Zollverein is the meeting place for past, present and future. The past is explored by the "Heritage Trail", bringing to life the history and technology of what was once Europe's largest coal mine. What was it like when the rhythm of gigantic machines and conveyor belts determined the lives of 5,000 miners and their families? The "Portal of Industrial Heritage" translates this history to the entire Ruhr district: multimedia stations effectively showcase 18 former flagships of large-scale industry - all under one roof. The Ruhr Museum in the former coal washing plant focuses on even more immense dimensions. It recounts the natural and cultural history of the Ruhr area over a period of 300 million years - from the emergence of coal to the profound process of transformation that we witness today. This process has earned Zollverein its reputation as "the most beautiful colliery in the world", in particular thanks to the careful conversion of the buildings above ground. Its simple Bauhaus facade is equally suitable for housing concerts, dance and theatre shows, not to speak of congresses, conferences and trade fairs. The future has already begun. Zollverein is being developed into an innovative meeting point for design and the arts. This is already reflected in the exhibitions of contemporary art in the neighbouring coking plant and the world’s largest presentation of contemporary design in the colliery’s redesigned boiler house. Zollverein is the living embodiment of high-power industrialisation and simultaneously a symbol of structural transformation in the Ruhrgebiet. In 2001 the site was inscribed into the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
The history of the Zollverein pit and coking plant is full of individual records. The first pit was sunk in 1847. This was followed by three more before the end of the century. At the time it was the number one pit in the Ruhrgebiet. But it really became famous with the opening of the central shaft number XII in 1932. The yield of coal at Zollverein was 12,000 tons per day, by far the largest of any coal mine in Europe. In addition the surface buildings at shaft XII were the first to be constructed on the lines of a steel skeleton construction. The cube like buildings with their red brick walls and steel trelliswork not only looked good, they were extraordinarily practical. No wonder that they set the style for industrial architecture in the Ruhrgebiet. Between 1957 and 1961 the Zollverein plant was extended by the addition of a coking plant. And soon after that its 192 furnaces had to be increased to 304, making it the largest industrial plant of its kind in the world. But the gradual decline of the pit dragged down coke production accordingly. In 1986 most available coal supplies had been exhausted and the final shift descended the shaft at Zollverein on Xmas eve that year. The coking plant survived for another seven years. But around the same time began the amazing transformation of Zollverein to the most important monument of high-tech mining at the present time. Its inscription into the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites is the best proof of this. The stylised image of the imposing twin pithead gear is well-known throughout Germany. A factory of the future has been established out of the former pit and coking plant. Here living industrial history is twinned with an economically powerful centre for design and the arts. For looking ahead to the future has a long tradition in the Ruhrgebiet. In this respect Zollverein is once again number one.
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You can visit the Zollverein area at any time for free.
Ruhr.Visitorcenter and Ruhr Museum
Red Dot Design Museum
Tuesday - Sunday 11am-6pm