Industry in the Ruhr area of Germany began to die out in the 1960s and eventually closed its doors in the early 70s. When the industry and culture of the area died out, the tools used to create income for the population were left to rust. The area that is now ‘Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord’ was mostly used for coal mining and steel manufacture, with massive quantities being shipped out on trains and cargo vessels by the nearby Emscher river.
In the mid 1980s the local government started to look at developing the area, contemplating possibilities of residential, cultural, educational and art spaces. It was handed over to a formation of designers, architects and political representatives called the IBA, who are still in operation today The IBA put the idea forward to the masses and thus Peter Latz was chosen to redevelop the area. Latz + Partners had become a strong name in landscape design work in the years leading up to this. The firm was given the task of mainly an; environmentally safe, community and cultural hub from the remnants of industry.
Now this may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to derelict blast furnaces, nor heaps of industrial by-products. However, this was in fact the first thought for Peter Latz and his team, who has since described his vision stemming from the structures seeming like ‘landmarks’ for the area. The 230 hectare plot was a mix of industry, train lines and polluted forestry. All this under ownership by industry giant, Thyssen Krupp until it was purchased by the local government in the 1980s. This goal of reversing environmental downturn of the area and also creating a sanctuary for community members must have seemed a mammoth task.
The entire development took close to 14 years between 1989 and 2002, completed in phases presumably following; making the ecosystem safe for wildlife to recover, altering the structures to be safe for the general public and finally boosting the environment. This signifies a shift in how the typical urban park was created, instead of demolishing and building on top, the decision was instead to keep the past use as a reminder and embrace it.
One main concern was how to repurpose the river, some influences suggesting it should be completely re-dug and creating a meandering flow. Latz decided on leaving it as it is, and instead focusing on removing pollutants from the river, alongside altering incoming sewage flows upstream, to revert it back to its most natural origins.
The park now features many different specialist hobby areas such as many bike paths, walkways, climbing walls, an outdoor cinema and even a beach themed cinema during the summer. Its frequent visitors amount to roughly 500,000 per year, which compared to its previous derelict and dangerous state, is a complete contrast.
Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord has been the first urban development of its kind. This being in terms of repurposing the land and previous architecture instead of starting completely from scratch. Latz + Partners have changed the way in which derelict spaces are used and also for different outlooks on how we can repurpose areas. Other examples include Templehof Airport in Berlin, Camden Lock Market in London and the Liverpool Docks. We will of course continue to see more rejuvenation of industrial areas as desirable plots become harder and harder to find in cities and societies change in focus to environmental protection.