Case Study Nürtingen 3

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L-Warps by A. Momtaz, G. Gurgel, S. Datta


Name Emscher Landscape Park
Location Rhine Valley
Country Deutschland
Office International Building Exhibition (IBA)
Client North-Rhine Westphalia
Completion 2000
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Core Question 1: In how far does this project reveal your concept of future landscapes?

L-warps is what we would like to define as our vision for a futuristic phenomenon, a particular aspect that drew our attention to this project’s typology was how in contrast to conventional flow of urbanity, here it is reversed and instead of urban sprawl, an opposite phenomenon emerges and brings nature back into the city, we believe that this represents our vision for landscapes of the future.

Landscape and/or urban context

During the 19th century Emscher Park, which lies in the Ruhr valley of northwestern Germany, was the center of Europe’s steel and coal industries. Following the last 30 years of industrial reform and the new understandings for ecological and environmental awareness this industry had slowed down and had eventually come to a standstill, leaving the region in a state of physical dilapidation, environmental degradation, and an unprecedented rate of unemployment.

By the 1980s the government began to question whether the money that was being spent on the development of this area was achieving positive environmental and social changes, but in fact this whole region of the Rhuhr valley was seemingly depressive because of the industrial exploitation, people were leaving the area seeking healthier and economically more viable areas. The population had declined, and when an investigation was sprung by the authorities it turned out that the main reason was the lack of cultural, environmental, and architectural qualities that the area had fell into.

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Cultural/social/political context

The state of Northrhine-Westphalia, faced with the consequences was up for arms to resolve this situation, but they could not rely on the private sector to redevelop the region separately. They had to create a unified regional development plan and so a state-supported entity (IBA) the international building exhibition was founded in 1989. A very important regional planing entity that would play a vital role in the shaping of this landscape as a whole. IBA was given 10 years and DM 35 million Deutschmark to undergo the project.

While smaller project developments were the responsibility of their relevant developers, most of them were jointly financed by the local governments and private companies, except for one of the main components of this development ‘the Landscape Park in Duisburg-Nord’, which was completely funded with public money. For the complete project development, we know that in addition to local-governments, the EU, had in 1993 also upped support by another DM 2.5 billion, of which 1.7 came from public funding.

Politically, one of the most difficult challenges for the project was to overcome the diverse political viewpoints, for the development was under the influence of different regional conditions, part of the stakeholders were more in favor of decentralization while others were more in favor of concentration, some wanted the implementation of innovative techniques and others wanted continuity of previous policies instead. Polycentric, small sized towns and cities, none of which dominated, 5.3 million people in total, of which 2.5 were inside the industrial zones, cities that are run separately, each with its own mayor, political and regional development had to all have a word on the project's development.

A key element vital to the success of this project development was the collaboration that it required between these different political entities; local authorities, environmental groups, professional associations, private industry, and citizens. 17 municipalities had to be coordinated by IBA, but the outcome was the formation of an unprecedented concept for a Metropolis formed by these scattered parts, yet united by the Landscape Park.

Economically, the project meant reinvigorating the economy of the region, the number of jobs that were created, the land that was reclaimed, and the number of projects that were completed were all an element of pride for the region and the governing state. Legal reason had helped the economic implementation of the project as well. Legally, Germany employs a federal structure; in hierarchic order; state power, then regional, and then local authorities, although the most important are the federal laws, the local and regional governments act to enforce these laws. The Emscher development had opened awareness of the federal governement to the creation of several new laws at the time that came into play;

  • Environmental Cleanup Law, which forced the companies that had caused damage to the environment to pay a liability fee.
  • Soil Contamination Laws, which force liability to cleanup and restore the polluters of the areas
  • The State Real Estate Fund Program, which assisted the region's urban renewal, by buying derelict sites and reusing them or preserving them as open space. (350 Ha) of 484 Ha were successfully reused.

Bearing in mind that the development area was comprised of 60% green space. IBA’s vision was to integrate this green belt into a 70 kilometer long park with various towns, cities, and key project developments into one coherent landscape metropolis. Between Duisburg and Kamen 120 projects had been developed and implemented in an area of over 800 sq. km.

IBA's Role was to;

  • Implement the latest ecological and economic criteria for the regeneration of this ruined industrial zone.
  • To transform the region’s production structure towards environmentally friendly ones
  • To design future urban communities
  • Encourage inward investment.
  • To seek the best possible futuristic designs by conducting competitions for the project
  • To coordinate the requirements of the different stakeholders in the project
  • To re-utilize already exploited open space in order to prevent the exploitation of new green fields
  • To reuse and extend the lives of buildings, structures, and landscapes that had been already exploited instead of dismantling and demolishing these older structures in the most intriguing way these relics of a past, the monstrous machinery have remained like a healed scar of a wound, always reminding their inhabitants of an industrial past that had better not be revisited.

Spatial analysis of area/project/plan

The Emscher area, with the Emscher River flowing centrally, is called the ‘backyard of Ruhr Valley’ and covers an area of 800 sq km. It has the highest density of population in the Ruhr valley. It has 17 cities within its area with a population of about 2.5 million inhabitants. These cities are Duisburg, Oberhausen, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Bottrop, Essen, Gladbeck, Bochum, Gelsenkirchen, Recklinghausen, Herne, Herten, Castrop-Rauxel, Waltrop, Lünen, Dortmund, Kamen and Bergkamen.

Emscher Landscape Park

With a length of 70 km and covering an area of 460 sq km, it is the largest re-naturalization project in Europe. The vision of this park was that it would act as a “green connector” between the settlements of the Rhur valley, following the path of the Emscher River and using the abandoned industrial areas along it as an unique form of green space. In addition to connecting the 17 towns located along the river valley, this new east-west oriented Green corridor joins seven existing but expanded north-south greenbelts. 3-5 cities belong to one green belt and have common planning, projects and measures.

The park is composed of regenerated brownfields, reclaimed forests, and existing recreational areas that together provide a cohesive set of green infrastructure for the entire region. The specific projects that created the park system ranged from the development of large fallow land areas to small scale construction schemes to installations of biotopes to the simple planting of trees. The master plan for the region specifically targeted abandoned industrial sites so as to improve the quality of the undeveloped areas surrounding them and to save money by making use of the existing infrastructure. The region's massive and muscular structures are now filled with art, culture, housing, commerce and offices. Concerts are staged in the aging steel frames of former factories. Grassy recreational areas complete with hiking trails and climbing walls, have been sculpted from the old hills of coal pilings. Paths through glades of trees linking the many different components of the park follow the former industrial roads and rail lines. The recovery of the water system forms the core of the entire environmental design trail.

The current park plan incorporates a variety of design elements:

  • A water park based on the ecological regeneration of the old Emscher Canal system;
  • Promenades and parks along railway lines that will help connect the park with adjoining cities;
  • Gardens that serve as a testimony to the area's industrial history;
  • Buffer zones between the parks which can be used by local residents for a variety of recreational activities;
  • Preservation of the steelworks as an active museum of the smelting process and technical history of the blast furnace.
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Analysis of program/function

Since this project covers many different cities in a huge area, the program is very diversified as are the different functions, also. They influence differently their cities and so each requirement for high environmental, social, urban development and aesthetic of modern residential construction and the renovation projects were specially considered. Schools, parks, residential areas and museums, for example, were constructed or rebuilt and, regarding to ecologic aspects, a very good example of modification is the Regeneration of the Emscher river system.

The Emscher Landscape Park

Linking all the cities from the rurh area, strategically, the Emscher Landscape Park represents a change in our exposure to urban nature: From exhausted wasteland to the conscious appreciation of spaces and the shaping of new types of urban cultural landscape. With this first central project, the IBA Emscher Park took new directions in planning, dimension and definition. Spatially, it was about the discovery of qualities, the integration of clearly useless space, the overcoming of barriers to facilitate the redefinition and appreciation of landscapes in the Ruhr area.

The linking of previously isolated landscapes, the qualification of individual areas and projects in terms of strong environmental functionality as well as an authentic design, formed the second phase of development. Working as one of the main functions thought for this project, the Emscher Landscape Park shows the ecologic intentions of the planners and links, in a certain way, such different cities with different landscapes and recreation areas. But like in the past, when they were connected by the same industry zone and degraded areas, now they are connected by a huge green area, the links the historical past of this region.

The Emscher river system

The regeneration of the Emscher River symbolizes the region's struggle to regenerate its environment and quality of life. Water quality problems associated with the "Emscher System" multiplied as the region's population and economy grew during the first half of the 20th century. In an effort to manage the increasing volume of discharge, the Emscher Water Association improved many of the concrete channels throughout the Emscher basin. Pump stations and primary sewage treatment plants were also built along its shores. Open sewers, however, were still the principle way to dispose of mining wastes. With the eventual decline of the mining industry in the 1970s, the structural problems of a closed sewage system caused by subsidence decreased.

Almost one hundred years since the system's creation, the Emscher Water Association, the state government of North-Rhine Westphalia and IBA at Emscher Park were involved in a comprehensive plan to ecologically reengineer the entire Emscher System and return it to a natural state. Many of the individual projects involve removal of the concrete channels and restoration involving "daylighting" of enclosed streambeds, thus creating more permeable surfaces for runoff. Although ecological restoration of the Emscher System may take fifty years to complete, IBA has undertaken this project given the importance of water quality to many of IBA's other projects and its long-term goals of sustainable development and ecological planning. Expenditures for the work were covered entirely by the coal mining companies responsible for the damage caused by its long history of mining operations in the region. Government grants cover the construction of the sewage treatment.

Industrial culture

An important element in the structural change of the Ruhr area is the rediscovery of its own past. The examination of the industrial history, and thus the genesis of the region, led inevitably to an examination of its architectural witnesses. Today, industrial culture is one of the region’s unique selling points, with particular value for tourism. Industrial halls have been transformed into exciting art and cultural sites, industrial machines have acquired sculptural attributes, sites of industrial labour and life have acquired a museum-like quality and ostensibly functional industrial architecture has acquired a new representative image as company headquarters. The industrial architecture plays a significant role in new forms of identification with the space, the region and the history. Industry buildings are now totally integrated with the rest of the landscape as a reminder of the past. In Essen is located one building that works as reminder of social heritage:

Zollverein World Heritage Site

The Zollverein coal mine and coking plant symbolise the region’s industrial past. It was this industrial site that was the stimulus for the building of worker estates in northern Essen. The extent of the coal production at Zollverein provided the foundation for the workers' pride in the production technology and the modernity of the coalmines allowed miners at Zollverein to ascend the hierarchy of the workforce. In the face of much resistance, Zollverein has been retained as a cultural monument to industrial architecture. As an accessible icon of industrial culture, the complex is symbolic of the rise and fall of an entire industry, demonstrating examples of new approaches in the shaping of structural change in the Ruhr area.



In 2001, Zollverein was included on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2001. A wide range of art and cultural projects and a varied events programme attract around 500,000 visitors to the site every year. Currently, the Stiftung Zollverein and the city of Essen are working together on the qualification of the location as a site for creative industry with a focus on design and on the dismantling of the industrial site. A 3.5-hectare area at the interface with the Zollverein coking plant will be developed as a site for residential and working models of youthful creative companies. In addition to offices, studios and workshops, apartments, restaurants, cafés and a hotel are also planned.

Duisburg Harbor

Near the town hall and adjacent to the city's medieval walls, Duisburg's inner harbor port is the site of a massive IBA redevelopment effort that will transform the area's former docklands into a thriving urban waterfront. Through a partnership with the City of Duisburg and the Port Authority, the project seek to integrate the port's historic mill and grainstore buildings into a new mixed-use neighborhood and waterfront parks and promenades.

The harbor project design, commissioned after an open competition, includes some of the most innovative ideas in waterfront redevelopment. Plans include social housing for low-income residents, studios, galleries, and cafes for these former docklands. The proposed sixteen-story glass "Euro-Gate" office building and resort hotel, with its high-tech architectural and energy efficient design, will eventually symbolize this bold redevelopment initiative

Residential areas

Many residential districts have grown up around the industrial plants. In order, primarily, to hire industrial workers and to further strengthen the bonds of the workforce with the company, the iron and steel consortia of the Ruhr area conceived enticement strategies which included the provision of accommodation. The area saw the emergence of estates in colony forms, garden cities in close connection to the industrial company, villages for housing of primarily young and single workers with families already settled. Even though this development does not represent a symbol of urban city development, these processes have in part given rise to closed city districts which, in comparison with social rental buildings, salvage many qualities.

The reactivation of these districts and the highlighting of their qualities was one goal of the IBA Emscher Park. In collaboration with housing companies and municipalities, not only was it possible to uncover architectural and urban development qualities of the buildings but also to integrate modern architecture and locate new estates on former industrial sites.

Analysis of design/planning process

Because of the scale of the environmental and economic degradation, and the increased number of abandoned industrial properties with varying levels of soil contamination, it was not possible to apply traditional principles of urban redevelopment. Successful revitalization of this region and these former industrial properties would demand an innovative framework that could manage or stimulate individual redevelopment projects within the context of a regional planning strategy. IBA, as described above was launched in 1989 under the directorship of Professor Karl Ganser, the company IBA Emscher Park GmbH has been the coordinator of a 10-year long initiative which brings together private companies, local government officials, and the community to ensure that each of its 100+ projects successfully regenerate the region's environment and the economy.

With a council from the 17 local communities of the Emscher region voting to join the building exhibition upon its formation. The International Building Exhibition operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Land North Rhine-Westphalia under civil law and with limited liability. A total of 50 people were employed by the IBA Emscher Park. 18 members from specialist disciplines have been appointed for scientific consultation and to supervise the work.

A wide range of approaches were taken by IBA to select, design, and carry-out its projects. Besides competitions, expert panels, national and international symposia play an important part in the IBA process. The IBA has no direct influence over local developers and municipalities. IBA staff may suggest projects to the local authorities, or a municipality will apply for one of their own initiatives to become an IBA project, the incentive being that the Land North Rhine-Westphalia will give an IBA project funding- and administrative priority. For a project to be accepted, the IBA has to make certain that it reaches a certain level of quality in respect of their overall aims, which encompasses social, aesthetic and ecological criteria, and a contract has to be signed to guarantee that the desired level of quality is achieved.

And most importantly and worthy of mention was the initiation of ‘Baukultur’, an important concept that allowed for architecture to play a vital role in the development of the masterplan; by understanding the different situations generated by present architectural conditions it allowed for a 2-way direction in planning, architectural situations would inspire the master plan as much as the master plan would have forced its fluxes onto the architecture and its immediate landscape.

Analysis of use/users

The Emscher Park involves an area of circa 800km², in wich about 2.5 million people live. Because of it´s grandiosity and multiple areas, all the population of this 17 cities involved can actually use and enjoy, somehow, the green recreational areas or schools, museums or residential neighborhoods, for example. Since the start of the project and the area´s modification, it became often visited by tourists too, because of the new cultural events and parks.

Core Question 2: What is the role of landscape architecture in this project?

The aim of the IBA Emscher Park was to revive the ecology of the old industrialized region for better; in this process improving the urban and social condition of its inhabitants. The scope of landscape design in the Emscher Landscape Park is very broad and encompasses a lot of aspects; so its diversity is very important. More than 150 years of industrialization had made a very clear and distinct image on this area. Incorporation of this industrial landscape with the new elements and combining both aesthetically was a major challenge in terms of landscape architecture. This new landscape also had to create a homely, friendly and harmonious atmosphere, together with the industrial landscape, for the inhabitants. Besides recreational areas, public gardens and natural reserves, a network of bicycle paths, hiking trails and walking pathways were created. Lot of projects in this area involved the transformation of industrially formed landscapes into industrial landscape parks. Industrial heritage, recreations are some of the aspects whose landscapes have been created by combining new elements with old settings. Stone dumps and waste heaps are typical constituents of the industrial landscape. Some of these have been redesigned by landscape architects and are now important points of identification for the dwellers and also serves as important landmarks in the region.

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