Milena Villalba’s latest installation adds a new layer to the history of the Spanish town of Onda.
For her ongoing project, Burnt Substance, the photographer has spent months sneaking around the town’s abandoned ceramic factories, documenting the remnants of its crumbling industrial landscape. The town was once a centre for ceramic production, but the factories closed when industry moved on in the 1990s. ‘They still hold a strong identity for Onda,’ Villalba says.
In her photographs, brick chimneys tower over sagging roofs, while piles of shattered tiles dot overgrown wastelands.
But it’s not just a story of ruin – a more hopeful chapter is beginning to emerge. Architects Grupo Aranea, Cel Ras Arquitectura and El fabricante de espheras are collaborating with local residents and authorities to bring Onda’s oldest remaining factory, La Campaneta, back into use.
‘They’re rehabilitating it through unusual methods,’ Villalba explains. ‘Every three months they organise workshops inside La Campaneta, where everyone from the town is invited to participate. They hold discussions where people can express ideas about how to strengthen the identity of the factories, as well as hosting activities for children and lectures.’
Proposals include a new cultural centre, work spaces and artists studios, which could bring La Campaneta back to the centre of local life.
Villalba will continue exploring Onda’s factories. The installation is now dismantled, but images from ‘Burnt Substance’ will be showing from 2-19 July at Atelier dels Bous, Valencia.