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GAD Awards 19 First Prize: Helena Eichlinger: "Holes. Open-cast lignite mining in the Rhineland as an architecture"

© GAM.Lab, TU Graz


Helena Eichlinger: " Holes. Open-cast lignite mining in the Rhineland as an architecture"
Supervisor: Daniel Gethmann, Institute of Architectural Theory, History of Art and Cultural Studies

The focus of this master thesis is the examination of open-cast lignite mining in the region of Niederrhein, Germany, as well as the investigation of its several circumstances. The excavation of lignite or brown coal can be seen as digging over the landscape and therefore as a large-scale project in the periphery of cities. In times of structural change there are mostly discussions involving political or economical aspects. This work tries to develop another important point of view: from an architectural perspective.

The fundamental theoretical context is the anthropocene, where the human itself becomes an important geological factor. As open-cast lignite mining is accompanied by the movement of huge amounts of material it causes a significant alteration of a hole region. The rebuilding of a landscape is not only a technical challenge which should be dealt with by engineers, but also a process where large areas are being reformed and designed. Therefore it can be considered as a spatial and asthetic topic which also requires the attention of a designing discipline as architecture. The examination of the contextual situation provides a basis for interpretation and reflection. The aim is that spatial results (“holes“) of lignite mining are being involved into an architectural discourse.

The analysis lines up a focus onto technical and organisational processes, which are visualised in a preferably simple way and reduced to the relevant facts. Bringing together spatial, historical, ecological and social issues should convey a total impression. Finally, the background is being arranged to think about an important question: How to deal with the scenic relics of the mining processes, when once, the mining comes to an end.

Up to now, the design of the after-mining landscape is another big-scale project. Surfaces are restored and overlayed with new functions. In contrast to that, this work proposes to question conventional methods of recultivation from a critical point of view. It is being demanded a re-thinking of how the post-industrial landscape should be handled in the future.
To sum up and close this thesis a scenario is being developed, in which industrial facts and effects are not supressed by society but being adressed consciously.


  • Originalität und Radikalität im architektonischen Denken
  • Genauigkeit der Recherche und grafischen Ausarbeitung
  • Reagiert auf ein reales, räumliches Problem, das von der Gesellschaft verdrängt wird.
  • Poetische Qualität im Entwurf

More information on the GAD Awards 19 can be found here.