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Projekte der IBA Emscher Park


The International Building Exhibition Emscher Park (IBA) on both sides of the Emscher River in the middle of Germany’s largest industrial region, was a ten-year attempt to change a distinctive region permanently marked and damaged by industrial history and give it a new future. Ten years after the IBA’s finale, this catalogue documents the projects that through many small, acupuncture-like interventions shaped the result of the IBA’s structural programme in the Ruhr area. They changed the region’s history, continued to develop after the end of the IBA, and had an immediate impact in themselves and on their environment. 

By the 1980s, the Emscher region in the northern Ruhr area was a devastated area. Large-scale vestiges of industrialisation and the legacies of de-industrialisation lay side by side. “Listen to see if your heart’s beating!” wrote an unknown person on an Emscher bridge railing with a thick brush at this time. Many people in the region didn’t dare ask themselves this question. Fear of the answer, of the truth, was simply too great. From 1989 until 1999 the International Building Exhibition Emscher Park attempted to contribute to revitalising this “sick patient” and the development of these contributions, in the form of concrete projects, are traced in this book. It shows the IBA still has an effect today. It forms the present; it is still there. Some projects, such as the Westpark in Bochum or the huge former Zollverein coal mine site in Essen, are still not complete, which is understandable. Time doesn’t stand still; a region’s reconstruction never ends.The IBA Emscher Park followed neither a set plan nor fixed rules. Where would such plans and rules have come from? The IBA posed questions without knowing all the answers:

  • What is the sustainable regional planning framework for future economic development?
  • What defines the quality of a region in an era in which heavy industry is     quickly losing its importance?
  • What is the shared frame of reference for a society characterised by an increasing differentiation of life styles and ways of life?

The International Building Exhibition Emscher Park asked these questions in a highly urbanised and industrialised region whose previous modernity had reached a dead end. With its claim to validity, its ideas, principles and projects, the IBA looked for ways out of this dead end.