The Ruhr – becoming industrial culture

By Alejandro Izquierdo and Morten Refsgaard

The Ruhr as it presents its new found self.

The Ruhr, an area based almost entirely on heavy industry, went from being a European powerhouse in the 19th and early 20th century to becoming almost obsolete in the second half of the last century, when fast paced industrial evolution left the factories of Essen, Duisburg and Dortmund hopelessly outdated.

That left the politicians with a problem. The Ruhr had to be reinvented to avoid the risk of it all becoming ghost towns.

The solution became culture. With EU funding as a tool and the title of European Capital of Culture 2010 a goal, the Ruhr entered a stage of transformation. A perfect example of that is the Landschaftspark in Duisburg, where old steel forges are standing tall among playgrounds, alpine climbing walls and commercial exhibitions. There they stand, with an eerie look of rusty metal as a part of what once was the heart of German industry.

A view of emptiness
Climbing these massive structures reveals to you an impressive view of the area, making you able to see for miles and miles into the horizon. But standing there, taking in the breathtaking sights, the shortcomings of the plan are also revealed:

In Duisburg’s Landschaftspark, the old steel forges stand as a monument of the industrial past.

You are alone.

A Friday in November might not be the primetime for school excursions, but even still, the solitude in the Landschaftspark was overwhelming. No kids running around on the playgrounds, no one having a coffee in the café and nobody climbing the forge along you.This reveals that this is a process still ongoing. The Ruhr might have set themselves on the maps of Europe, but it seems they still need to convince their countrymen.Another proof that the transformation is not yet complete is the number of smoking chimneys that you see dotted in the landscape when standing atop the forge. This somewhat contradicts the picture the Ruhr tries to paint.

Hard work is not enough anymore

And yet another thing: While the transformation may be saving the Ruhr as a whole, it is leaving behind the workers, who once dug up the coal and made the steel flowing. They made a living on hard labour and were not prepared for the positions in Public Relations and marketing.This is a little rain of the Ruhr parade. While the results are with no doubt already remarkable, it is clear that the transformation of Ruhr is a battle ongoing.