A spatial potential of the abandoned space

“Drosscape” (2007) of Alan Berger proclaims that ‘waste landscapes’ – an obsolete, abandoned or defunct space – are unexploited surfaces available for reorganisation in terms of urban design. I chose this reference by seeing the basements of La Défense as a ruin with an architectural potential to decrease the business districts lack and needs or exploit other opportunities underground.

The subject is interesting to Berger because of its dissemination in the American landscape. The deindustrialization left areas deserted without function. Berger refers to these areas as urban sprawls (the spreading out of a city to it’s suburbs) created by the growth of a successful industry spreading as an ‘inevitable horizontal movement’.

To dissect the entitling of Berger’s book the word ‘Dross’ refers to article of Lars Lerup back in 1995, “Stim and Dross: Rethinking the Metropolis”. ‘Stim’ is a shortened version of ‘stimulus’ while ‘dross’ can be translated into ‘waste’ – together creating a positive tension and opportunity, according to Lerup, while the common perception is of these places is dusty and blight. For the record Lerup’s exact reference to the word dross: ”Undervalued, unfortunate economic residues of the metropolitan machine”.

Berger’s thesis implies that a lot of these waste landscapes are located underground and we have to be aware of the importance linked to the redefinition of a new program: The fact that old warehouses can be converted into shopping centers and factories. These drosscapes are a great opportunity to rethink entire areas on a bigger scale.

Alan Berger_AtlantaAlan Berger_Mapping

I find it curious to see La Défense as a drosscape; La Défense has quite a strong vertical feel so several programs could be stacked or “scaped” upon each other. Still left as a creation of this horizontal expansion of business life and industry La Defénse leaves us with several layers adaptable for re-use because of intentions and reality didn’t match.

In relation to my personal interest and chosen fragment at La Défense, which is the technical relations such as circulation of air or water, I think a cistern (or underground water resevoirs) is an interesting aspect. It’s an example of a giving excavated space adaptable for re-use. One of the biggest re-established cistern is Basilica in Istanbul original build in the 6th century for securing water supply in case of occupation from foreign forces. Now this huge cave is a big tourist attraction along with “The Cisterns” in Copenhagen that used to be the solution of the capitol’s water distribution because of it’s high elevation. It is now a museum of glass art and concert venue.

Cisternerne 02 Cisternerne 01

These are quite touristic and commercial examples and maybe not that interesting in terms of urbanism or to the idea of La Défense being a resource or self-sufficient neighborhood. But the fact that a real scene could be to build cisterns for the collection of rainwater for future city green growth is worth a though by thinking of the strategic height of La Défense for water distribution and the capacity of the unexploited spaces.

Cistern_Drawing fix


Frieze Mag – Issue 108

Site – Issue 67

Landscape + Urbanism

Wiki – English



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