30 active companies, 100 production units, 900 buildings, a dense network of high technology stretching over more than six square kilometres. This is what the future of industrial heritage looks like. In the Chemical Industry Estate in Marl, on the northern edge of the Ruhrgebiet, it is already part of the present. One of Europe’s largest chemical sites is booming here on the former site of the Hüls chemical works. All the necessary prerequisites are in place: a motorway right in front of the door, its own rail connections and harbour, the nearby airport in Düsseldorf and of course power stations. For the chemical industry needs power more than anything else. This used to be delivered in the shape of coal from the local pits. Visitors can find out more about this in the information centre at the start of the tour, which has a multimedia show on two floors. The lower floor relates the dynamic history of the Hüls company and its growth from a family business to a multinational concern – a journey back in time full of moving images and installations. On the floor above is an exhibition on the current chemical estate. Here visitors learn, for example, that one of the giant plants on the estate does nothing more than dissect air into its various properties. Of course they also learn why this is done and which raw materials are processed to which particular products. From the ninth floor of a tower block on the estate there is an mind-boggling view over the length and breadth of this gigantic estate, including the town of Marl, the Ruhrgebiet and the southern areas of Munsterland.
The Chemical Industry Estate in Marl has a long history and a huge potential for growth. As such it links the area’s past with perspectives for future development. The driving power behind the estate is ChemSite, an initiative of the federal state of North-Rhine Westphalia along with various large chemical firms and local authority business promotion bodies, the towns in the Emscher-Lippe region and the Westphalian Trades Union for Coal, Chemicals and Power. ChemSite’s aim is to support chemical business startups and the relocation of chemical firms, thereby giving a fresh impulse to industry in the Ruhrgebiet. It’s working. Anyone who visits the Chemical Industry Estate in Marl will come away with a completely new idea of the Ruhrgebiet.