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The research on the architectural, environmental and social history of coal spoil is drawn from the book project Scenic Calculations: Landscape, Industry and Planning in Twentieth-Century Britain, which traces how the national landscape was transformed with the expansion of the coal, electricity and oil industries. This paper argues that the activities of disposing of coal spoil amount to a distinct urbanism of increasing environmental, social and economic importance. Due to climate change, many historic coal spoil deposits, notably in South Wales, are today posing growing and significant threats to their local communities. Intense rainfall, for example, increases the risk of landslides of spoil tips that are located on sloping ground, which is what happened in Aberfan in 1966. Coal waste is thus a growing issue for planners, and this paper seeks to chart the largely overlooked history of this abundant resource’s effects on the geography of Great Britain.

Respondent: Otto Saumarez-Smith

A Research Seminar Series co-organised with Rixt Woudstra (Assistant Professor in Architectural History, University of Amsterdam).

Landscapes of Waste: Towards an Urban History of Coal Spoil in Modern Britain
Image: The Three Sisters, known to locals as the Wigan Alps. Wigan Archives & Local Studies and Friends of Three Sisters. Published in Ian Winstanley, ‘A History of Three Sisters Recreation Area, Ashton-in-Makerfield’ (2011).

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Event Type(s) Talks and Debates
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Paul Mellon Centre More Info

Address: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
16 Bedford Square
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Paul Mellon Centre

About Based in London’s Bedford Square, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art is an educational charity and research institute that champions new ways of understanding British art history and culture.
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