The end of he coal and steel industry meant a lot of urban waste, a declining economy and a conglomeration of more than 150 nationalities. Then, the construction exhibition IBA-Emscherpark started with a sophisticated aesthetical approach – an anachronism or a vision come true?
It’s a fact that the existing resources were totally revaluated due to the IBA. Rarely, the areas underwent quality changes, but for the first time, the landmarks of the past, the winding towers and other coal industry leftovers, were pushed into the light of the public. Especially focussing on sophisticated architecture, reinvention of space, and an overall look on the whole region, this made for a different point of view and a reassessment of the area.
But the IBA couldn’t change the region’s image – even in the 21st century people believe that the pits are still open, the sky is dark grey, and soot is clogging the lungs over here. But at least, the IBA has provided the basics for a structural change of work, living, and quality of life – and that has quite an exemplary character. And it was more than an economic stimulus for architects. Most of the projects have developed in the meantime and have managed, depending on their function, the paradigm shift towards knowledge society: they grow, they are expandable, and are slowly, but steadily carving their own profiles. And the IBA has achieved another important feat: the Ruhr area needn’t deny its past. Industrial history has left its testimonials – and with them, this region has a unique profile setting it apart from other metropoles.
Art forest with winding tower and machinery hall
The Duisburger Innenhafen is considered the flagship object of the successful structural change. The historical storage rooms and mills were completely reconstructed, now providing jobs for roundabout 4000 people. 700 apartment units were built at the waterfront, a park was designed – the infrastructure allows you to live your full life in that quarter. You love museums? You’ll find several of them, in the direct vicinity of restaurant, pub, and bistro. Today, the harbour is an industrial monument – and brimming with life.
In Kamen , a Freizeit-, Wohn- und Technologiepark (a park including leisure-, apartment-, and technology elements) was realised on the premises of the former Zeche Monopol . Exactly this pit later became Haus Aden , a still working coal mine – an exciting intertwining of past and present. During the IBA, the former office complex was reconstructed and now serves as a think tank / working space with offices, service, repair shop, lab, and storage areas. The winding tower and two of the old operational buildings are now part of the new Gartensiedlung Seseke- Aue (a garden colony at the Seseke river). The 250 apartment units were built strictly according to ecological criteria. The Seseke was renaturalised and is the connection to the city.
Together with the IBA, a modernising concept which had been started already before, was developed even further in Siedlung Teutoburgia (a green garden quarter) in Herne . The original English garden colony was revived (this time, with heating and bathrooms): a pre-industrial idyll with dormers, gazebos, half-timbered walls, and loggias. The front gardens have no hedges or fences. This area has also been changed in a unique way: next to the colony, there’s an art forest including the old winding tower and machinery hall. You’ll find the “Pedestrian” (12 meters tall), stones with poetic quotations on them, and herbs, all next to each other. The artist Christof Schläger uses the machinery hall as an atelier and exhibition hall for his sound objects – a world of experience, for all senses.
The IBA has let go of her ´children´ - and is no longer a trademark itself, leaving newly arranged areas and landscapes which now have a life of their own – as trademarks of the Ruhr area.