Skip to main content

Bremen: Rathaus (Bildrechte: LfD Bremen, Christian Richters)



International Expert Meeting (April 23-25, 2020, Berlin)
Cities and Historic Textile Complexes:
Typology, Good Practice, and Global Perspectives for Conservation

For nearly three centuries, the textile sector led industrialization and urbanization in Europe. Textile entrepreneurs introduced multi-storey mill complexes to urban contexts, implemented steam-powered machinery for spinning and weaving operations, and established a global trade network based on transport, skills, knowledge, and power. Textile industries consequently changed cityscapes and urban spatial structures of many European cities. Mill complexes and their infrastructure (canals for power and transport, railways, warehouses etc) form part of a local historic urban landscape, and represent global chains of production. This textile heritage includes tangible traces, buildings and artefacts with transcultural dimensions, as well as various aspects of living heritage.
Several previous studies have developed our understanding of the technological and architectural contributions of the textile industry. The decline of the textile sector in much of the world has meant that converting and repurposing these historic industrial complexes has become a new opportunity and important task in many European cities. Ongoing practice in architecture, planning, and conservation shows historic textile complexes to be urban and architectural structures that can be conserved and enhanced by conversion to new uses.
Going beyond this, and adding to analysis of technology and architecture, three questions arise for research:
1) How to describe, identify, and value the historic urban landscape of the textile industry; does the TICCIH typology1 properly cover urban industrial types?
2) What constitutes good practice for conservation and enhancement when converting mill complexes?
3) What are the relationships between textile heritage sites in Europe and the world; and among the people involved in textile production? How can we critically discuss these in heritage conservation, by and for whom?