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  • Researchers assess the urban and heritage impact of the transformation of the Asturian port towns

    December 04, 2013

    Experts from the University of Oviedo analyze the main losses and contributions of the process of modernization undergone by many of the coastal populations of the Principality throughout the past two decades

    Latest remodeling of the new sports port of Llanes with a snapshot of the same space taken in 1929. PHOTO: Mari Cruz Morales Latest remodeling of the new sports port of Llanes with a snapshot of the same space taken in 1929. PHOTO: Mari Cruz Morales

    The transformation undergone by the Asturian coast during the past years has had a noticeable impact on the traditional and industrial heritage of the port and marine towns. Researchers from the Department of Art History and Musicology of the University of Oviedo are analyzing the main losses and contributions of the process of modernization that many of the coastal populations of the Principality have recently gone through.

    The team, led by Tenured Professor María Soledad Álvarez, is conducting an intense field work to analyze and document the changes brought about in different areas of the coast, including: Avilés and Candás, in the central region; Llanes and Ribadesella in the East, and Tapia de Casariego and Vegadeo in the Asturian West. The research Espacios portuarios y villas costeras. Modelos de estrategias urbanísticas y patrimoniales de regeneración y transformación del litoral asturiano does not include Gijón, studied in a previous project.

    "During this transformation, there has been little thought put into the initiatives related to the conservation of the historical heritage and ports, and what has been considered important was the generalized creation of sports ports that destroyed old installations, docks and industrial elements", explains the Tenured Professor of Art History. Examples of these significant losses would be the old port of Llanes, the Blast Furnaces, the Thermal Industry and the premises of Ensidesa in Avilés, the old Fishery of the same city, the Steel Mill of Moreda and most of the industrial heritage of Gijón, and also the important canning industry of the region, of which very few vestiges remain.

    Environmental sustainability and a special attention to the community services are two identity features that characterize the modernization of the coast of the region. The rise of construction has also been a vital factor in the radical change of the small coastal urban centers.

    The study questions some of the interventions that did not respect the industrial heritage and the future sustainability of certain equipments

    Although the up-dating of these coastal towns has not followed a static path, the model of the transformation undergone by Gijón has been a clear influence in many of the other towns, as pointed out by the specialists. Inthe case of the recovery of the two big coastal cities, Gijón and Avilés, the experts ponder whether the models of intervention could have been less destructive on the existing heritage, and they also question the profitability of the new equipments, whose future sustainability may not be guaranteed.

    From fishing to sports ports

    The study of the changes undergone by the smaller villages shows virtually the same patterns in all the small ports: creation of sports ports, disappearance of industrial buildings, such as fish markets or storages, or a rehabilitation to turn them into public spaces with different uses. The creation of new marine promenades, pedestrian crossings and parks has also shaped the urban landscape in a significant way, alongside the new equipments of public art and urban furniture.

    The projects to remodel the smaller villages have generated new public spaces that seek to be a friendlier urban model. For example, the study showcases the rehabilitation of some interesting port buildings, like the Cetárea of Tapia de Casariego and the fish markets of Ribadesella and Luarca, among others. Other noteworthy contributions born from the investments conducted during the past few years, alongside the important operations that took place in the waterfront of Gijón, which led to the creation of new beaches, paths and parks a the equipment of architure and public sculptures, analyzed in a previous project, would be the wholistic regeneration of the Ría of Avilés and the contribution of new items around it (Avilés sculpture, Steel Road, International Center Oscar Niemeyer); the conversion into museums of port spaces (port of San Esteban de Pravia) and the rehabilitation of old building and/or the creation of new ones to become museums (Museum of the Squid in Luarca, Ethnographical Museum Juan Pérez Villamil en Puerto de Vega, Museum of Tito Bustillo in Ribadesella; the artistic intervention of Ibarrola in the breakwater of the port of Llanes; the Sculptoric Parks of Candás and the Cabo Peñas; the Sculptoric Path of the 12 Bridges of Vegadeo, etc.

    International collaboration

    The research project, funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, will show its first definitive conclusions in an international seminar next June, at the University of Oviedo. Experts in this field coming from other Spanish and European universities will attend this meeting. The research group has been working for the past decade in collaboration with teams of the same field that conduct their work in other places of the Atlantic Arc. Among them, it is of a noteworthy relevance the collaboration with the team of Professor Guy Saupin of the University of Nantes.

    Research team

    • María Soledad Álvarez Martínez
    • María de las Cruces Morales Saro
    • Rosa María García Quirós
    • Natalia Tielve García
    • María del Carmen Adams Fernández
    • Rebeca Menéndez Marino
    • Laura Mier Valerón
    • José María Rodríguez-Vigil Reguera

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    Image of the river of Avilés, which has undergone a deep urban and environmental regeneration.PHOTO: Soledad Álvarez

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