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Urban development

Grey iron and rusting steel are often our first associations when we think of a disused ironworks. But the whole idea of the Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord shows that a so-called brownfield site can elevate itself far beyond these preconceptions. And, to start with, the park was not much more than that - an idea. In 1985 the central question was

"What do we do with rusting steel giants and a 200-hectare polluted industrial wasteland?"

Selling to a foreign buyer or demolition were two possibilities. Numerous local politicians in Duisburg pleaded for demolition because they were afraid of the incalculable consequential costs that would be a burden on the public purse. The silhouette of the ironworks, which had defined the local townscape and the image of the north of Duisburg for years, was a strong argument against demolition. Demolition would have deprived the district of its industrial landmark, and the historical urban redevelopment would no longer have been possible.

A small circle of interested citizens - lay people and experts – took it upon themselves to work passionately to resist the demolition of the ironworks. This commitment led to the creation of the German Industrial Heritage Association and the Nordpark Interest Group. A preservation of historical monuments report finally confirmed the high heritage value of the works.

However, this report and the commitment of so many people would probably not have been enough to bring about a political decision in favour of preservation, had the North Rhine-Westphalian state government in the late 1980s not been looking for new approaches to structural change in the northern Ruhr District. The so-called Emscher zone was considered to be particularly structurally weak and in need of the support of a large number of different projects. So it was that the International Building Exhibition Emscher Park (IBA) was founded in 1988 and the Meiderich ironworks became the centrepiece of this major industrial and cultural project.

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