Oil is Dead, its Heritage with it? The influence of environmental regulations on the evolution of modern planning

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientific


Oil, as a resource, was a great contributor to the development of the modern movement. Its planning techniques came with the creation of intimate relationships between living and working areas. The “Cité des Ingénieurs” of the former refinery of Dunkirk, in France, was an excellent illustration of this process.
When environmental and health concerns together with economic and climatic challenges emerged, western refineries and the urban tissue around them were reconsidered. The mechanism of creation of health and environmental measures after incidents, in this case oil-related, triggered extreme solutions: the destruction of this heritage and a further disconnection between industrial and living areas within port cities.
The “Cité” of Dunkirk had to face the growing pollution and noise issues that were going hand in hand with a need for better living conditions of the employees. Deserted and demolished, its neighboring refinery is now experiencing the same fate. The emergence of stricter regulations, the acknowledgment of a transitional need and economic reasons linked to a lack of profitability induced the loss of this industrial heritage. In this perspective, Dunkirk is a perfect example of what will happen to this oil heritage in other places as the city is closing these factories and trying to transform them.
This paper examines how the evolution of the environmental concern led to this result, and how innovative ideas of transformation – of the infrastructure and of regulations – can preserve the built heritage and reconnect it to the city. The analysis of old and current environmental rules will highlight the evolution of the legal framework, while the observation of aerial pictures will illustrate the change induced by new rules on the planning of cities in general, and port cities in particular. The work of Master students of the Faculty of Architecture of TU Delft will also exemplify how new perspectives can provide a future to this industrial heritage.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020
Event16th International Docomomo Conference 2020: Inheritable Resilience: Sharing Values of Global Modernities - Ueno Park Area, Tokyo, Japan
Duration: 10 Sep 202013 Sep 2020


Conference16th International Docomomo Conference 2020


  • Oil Heritage
  • Environmental regulations
  • Urban Planning

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