Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.

Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.
Image by Cameron Lyall, GNU license Wikimedia

27 June 2011

Dundee's Industrial Past

For me, the architecture and city planning of Dundee are what most reminds me of Dundee's industrial past. Dundee is so old and most of it's heritage has been preserved or re-purposed. Sure Dundee has all the modern conveniences of a city like the one I live in, but it also has a unique heritage which is apparent from first glance. Most of the cities in the Bay Area are shiny and new, and if I'm really interested in the past I'd have to go searching for it.

In Dundee I walk past old jute factories every day. They've been turned into small shops and flats, but the buildings still look the same as they did in old black and white photos. Most of the factories are places where the present residents of Dundee now live and work. Factories have been turned into real estate agencies, shops, law offices and insurance offices. Some of the factories further out from the city center have been turned into flats. My hometown of Hayward has nothing like these re-purposed buildings.

My hometown also has modern city planning, with a business park, warehouse district and manufacturing district. The city is zoned so that people don't live in the areas where people go to work. But in Dundee everything is mixed together. The city has so much history and it seems to just build upon itself, rather than destroying the old and replacing it with new. The streets are much the same as the way they were built during the industrial age to accommodate the movements of goods to the rail lines and the harbor. And the rail lines and the harbor are still major points in the city itself.

I feel like Dundee wears it's past with pride, right where everyone can see it and they see no need to destroy and rebuild. When the jute industry failed, they used the factories to house people and businesses. Even though Dundee lost it's shipbuilding industry, they re-purposed their harbors for whaling and shipping. Dundee truly knows how to mix the new with the old, in everything they do.

I'm astounded by this recycling process because the Bay Area is so new. And it's always new. The building my mother works in is only about 10 years old. The building that my father works in is probably no older than I am. My high school, just 45 years old, totally remodeled the main building just two years ago. If I saw a photograph of my town taken 40 or even 50 years ago, I probably would not recognize it. My town is always re-inventing itself, and erasing the past.

Dundee is moving ahead, reclaiming land from the Tay, and becoming a post-industrial city. But at the same time Dundee is preserving it's rich history, culture and architecture. For me, preserving the industrial past, while moving into the post-industrial future is a major accomplishment that Dundee should be proud of.

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