Prof. Freek Persyn, Philippe Vandenbroek
Reversible – Exploring a former Coal Mine in the Kempen Plateau
This year’s Master’s thesis deals with the legacy of resource extraction at the former Winterslag coal mine in Genk on the Kempen plateau in the eastern part of Belgium. It explores the question of how to deal with the consequences of the mining past to create livable futures from a perspective of landscape architecture. The subject was chosen as an example of a large-scale and geologically seen utterly fast process of resource extraction and displacement as one of the main features of man-made landscapes. Mining, tunnelling, drilling, and digging are all activities that have turned and continue to turn the earth upside down. We are looking for relevant challenges to work on and for interventions that are both locally based and universally inspiring.
How can we start to understand the enormous consequences of coal mining on geology, soils, water, and vegetation of its territory? How do we deal with the legacy of this production of energy? Is it wise to preserve rare cultural and ecological legacies or should we better find ways to make the by-products productive again? What can we learn from coal mining that might be relevant for other places of resource extraction and displacement?
We see our role and contribution as landscape architects in this project to be explorers – in finding, revealing, and celebrating the hidden past, present, and future potentials of former mining sites.