As opposed to ancient ruins or ancient historical sites, the regions of the Ruhr Metropolis are better known for their industrial heritage.
In the context of the major structural conversion that the region underwent in recent times, a simple question arose: “What is going to happen to the architectural and technological buildings and sites stemming from the age of industrialization?”. In order to preserve local industrial heritage and maintain people’s awareness of its importance for both the character and the identity of the region, numerous projects have since been brought into being.
IBA Emscher Park
One of the most extensive is certainly the IBA, Internationale Bau Ausstellung (International Building Exhibit), Emscher Park. Heavily affected by its industrial history, the Emscher area was in urgent need of socioeconomic and ecological revitalization. During the decade from 1989 to 1999, approximately 120 individual projects were implemented forming an important contribution to the recovery of the region.
One major focus of the project falls on the harmonic integration of former industrial ruins into the environment and their consequent transformation into tourist attractions. One very good example of this is the Gasometer which was built in the 1920’s. Europe’s largest gas holder measures 117.5 meters in height and has an effective volume of 347,000 cubic meters. In the context of the crisis of the coal, iron and steel industry, the Gasometer became superfluous. Following the proposal of the IBA, Emscher Park, the construction was not demolished but converted into an extraordinary exhibition space. From the viewing platform on its roof visitors can also experience a fantastic view over the western Ruhr. Today, one of the most fascinating art venues has developed into a major landmark of Oberhausen and the Ruhr Metropolis.
Another impressive restructuring project which successfully meets the demands arising from demographic change is the inner harbor in Duisburg. Located in the very heart of the city, Europe’s biggest inland harbor not only offers a huge variety of recreational and cultural activities, but also living and working spaces. By transforming historic warehouses, apartments and offices have been created.
In respect of the economic and demographic change in the region, the cities of the Ruhr are facing major challenges regarding urban development and city planning. In order to effectively increase their attractiveness for both business and individuals, they have to consolidate city centres, upgrade public spaces, revitalise fallow lands and create living spaces which meet modified demands.
Supported by both the federal government and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the cities of the Ruhr invest vast sums of of money and energy into these tasks. The program “Stadtumbau West” (urban renewal west) for example, supports cities such as Gelsenkirchen and Hamm with aid in order to help consolidation and revitalization of half-abandoned districts.