Architecture Case Study by Alice Podner
North Duisburg Landscape Park
Duisburg, Germany. Latz und Partner 2002
The North Duisburg Landscape Park is about 230 hectares of land that was built around a closed metallurgical plant. The smelter was built in 1901, directly to the coal fields of the former “Gewerkschaft Deutscher Kaiser” (Union of German Emperor) Thyssen-owned property and was connected to “Emschertalbahn” (important railway line for the industry in this region) and to the “Emscher” river.
Until its closure in 1985 because of overcapacity in the steel market, the plant produced pig iron for Thyssen steel mills. Since then its natural surroundings were left undisturbed and a part of the area was rebuilt into a recreation area.
In 1989 the municipality gave public use to the area, Latz’s design won the competition for the reuse of the complex because instead of creating a tabula rasa surface for development the design attempts to celebrate the area’s industrial past by integrating vegetation and industry. The evident contradictions add to (not detract from) the park’s overall effect.
Peter Latz’s design was significant, as it attempted to preserve as much of the existing site as possible. He understands avant-garde landscape architecture as a translation of abstract ideas, ideas of nature, ecology and society. Then it seems very likely to understand design as an “invention” of information layers which overlap with existing systems, before we can think of shape or expression at all.
At Landschaftspark, memory was central to the design. Latz recognized the value of the site’s current condition and he designed it with the idea that a grandfather, who might have worked at the plant, could walk with his grandchildren, explaining what he used to do and what the machinery had been used for.
The design wants to establish a balance between formal and informal vegetation. In some areas nature seems to grow spontaniously as thought it was not part of the original landscaping plan.
The Park Duisburg Nord is only a small portion of Germany’s effort to reuse old industrial areas in the Ruhr river basin, the park is a part of a large green belt area in the Emschler region, which aim to transform industrial sites into natural parks based on the natural regeneration of soil.
The park is giving a new importance to the city of Duisburg. It’s a great occasion for his inhabitants to discover their own past and it attracts a large amount of tourists. As a decommissioned iron smelting works, the landscape park is now one of the most important industrial monuments, as well as being an excursion destination, a venue for events, climbing and diving.
Blast furnaces, a gasometer, cooling tanks, railroad tracks and slag heaps, among other things, occupied the land upon which the park was added.
The most impressive structure is the central power plant which is 170 metres long, 34 metres wide and 20 metres high. In 2002, all the former industrial halls were converted into multifunctional performance venues which are hired out for events. From inside blast furnace number 5 is it possible to peer into the gigantic casting hall, and outside to climb right to the top of the 70m high steel structure and enjoy superb panoramic views.
The gasometer has been transformed into a unique diving centre for all abilities, one of the halls now contains an open-air cinema, the cooling tanks now exist as lily ponds, the railroad tracks are bike paths, the slag heaps grow wild with acacia and ailanthus trees. Nearly everything has been reused in some manner, playing with the distinctions between natural and artificial, while confusing our definition of “park”.
There are lots of places to play against the backdrop of the blast furnace, halls and labyrinth of pipes. The landscape park is open 24 hours a day. On weekend nights, the Duisburg-Nord landscape park becomes a truly special experience. This is when the chimneys and steel structures are lit up with uniquely atmospheric illumination. The light installation by the famous light artist Jonathan Park immerses the former blast furnace plant in a colourful sea of light.
There are also cultural events held in the unique setting of the Duisburg-Nord landscape park. Whether it is the Ruhrtriennale, opera, book readings or open-air cinema, events in the Duisburg-Nord landscape park turn into great experiences that make a real impression.
Latz allowed the polluted soils to remain in place and be remediated through phytoremediation, and sequestered soils with high toxicity in the existing bunkers. He also found new uses for many of the old structures, and turned the former sewage canal into a method of cleansing the site.The existing patterns and fragments formed by industrial use were taken, developed and re – interpreted with a new syntax, existing fragments were interlaced into a new ”landscape”.The architects gave great importance to the circulation within the park, without restricting freedom of movement. There are many walkways and possible routes, many of which are unmarked.
The park is divided into different areas, whose borders were carefully developed by looking at existing conditions, such as how the site had been divided by existing roads and railways and what types of plants had begun to grow in each area. This piecemeal pattern was then woven together by a series of walkways and waterways, which were placed according to the old railway and sewer systems. While each piece retains its character, it also creates a dialogue with the site surrounding it.
Within the main complex, Latz emphasized specific programmatic elements: the concrete bunkers create a space for a series of intimate gardens, old gas tanks have become pools for scuba divers, concrete walls are used by rock climbers, and one of the most central places of the factory, the middle of the former steel mill, has been made into piazza. Each of these spaces uses elements to allow for a specific reading of time.
Challenges and Opportunities
The majority of people was thinking that the abandoned factory was ugly and wanted to tear it down. The size of this industrial complex was not a simple challenge to cope with, but all the elements were re-utilized in a creative way.By blending vegetation and industry the architects have developed an unparallel project in the history of the regeneration of urban industrial zones.
All sourced from: http://www.ruhr-tourismus.de/en/duisburg.html
Except Image 5 : http://co-tain.com/1565/arch/landscape-park-duisburg-nord-by-latzpartner/