areas have succeeded in transforming their industrial zones and restoring forgotten structures and neighbourhoods for new use. As an example, Bilbao comes to mind for all of us whose old trade zone located on the banks of the river was converted into a more habitable area. The incredible metamorphosis of this city can be seen in the following video:

Apart from Bilbao, we should also remember other cases such as London, where an old power plant was reused to house a museum (Tate Modern), turning the area of Southwark into a new focal point for cultural and commercial activity. To find out more about the history of this building, I recommend reading the article: The Rise, Fall and Transformation of Bankside Power Station (1) or seeing this video:

These are just two examples of how areas or spaces which have fallen from grace can be changed, but there are many projects all over the world.  To support (and highlight) this trend, LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial and Valnalón Educa have organised the Arquitectura y Escuelas [Architecture and Schools] contest within the framework of Aprendiendo de las Cuencas [Learning from the Cuencas]. The organisers encourage teachers and students in schools to design utopian projects centred on the re-use of abandoned architectural spaces and elements in the Asturian mining areas.

The objectives of such an activity are clear. Firstly, it aims to enable 14 to 17-year old teenagers to understand and value the history of the mining pits and the transformations they have undergone, while also learning to care for and safeguard architectural and urban heritage. In addition, Lucía Arias, Head of the Department of Education of LABoral, claims that young people will be able to approach it in a way that is a “less formalistic or conventional approach to architecture (in the traditional “History of Architecture” way), and focuses more on the uses and utility of buildings nearby” (2).

To take part in this contest, any interested schools should bear in mind the following  schedule:

  • Initially, LABoral suggests that teachers attend a training seminar on 7 and 8 October. This activity will be preparation for the work with students.
  • In the middle of October this year and the middle of February 2014, the teachers will work with the students in thinking up ideas and developing their proposals. By the middle of this period (9 and 10 December), students will be able to attend a work session with the curators of the exhibition Learning from the Cuencas and Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Asturias (COAA) to learn about concepts and  resolve any doubts.
  • The participating groups should hand in their final proposals on 10 and 11 February next year.
  • The winners will be selected on 17 February and the selected proposals will be presented on 21 February.

I encourage you to take part in this activity!  It is an excellent way of getting young people interested in their own habitat.


(1) This article, written by Stephen Murray, can be found on the following link:

(2) Quoted from the article “Educar en el paisaje asturiano: la mina, el sonido, la arquitectura” [Educating about the Asturian landscape: the mine, sounds and architecture], written by José Luis Calderón on LABlog.

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