“No one says Duisburg is lovely,” laughed my host who had grown up in the area. Yet, to someone who spent years wandering around the abandoned grain mills of Buffalo, New York, the city of Duisburg, Germany not only has a working class atmosphere that is genuine and approachable, but also an antiquity not found in many much younger American cities. Additionally, Duisburg is home to a significant and unique amenity of the late 20th century: a 220 hectare (543 acres) industrial park, Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord.
Landschaftspark was developed from 1990 – 2002 as part of a larger redevelopment project, the International Building Exhibition (IBA) Emscher Park, which spans 450 kilometers (280 miles) of defunct industrial landscapes in the Ruhr Valley. The IBA Emscher Park project was aimed at re-imagining the industrial heritage of this region in a way that would attempt to clean up some of the environmental damage caused by industry and invite a new image of progressive ecological and social engagement for the valley.
Landschaftspark set a precedent in site re-development by retaining its historic ironworks structures while also introducing public recreation and a complex landscape plan. Alongside the former industrial structures are both ruderal species that have taken over more or less on their own accord as well as obviously designed gardens and pathways.
As one of the most talked about projects of post-industrial regional and site rehabilitation, there are countless analyses, critiques, and historic accounts of Landschaftspark. Without too much effort one can find out about the competition that kick-started the project or the designer Latz and Partner’s contribution to ideas of “minimal intervention” or the project’s experimental foray into phytoremediation. As someone keenly interested in the history, ecology, and social value of derelict sites and their potential transformation, I was eager to visit Landschaftspark to gain a first-hand understanding of how it has settled into itself nearly twenty-five years after the project began.