Third places and creative industrial wastelands in Luxembourg (II) Turning former factories into meeting places and sites for cultural (re)production

An wasteland is a piece of land previously used for industrial purposes that has since been abandoned. The rehabilitation of these sites will enhance the heritage for both the region and the population. Today, industrial wastelands are often transformed by local authorities into places dedicated to creative projects and to promoting community life. In this way, culture is embedded in the region and they become important places of social and cultural cohesion. In this article we present the National Centre for Industrial Culture, which works to preserve and enhance this heritage.

Industrial culture on the agenda

In 2004, an initial concept for a national centre for industrial culture was presented, and in 2009 a government bill was approved. However, due to the financial situation, implementation was postponed until 2010. In 2017, the working group Eise'Stol was set up as part of the application by the southern region, Minett for the Unesco's "Man and the Biosphere" programme. The group continued its activities beyond the application and in 2019 became the non-profit organisation Industriekultur-CNCI. Following the update of the CNCI concept, the signing of the agreement with the Ministry of Culture and implementation finally took place in 2020.

Since then, the non-profit organisation IK-CNCI (Industriekultur - Centre national de la culture industrielle) is now responsible for:

  • the creation of a cooperation network of actors committed to the valorisation of the industrial heritage in Luxembourg;
  • the planning and transformation of industrial sites and wastelands, as well as creative initiatives for this purpose;
  • and raising public awareness about this heritage.

The IK-CNCI aims to become a reference and research centre for industrial heritage with a national and international cooperation network. As part of its tasks, the team coordinates and participates in various projects such as the "Minett Mash-Up", the possible upgrading and reuse of the Gebléishal (blower hall) in Esch-Belval or the preservation and renovation of the former Metzeschmelz steelworks in Esch-Schifflange.

Exterior view of the former Arbed Esch-Schifflange buildings
FerroForum signage and exterior view of the former Arbed Esch-Schifflange buildings

3 questions to Marlène Kreins, Chair of the Industriekultur – CNCI

1) What is the importance of third places for the rehabilitation or reuse of former industrial sites?

The current activities of the association Industriekultur-CNCI focus not only on the preservation of historic industrial buildings, the so-called third places, but also on the development of new reallocation concepts to reuse these former classified buildings in an innovative and creative way. The iron cathedrals are witnesses to the history of the steel industry and factory work. They tell us about the social struggles and the social upheavals that have changed a whole society. They illustrate the economic transformation of a formerly rural area. They are symbols of the changes brought about by mining and the steel industry in the Minette Basin. They remind us of customs and traditions that still shape our lives today. As third places have always been full of life, it is our mission to revive these places through appropriate conversion, so that they do not end up as mere stone piles or monuments. 

Portrait of the President of IK-CNCI
© Marc Lazzarini
As third places have always been full of life, it is our mission to revive these places through appropriate conversion, so that they do not end up as mere stone piles or monuments. … Our aim is to raise public awareness of the value of industrial heritage through educational activities and the organisation of conferences.

2. What are the current projects of the association?

The CNCI is currently involved in the creation and development of a network of museum institutions committed to the enhancement of the industrial heritage in Luxembourg. Today, the network comprises 17 partners whose aim is to create a national centre for industrial heritage.

The CNCI develops conversion concepts. In this context, it works on several projects and supports various initiatives in collaboration with the relevant actors and institutions (Blower Hall in Esch-Belval, Metzeschmelz in Esch-Schifflange, Dommeldange, Roud Lëns in Esch, chimneys on the Belval site, etc.). We are also committed to raising awareness of the values of industrial heritage through education and conferences.

Interior view of the cloakroom and waggonage hall in Dudelange
Exterior view of the Arbed blast furnaces in Esch-Belva

3. Which is your favourite among the reused industrial sites?

It is difficult to name just one. But for me, the VEWA site in Dudelange and the FerroForum in Esch-Schifflange are very good examples of successful conversion with public participation. They show that utopias are possible.

In a second article, we will present examples of third places in Luxembourg.