The Era of Copper
Avesta has been entrusted a magnificent industrial heritage. At the centre of Avesta, by the rapids, lies the old iron works area, which dates back to the 17th Century. During the 1630s a copper mill was founded next to the river Dalauml;lv and a little later the Swedish Mint was relocated to Avesta. Both enterprises were of uttermost importance for Sweden as an emerging industrial nation. For more than two hundred years, the copper enterprises form Avesta into an industrial community.
Modern Times;The Iron Works
At the end of the 19th Century there was a dramatic industrial development throughout the Western world. To run a profitable industry required large-scale production along with a good supply of hydroelectric power and well-developed transportation systems. Once again Avesta was a winner. The unprofitable copper mill was closed down and reconstructed into a large iron works in 1872. The new iron works grew in scale and became big industry. During the 1920s, the first products of stainless steel were produced at the site. By the mid 1900s, the land area by the river was stretched to its limits and production was gradually moved to a new area, the Southern Works. Left were the moving and beautiful buildings of the works with its abandoned equipment. The whole area passed into the council's ownership in 1986 and was named Koppardalen (the Copper dale).
The Cultural Heritage
The whole area today is of national interest and targeted for conservation. The old industrial buildings are regarded as unique as the line of production, from iron ore to steel, containing smelting and blast furnaces together with the furnaces of the open-hearth process, is preserved in full. Abandoning a whole contemporary and large-scale industry with its production equipment, without it being sold, demolished or rebuilt, is very uncommon. As an environment of industrial history, Koppardalen's works and its buildings are unusually complete and well preserved, both in national and international terms. A visit to Koppardalen promises an experiential tour of the iron ore production of the early 1900s, from the roasting and crushing of the iron ore, to the smelting, tapping and finishing of the pig iron to stainless steel, one of the most important products of the 20th Century.
The old industrial complex of Avesta iron works is currently developing into an industrial historical experiential environment. The task of Avesta council, via different culture projects, is to carry out into effect large parts of this development. The council of Avesta,the county labour board and the county administrative board's cultural heritage unit is contributing with necessary funding to make the buildings safe for use as well as halting further decay. These funds are then bolstered with EU funds to generate experiential and interactive activities. The first stage in the development of the visiting site, "Verket" (the Works), did open in June 2004.
The overall objective of a industrial historical visiting and experiential environment is to create
- An interactive environment for visitors to generate knowledge and new experiences
- A meeting ground for history, science and art in a creative and inspiring way
- An experiential environment and a visiting site with international significance
The historical environment with the blast furnace is, in itself, worth a visit but there are more possible ways of attracting visitors. By bringing new ideas into the site, Avesta Iron Works can become even more interesting and a place worth returning to. The installations that are developed in the blast furnace building together with Interactive Institute and the in the site of the open-hearth process together with SNAP, will enhance and deepen the experience of the area. Filling the environment with pedagogical, cultural and experimental material will do this. It will go beyond contemporary exhibition and stage design and information booths. The interactive technique, inserted into the environment, is giving the visitor the experience of a dark and mysterious place. In developing "Verket" (the Works) The ambition has been to enrich the cultural heritage in the old blast furnace building with an interactive layer, thereby creating a learning and sensual environment; a meeting place for history, science and art in a new and inspiring way.
The visitors to "Verket" are expected to have a wide range of different backgrounds in terms of age, sex and education. It is for this reason that "Verket" is a platform that will easily meet various needs; a pedagogical level and a poetic atmosphere. You discover facts about the production process and in an artistic and sensuous way, daily life and work, thoughts and ambitions that took place in this extreme environment.
The Blast Furnace Building
What was it like to be here a hundred years ago? What did people talk about during their lunch break? Imagine further that you have a tool in your hand that fills the environment with life and movement. In "Verket", the tool is an investigative electric torch.Every torch has an identity and brings forth information and special effects from the environment. To trigger the special effects, the rooms are fitted with so called hyperspots. These can detect and read a coded and invisible signal from the torch. The signal utilizes IR technology commonly used in remote controls. A hyperspot marks an area that can be of interest for the visitor and they are fitted on all the installations in the halls. Such an area can be the tapping of the iron ore.
The Site of the Open-Hearth /Martin Process
In Avesta's old iron works there are two well-preserved furnaces of the open-hearth process. These are considered the most unique and the most valuable parts of the facility due to their rarity. The opera -A time filled with life- performed in this unique monument is in three acts and we move between each act - from charging the furnaces to the ingenious heating through the pipe system and finally to tapping the ingot steel. But the opera also mirrors life. Women, men, children, energy, joy and sorrow are presented with music, light, heat and film.
The main idea behind the project is to preserve and make use of the industrial heritage. The technology that is set in the environment shall be almost inconspicuous. Flexibility is important. Those visitors that wish to indulge themselves in the genuine industrial heritage will be able to enjoy a well-preserved and complete industrial complex with smelting and blast furnaces that were in use between 1874 and 1938, and the open-hearth process that closed at the beginning of the 1950s. For these visitors, the interactive technology will not necessarily be used. The original environment will satisfy their curiosity and raise excitement. For most visitors, however, the interactive arrangements will enrich the experience of the site, generating insights into the production processes and into the work conditions.
The first stage of the visiting environment "Verket" opens in May 2004. Our ambition is to develop the interactive and learning concept also for other floors of the site.
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