Emscher Park, Germany
Beginning in 1989, the declining industrial Ruhr region of Germany underwent a transformation as part of the Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) Emscher Park. After the closure of most industrial plants and mines, there were many open spaces left and much wasteland. The IBA Emscher Park project was initiated by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia with the aim to repair and enhance the region at the same time as giving it a new landscape-based identity.
117 projects covering over 800 square kilometres were implemented and grouped under five key guidance topics: ‘* working in the park, * new buildings and modernising housing estates, * ecological renewal of the Emscher system, * promotion of urban development and *social stimuli for urban development’. Included in these were wastewater renewal models, like the Deininghauser Stream project, intending to restore ecological balance and connection to the surrounding habitats. Prior to renaturing, the stream had been an untreated wastewater course and, to renew it, separation of the contaminated water was undertaken.
Industrial housing estates, originally developed for former workers, have been refurbished, and new social housing built to improve communities and develop their identities. Schungelberg Estate serves as a showpiece example of this kind of reformation project. Moreover, former industrial sites were repurposed to enhance culture and economy in communities. The Zeche Zollverein, formerly the most powerful coal mine in the world, was redeveloped into a cultural hub including an outdoor swimming pool and two museums. It offers ‘exhibitions, concerts, theatre performances, readings and festivals’ and attracts over a million visitors a year. The Shaft XII building was listed as a protected monument, and the entire complex added to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites in 2001.
The scale of the IBA Emscher Park proposal required a wast range of strategies and skills to succeed. The Emscher Park modeled in multiple ways how to approach a key urban development question of our time: what to do with former industrial sites and regions. However, by not including food-productive landscaping within their proposals, there has been a missed opportunity to revive the region into an even richer economic, cultural and social one than it is currently.
For further information see the project’s own website.
For thoughts an the significance of urban agriculture in the Emscher Park see our news post.
Image: One of Duisburg-Nord Landscape Park’s walking routes amongst the former iron plant (source: International Bauausstellungen www 2022)
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