The artist-run space Spanien 19c used to be located in a messy and unregulated, but fairly central, part of the increasingly gentrified city of Aarhus. Until redevelopment started a few years ago, the area had somehow managed to escaped both commercial and municipal interest. However, following decades of “misuse”, the area is presently being integrated back into the rest of the city as a productive and commercially viable new part of town called “art city”.
As the new neighbourhood emerges, the original post-industrial brownfield site is being broken down into its constituent parts and made into something new, with a few token fragments of its industrial history left as reminders of the qualities that it used to hold. Just as the industrial buildings were once repurposed by artists and others in search of imaginaries that the rest of the city did not offer, today this liminal area and its activities are being refashioned in the image of the surrounding city, according to municipal imaginaries. During this struggle of imaginaries Spanien 19C continues to function as an art space, wedged in between building sites of what is to come and fragments of what used to be.
It is in this indeterminate time and space the Brownfield Wonderland exists as it attempts to reimagine the post-industrial brownfield. An urban planning term for any previously developed land that is not currently in use. The project puts forth an idea of the brownfield not as a void that needs filling, or something useless that needs a new function, but as a wonderland that is already full of qualities and things that could not exist elsewhere, thus realising that in the “useless” ruins of a past lies many other possible futures, not just the one that is being constructed at the moment. e taken apart and put together in as yet unimagined ways.
At the moment the building site is a site of overlapping and contested imaginaries and Brownfield Wonderland is a celebration of this brief moment where two ideas of what a city is coexist. It is based on the belief that there is no inevitability to the current process of gentrification, it is simply one choice taken out of a million other possible ways we could develop our cities. While gentrification night favour one imagined future out of all the others that could have come about, the ongoing struggle of whose imaginaries will be realised, and whose will be kept as potential or unrealistic futures, remains. This Brownfield Wonderland might very well appear once again when this project is long forgotten, and current norms of what is useful and productive are forgotten. Leaving the site once again ready to become yet another kind of Brownfield Wonderland, where one might just be able to dream of something new, instead of more of the same.