Main Topic: Renewing urban areas

Quelle: RVR-Fotoarchiv, Kollage Autorenteam

Subtopic: Making culture move the urban development/European Capital of Culture Ruhr 2010

At first, this chapter gives an outline of the situation and the development of the cultural life in general and then of the top culture and selected events. At the beginning of the economic development of the Ruhr there has been no time and no interest to establish a refined cultural infrastructure. Those who came, came for work and to earn money first of all. The image of the Ruhr as a region without culture maintained as there was no bourgeoisie to take influence. It was not until the last decades that plenty of cultural places came into being causing the densest and most diversified cultural region in Europe.

Culture is given an essential role to develop key competences as identity, creativity, political participation and social disposition. But culture in terms of education and leisure is also a soft locational factor to attract a qualified knowledge-based workforce, the economic power of culture to create jobs should also not to be underestimated; and finally, cultural life is essentially to influence the regional image.

The decline of the coal and steel industry not only set companies and economic branches, urban patterns and infrastructure, industrial sites and buildings out of function. It also devalued the regional model of a worker?s life. So next to economic, ecological and building dimensions the structural change of the Ruhr had to recognize the necessities of social and cultural changes. Already the IBA had fostered this idea by regarding the industrial culture of the past not in terms of getting rid of the remains and of clearing the sites. Preservation, the conservation as listed buildings and their re-use by new functions and thus a historical awareness and an identification with the local past became core issues.

The ?European Capital of Culture ? Ruhr 2010? resumed this idea. This topic is only marginally presented here as it has been intensively documented by the RVR. But it shall roughly been outlined. The main aims of the project were orientated towards the
  • enforcing of the social coherence,
  • cultural contribution to the economy in terms of local images, tourism, creative business and explicitly
  • new strategies of urban development (festivals, urban architecture)
Headlined ?Change by Culture ? Culture by Change? plenty of projects have been realised in 53 cities of the region. Next to events and prestigious architecture the creative economy as well as young culture were the main topics highlighted by a pleasure in experiments.
Despite the love parade catastrophe, the ?European Capital of Culture Ruhr 2010? could achieve both short-term (media coverage, image) and medium-term (creative economy, image, tourism) success and could create a spirit of emergence. Beyond all the economic benefits, however, important impulses for the structural change can be gained from projects that intend sustainably to change the patterns of values and activities within the regional society. But it has to be doubted if appropriate projects can be developed permanently.

The change by culture claimed by the ?European Capital of Culture 2010? may find its potentials in the new model of a knowledge-based society in which the market orientations of culture, economy, science, education and creativity are interwoven to an interrelated metropolitan quality of locations and life-style. A potential risk may be that this new urban model will only serve a qualified urbane society, thus being more excluding than including. Essential resources may be gambled away thereby. Moreover, the magic of events and festivals lasts for a moment, change, however, is a social (learning) process that requires years if no generations.

Subtopic: Urban development

Flexible working conditions and life circles, motorization and commuting have reached a degree that is hardly to bear anymore. The model of the ?car city? with spatially separated functions as it has been realized in the Ruhr according to the Charta of Athens has all over come up to its limiting factors.

The chapters on urban renewal give an insight into the post-war and younger periods of urban development, including the urban rebuilding, the relationship between city, nature and open space as well as industrial heritage and brown fields as potentials of development.

Based on integrated development planning, on a new industrialisation and, caused by it, on an enormous housing demand of the working population high density housing quarters with an efficient infrastructure have been favoured. But as their acceptance decreased, those who could afford moved into a house of their own in suburbia. Low income households now concentrated in the high-rise quarters. Within only two decades these quarters were devalued and turned into multiple-deprived problem quarters. Whoever could moved out. The lasting demographic change and the regional decline of population increasingly caused vacancies that finally gave reason for demolition and remodelling.

At the same time another field of problems came into being. Particularly in the Emscher zone each coal mine has been the centre of miners? settlements. When a mine was shut down the ?heart? was taken out of the fabric, a ?city of holes? developed. ?Problem households? (old, poor, unemployed, migrants, single) remained or moved in. Corresponding processes took place in the housing quarters around the steel works. Population and quarters became more and more segregated, the fragmentation of the cities increased. In general, these quarters are situated in prime locations close to the city-centres.

In the 1970s and 1980s much attention has been given to the establishment of leisure parks (?Revierparks?) and to the improvement of the housing quarters environment. But neither the massive suburbanisation could be stopped nor could the problems be overcome that ensued from social segregation and divides. To the contrary, the concentration of problem quarters must be regarded as a systematic side effect of the regional policy of modernisation.

In the 1990s governmental programs (on the national and on the Land level) as ?Stadtteile mit besonderem Erneuerungsbedarf? (urban districts with special demand for renewal) and ?Soziale Stadt? (social city) have been launched to cope with the socio-economic, ecological and social deprivation in high rise housing quarters. The programs aim to overcome the deficiencies in terms of architecture, infrastructure and social life in these disadvantaged quarters. Later these aims were transferred into the program for experimental urban development (?ExWoSt ? Stadtumbau West?). It has been designed to stop the downward spiral in the deprived quarters and comprehensively to improve the living conditions. The focus was laid on the re-use of brown fields and on the strengthening of the housing and living functions.

Since 2005 the demographic change is accompanied by changing housing preferences. Instead of moving into a green suburban/rural environment the young families, the Young Urban Professionals, the Singles and the DInks (double income, no kids) prefer the core city. The re-urbanisation can be realized by using the the supply of brown fields. Qualitative flats, projects of culture and retailing as well as small and medium-sized knowledge-intensive services are now located on the brown fields that have turned from eyesores to ?centennial chances of urban renewal? (e.g. Essen-West, Bochum West, Phoenix West and East in Dortmund). But once again these areas involve the risk of social segregation and urban fragmentation.

Subtopic: Post-industrial urban nature

The demographic change will be but one of the challenges the cities of the Ruhr and the region as a whole will have to cope with in the renewal process. The challenges will not be met if the losses of population, human capital, companies, jobs, purchasing power, infrastructure and housing stock are not taken into consideration. First of all, the taboo must be removed from these shrinking processes, they must not be regarded as failures but as thepotentials of urban renewal.

This will not only concern the tendencies of re-urbanisation but particularly the urban challenges connected with the climatic change and the ?energy turn?. Instead of following the model of the compact and condensed city models of ?reduction?, of inner-urban water and green areas as well as open spaces, of fresh air thoroughfares that lower the temperatures must be applied, in general, a model of post-industrial urban nature.

Again it has been the IBA that took the pioneering task with the Emscher system renaturation project, with the rain and used water management, and last but not least with the ?Route of industrial nature? that connect industrial sites that are to be regained by nature.

Due to the polycentric structure of the region there is a relatively large amount of open spaces and of areas used by water, wood and agriculture. These areas will be enlarged by those brown fields that can not, or at intolerable prices only, be regained for urban land-use. Here are the development chances of the Ruhr. In the dense fabric of the classical ?compact European city? urban structures have to be reduced to achieve similar effects in terms of space and urban climate. Vertical gardens, vertical woods and agriculture in high-rise buildings are the experiments carried out. In the Ruhr, however, urban parks, waters and greens are no longer additional features but essential ones.

On some brown fields of the Ruhr experiments with growth-promoted woods (industrial woods) are carried out that will serve the wood-based energy economy (e.g. pellets). Heat pumps are planned in closed down shafts (geothermal energy) with energy storage lakes on the waste tips.

Subtopic: Brown fields and industrial heritage

The remains of the coal and steel era of the Ruhr are predominantly the former industrial sites, partly contaminated and in the past ?forbidden? because surrounded by high walls and fences. Closely connected to them are other elements of the industrial landscape as waste tips, works settlements, the dense networks of rails and dams, works streets, sewers, canals, harbours, tube tracks (district heating, blast furnace gas) and power lines.

Left behind are also the industrial monuments - the ?cathedrals of the industrial society? - that have become the basis of the industrial culture. Particularly the vast brown fields, may they be contaminated or not, offer a centennial chance for urban development as they have once been the core areas of urban development (former coal mines) or located in the immediate vicinity of the city-centres as the brown fields of former steels works in Duisburg, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Oberhausen, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Bochum and Dortmund.

In various fields of urban development brown fields and the industrial buildings on them play a key role as social, economic, ecological and cultural potentials. The IBA Emscher Park has recognized the value of these ?old? buildings and sites. The buildings became listed and were refurbished. But it was of particular importance that these buildings not only have been re-valued as regional heritage but that their interiors have been remodelled to attract new tourist, economic or cultural uses.

Furthermore, a wide range of experience could be developed in the management of brown fields. This includes the detection of inherited pollution burdens, their decontamination and their re-entry into the urban estate market. Beyond the existing industrial brown fields new brown fields can already be recognized in vacant housing quarters and closed retailing sites as well as in the suburban processes of re-urbanisation. The car assembly on the Opel site in Bochum, part of the former basic technological circle, is reaching its end as well.

Connected with the concept of shrinking there are chances that for long have been regarded as not useful: it is the experimental modelling of the city of the future that is sustainable in ecological, social and economic terms and is orientated to a development without growth, i.e. a qualitative urban development.

The urban development of the Ruhr exhibits various development stages and modes of urban change which is unique world-wide in terms of length, number and scope and the experiences made in the restructuring process are very much asked for in the emerging countries.