The Green Framework: The Emscher Landscape-Park
From the air the Emscher region has a lot to offer in the way of green areas. But anyone trying to rind beauty Spots on foot or by bicycle soon comes across features typical or The Ruhrgebiet: industrial sites, sewers, roads and railway lines. For a long term strategy to change this situation, within the framework of the IßA Emscher Park, the 17 Emscher towns from Duisburg to Bergkamen and the Kommunalverband Ruhrgebiet have been working on a joint project: the Emscher landscape Park, which is to be an area of 3OO sq. km. Within which regenerated and protected green areas will be connected in a chain structure.
This large project makes an historical link with the Tradition of the "regional green corridors" A through G, developed in the 1920's by the "Siedlungsverband Ruhrkohlenbezirk" (Ruhr Coal Mining District Housing Association), which has never been fully realised. By taking up this earlier idea, the individual north-south corridors are being expanded and linked to a new east-west corridor to form a complete park system of European significance. The creation of this landscaped park provides the main unifying theme of the Emscher Park Building Exhibition, the central core of a new infrastructure for the region. The idea is to achieve lasting improvement in the living and working environment of more than 2 million regional inhabitants by connecting isolated open spaces, restoring the landscape and upgrading the ecological and aesthetic quality of the countryside. Projects in the Emscher Landscape Park range from large-area development of fallow land to the smallest "construction sites", installations of biotopes or the planting of trees - in total about 200 individual schemes.
Regeneration of the Emscher River System
For decades the river Emscher, which flows for 70 kilometres from east to west through the northern part of the Ruhrgebiet known as the Emscher region, has had the unenviable reputation of being the open sewer of the region. But in future this river and its many tributaries will be seen as a symbol of the ecological regeneration of an industrial region. The Emscher System - about 550 km of waterways - became an open sewer around the turn of the Century, when the population grew by hundreds of thousands in a matter of a few years and industry started generating increasingly large quantities of effluent. A specially created co-operative Organisation, "Emschergenossenschaft", of local authorities, mining and industrial companies in the region, was responsible for straightening the rivers, lining them with a concrete shell, enclosing them with dykes and creating artificial gradients. The use of Underground pipes, as is customary in other urban areas, was not possible because of the danger of subsidence and resulting pipe fractures. At the time this was a considerable engineering feat and ensured to this day that sewage could be cleaned at relatively low cost. However, nowadays ecological measures are preferable. New opportunities arise because coal mining operations have moved further now and the risk of subsidence has decreased. Sewerage is confined to Underground ducts and treatment has been decentralised. The concrete linings are no longer needed. Animals and plants have gained new habitats. The Emscher and its tributaries are increasingly important - as designing structures in a free landscape and as recreation and leisure areas for the towns inhabitants.
Working in the Park
For many decades, mines and iron and steel mills formed the cores of the towns. When they were shutdown and disappeared they left empty spaces in the town centres. Now, new and different workplaces are being created on these sites. Within the scope of the IBA Emscher Park 19 locations, totalling approximately 550 hectares, of modern commerce, Service and science parks, under the motto "working in the park", are being created. These projects, implemented as public and private Investment joint ventures, have a large Proportion of open and green space in common, and high ecological and architectural Standards. Located in park settings they are accessible to everyone. "Working in the park" projects are concerned exclusively with former industrial sites, each with their own development plan related to the particular sector involved. This is reflected in the detailed design of sites dose to town centres. Special focus is placed on urban development and landscaping quality and, as far as possible, schemes for training and employing the long-term unemployed are integrated within these projects. A Chain of Technology Centres The sites are supported by special provisions for the formation and promoting of innovative industries and new businesses. Start-up centres have been established and are initially run using public funds. Their task is to attract advanced companies and thereby support new technology transfer to the region.
More than 150 years of industrialisation have left their mark on the region: gigantic mines, blast furnaces and winding towers, impressive relicts of a former era. Today, the buildings are architectural witnesses, explaining the history of the region. They can be seen from far away and serve as orientation points for people. To demolish them would mean robbing the region of important landmarks. The aim of IBA Emscher Park is to preserve these monumental witnesses of industrial culture. Historical pithead buildings are reused for housing, workplaces and leisure activities. Old halls are being filled with new life: art, culture, commerce or Offices. An old tapping hall is turned into a gigantic stage, mining halls are turned into renowned galleries. The cultural potential of the region must be stimulated. Even now the Ruhrgebiet is one of the densest European cultural landscapes. Additionally it offers a unique backdrop of 200 years industrial history. The discovery of this aspect alone is worth the journey. Developing the region for tourism will be one of the most important tasks in the coming years. Solutions for dealing with examples of an industrial past alternate between letting them crumble" and "preserving them". There are also technological and economic challenges. Twentieth Century industrial monuments, in particular, pose new preservation problems in relation to their sheer size and specific steel and iron aesthetics. Economic subsidies and maintenance costs for large plants are also more difficult to calculate. A selection process is unavoidable, in order to choose "typical" plants, those most meaningful for industrial history.
Housing Construction and Urban Development
The idyll of village life in the middle of the Ruhrgebiet: the many garden estates, the traditional workers housing of the region, are increasingly prized as homes and quality environments when compared with the many urban development failures of recent decades. Fortunately most of the housing areas could be saved. The participation of residents is at heart of their reconstruction.
Some 25 housing projects within the International Building Exhibition Emscher Park play a central role in urban development, in recycling vacant sites, supplying new ideas for urban planners and architects, and developing residential and commercial parks in central locations. Altogether there are approximately 2,500 new and 3,000 refurbished housing units. About 75% of new construction is publicly funded. Special features of the new units are higher ecological, social, urban development and design Standards. Modern, attractive architecture and more space for children are not contradictory goals. The involvement of national and international architects and planners in the various competitions and implementations stages is an important factor in ensuring that abstract ideas of quality are actually translated into on-side reality. Projects consider needs of single parents, the handicapped, senior citizens and children. Families with small incomes are also being considered. They help build their own homes in a “Build simply and by yourself” construction programme. Their labour input is a form of “mortgage replacement” which helps them to save money.
Social Initiatives, Employment and Training
Developmental changes taking place, from Duisburg to Dortmund, require joint efforts within the region. Many Ruhrgebiet residents are working on IBA projects. They help to establish new housing areas, develop ideas for the use of old buildings, they offer their knowledge of mining history and the iron and steel mills, or they actively work on co-designing their greenbelt recreation areas. These people are bearing the main load of regional development. Some of these initiatives have developed into employment and training bodies, which have been particularly influential in bringing young long-term unemployed back into working life. These young people are employed on many IBA projects: refurbishing old mining halls, constructing bicycle paths or designing parks. Integrating the unemployed and developing new fields of work are the aims in all sectors of the IBA. At the end of 1996 the region was called to "take the initiative". The goal was to support small, privately organised, city neighbourhood projects where energy and commitment had been initially generated by the citizens themselves – regardless of their social, cultural or ecological field of activity. Such projects are also Initiators for structural change. They make substantial contributions to improving infrastructure possibilities, local community activity networking and recycling of unused space and buildings. Often they also help knit together construction Investment and programmes with training and re-employment schemes. A total of 16 such projects were included in the IBA Emscher Park. The support of initiatives has taken a concrete form: convincing concepts are financially supported by the Land North Rhine-Westphalia.