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Learn more about my PhD project and engage with the story of decay in Paisley and Renfrewshire.


My story

My name is Marlene Zijlstra 

I'm a PhD student at the University of the West of Scotland in Paisley. Born and raised in the city of Amsterdam (the Netherlands), I saw the changes in my city and noticed the shift in experiencing urban spaces in Amsterdam. Spaces that I frequently visited as a child became spaces where I felt I no longer belonged. This got me thinking about how spaces make us feel, and the factors that make or break our experience and memory of places.


In 2020 I started my PhD with the intention of exploring how we can create a sustainable creative ecology in places that are typified by a postindustrial past. However, over the last three years, my research has evolved so much more from this initial idea. I became increasingly interested in the re-use of one of the post-industrial city's prime products: decaying spaces, and their inherent opportunity to be a place of reclaiming agency and shaping the urban fibre through i.e. participatory arts practices. Their variety in appearance, hidden interaction with their surroundings, and the untold difficulties in bringing them into use were things that fascinated me and left me wanting to explore more. 

By launching this website, I hope to give you a glimpse into my research journey and encourage you to become involved with decaying spaces in your own neighbourhood!

Myself taking a picture of a space in Strasbourg

This is me photographing while on a conference in Strasbourg for my PhD. I have made so many pictures of decaying spaces during the three years of my PhD, in all different cities and countries!

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About the Website

This site is dedicated to showcasing my PhD research titled In search of a Hidden Regenesis: Exploring Spatial and Contextual Understandings of Decay in Post-Industrial Urban Landscapes. My research contributes to the understanding of belonging and agency in urban environments, by taking decaying sites in cities as a starting point and using participatory creative practice as the medium of research.


The website showcases different facets of engagement that have shaped my research. I started my research by creating a project called The Hidden Spaces in Paisley. It consisted of a workshop that I carried out at Star Project. From that initial workshop, I was able to: 

  1. Track my own experiences in engaging with decay in Paisley and speak with many amazing individuals that offer culture in Paisley and have experiences to share about the re-use of decaying spaces in town.

  2. Create a database containing photos and videos of decaying spaces in Paisley. These are spaces that were found by workshop participants and by myself during cycling trips across Paisley.

  3. Construct a walking route across different decaying spaces as a potential resource to make decay in town more visible.

It is meant to showcase my research journey, make the brilliant array of unused spaces in Paisley more visible, and spur more exploration into the re-use of spaces across Paisley and Renfrewshire. Who knows... You might be encouraged to apply for the re-use of a space or be involved in their future reimagination!

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