THE DARK LINE

AN INTERVENTION STRATEGY TO EXPRESS THE HISTORICAL DEPTH OF THE PLACE

Architects: Michele Orliac - Miquel Batlle
Firm: MICHELE&MIQUEL

Abstract:

Over time, the abandoned industrial site has become a hybrid environment where the classical distinctions between nature and culture blur. Preserving the monument as it is, in all its historical and ecological depth, does not mean renouncing historical interpretation, but on the contrary, expressing the strength of history’s scope. The passage of time has produced ecological, atmospheric, acoustic, chromatic and luminous variations that the project proposes the public to perceive.

AN INTERVENTION STRATEGY TO EXPRESS THE HISTORICAL DEPTH OF THE SITE

Over time, the hydrography, geology, vegetation and fauna have transformed the site into a hybrid environment where the distinctions between nature and culture merge

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Japanese administration undertook a colossal railway project to transport coal from mines in a mountainous region in north-eastern Taiwan.

When they closed, tourism became the region’s main economic resource. The municipality started a hiking trail programme, passing through abandoned industrial sites.

In 2018, a competition was launched that included 2 historic railway tunnels and a connection to be invented, to replace an old bridge washed away by water.

In response to the competition, we made a clear design decision: to preserve the post-industrial landscape in all its historical and ecological depth.

The fact that a structure that had required such a considerable investment was now abandoned to vegetation and bats, with its mouth full of silt and rocks, expressed the force of the changes of time.

A UNIFIED VOCABULARY EXPRESSES THE DIVERSITY OF SPACES

In the tunnels: streams of water, silting up and accumulations of rocks, the light well and its lush vegetation are preserved. A body of water speaks of the disappeared bridge

The passing of the ages has produced ecological, environmental, acoustic, chromatic and luminous variations along this route.

Despite the willingness to step back in favour of the atmospheres encountered, heavy intervention was required to open this route to the public. The challenge was to conceal the efforts of the project to let the old structure and the landscape speak for themselves.

A single material, iron, endlessly repeated, makes us forget its presence. This material evokes the 2 main phenomena that have impacted the site over the last 100 years: – the threaded rods are building a new railway. – the gaps between the rods reveal the powerful action of tropical nature.

Rising and bending almost imperceptibly, the bars gradually give shape to all the elements of furniture and signage: railings, benches, bike racks, steps, signs, etc… We enter the cavernous darkness of the tunnel.

THE COMPLETED PROJECT A SUCCESSION OF CONTRASTING ATMOSPHERES

The lighting bat the feet of the vault. As it guides the visitor’s steps, it reveals the variations of the original terrain beneath the floor level and leaves the top of the vault where the bats cling in the half-light.

We then emerge at the foot of a high crack in the sky. The sun’s rays filter through the foliage of the cliff trees and produce an unreal, fairytale-like atmosphere as they come into contact with the vapours exhaling from the tunnel. We then enter the second tunnel, which, at the end of a wide curve, opens onto the gorge.

There, a sheet of water projects the image of the opposite bank under the vault and ‘tells’ of the void left by the disappeared bridge. From the inside, the visitor’s silhouette remains suspended between his reflection and the vegetal background.

Slipping to the side, the footbridge clinging to the vertical wall of the gorge continues the route. If in the galleries in a straight line we explore the depth of the ground and its penumbra, we now walk in full light, on the vault of the sky.