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13.30  Industrial Aftermaths and the Work of Culture in Aarhus, Denmark

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The Port of Aarhus, in Denmark, is currently undergoing the most comprehensive redevelopment in the history of the city. Previous industrial zones and long–neglected areas give way to brand new residential quarters, huge cultural and educational institutions, and ambitious infrastructural attempts at “re–opening” the city toward the sea. At the same time, Aarhus prepares for celebrating its status as European Capital of Culture (ECoC) in 2017. Like previous ECoCs (Liverpool 2008 and Marseilles 2013), the city’s docks and maritime heritage are regarded as key foci in this urban re-orientation. This paper explores the forces and agendas coming together in Aarhus in this huge urban zone of regeneration; a city– and leisure–scape that is both materially and semantically under construction and unfinished. In particular, I scrutinize the fate of the city’s industrial past and the role that “industry” (sometimes envisioned as heritage) is accorded in the current visions of growth, creativity, and new forms of culture and participation. Several scenarios and discourses, including the city’s own “Aarhus model of citizen participation,” suggest a democratic and bottom–up process in the crafting of the new waterfront and its life. Yet, as creative entrepreneurs and innovative consortia flock toward the water, a number of derelict areas, less privileged inhabitants, and less visible rhythms and routines (even values) are arguably marginalized or sidelined. 

Based on a series of preliminary, qualitative mappings of different areas of the Aarhus harbour, I describe and analyze these processes and consider the possibilities for attending to, intervening in, or even “conserving” the traces of the less remarkable and less outright “creative” forms of life here—as well as the theoretical challenges that such alternative interventions may pose to core concepts and understandings in heritage studies and practice, including the notions of “conservation,” “value,” and “heritage” itself.

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