Twente (1) – Emscher park and Hengelo

The old smeltersYesterday I went to Emscherpark. I have been going there at least twice a year, since 1992. I remember the first time I arrived in Duisburg Nord Meiderich. The new park by Peter Latz was under construction. I couldn’t believe my eyes, so overwhelming that I didn’t want to see it, it was simply too much for me, had to come back another day.

Yesterday we arrived at lunchtime. With the group from Hengelo we biked from Oberhausen along the Emscher into the landscape park. There we had barbecued meat and sausages in the ‘Giesshalle’ the space where fresh melted iron was captured form the smelter during at least fifty years. This whole environment with the gasholder in use as a diving centre, the ore bunkers that are used as a climbing centre, the smelters that you can climb on top of to have a fascinating view of the transformed Ruhr area. It all was as impressive as the first time I went there, almost twenty years ago.

Hengelo and the cities in the Ruhr area can learn a lot form each other. Only 80 minutes on the German Autobahn separate these places that both saw their growth during the last century of industrialisation an that are now looking for a new economic basis. The members of the city council, the mayor and the alderman were all impressed by the enormous investments that had been made during the last decades. And of course they were interested to hear where all the money comes from and why these investments are made. Is economic growth really stimulated by the reuse of industrial heritage and by making parks and bicycle paths?

Michael Schwartze Rodrian did a presentation for the group and tried to answer these questions. Michael has a long history in working in the Emscher area. April this year he was the one who hosted the Dutch Royal family during their official visit to the Emscher area.

All the investments in the park, in the water system, in restoring industrial heritage, in creating new connections, is done to create the right circumstances for a new economy to emerge. And although this is always difficult and doesn’t work for everybody, the results are impressive.

Later during the day we visited Zollverein, the world heritage site in Essen. The new Ruhr museum is impressive. The area is lively and what struck me most was the amount of visitors that they have: more than a million last year when they were the cultural capital of Europe. We had a fantastic dinner in the Casino restaurant. The politicians were having lively discussions among each other, trying to figure out what they had seen during the day. I am sure that during the next year or so there will be new initiatives in Hengelo.

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