German Journal Industriekultur 2.24: The Ruhr Industrial Heritage Route, Part 1

This year, industrial heritage is celebrating two major birthdays: the "Industrial Heritage Route", which explores the industrial and technological legacy of the Ruhr region, is turning 25 together with ERIH. This is no coincidence, as the opening of the Ruhr Area Route 25 years ago was an inspiration and model for the founding of ERIH. It's no coincidence either that a large number of the sites on the "Industrial Heritage Route" are now part of the ERIH Regional Route "Ruhr Area". For the Journal Industriekultur this is reason enough to feature the region's most important industrial monuments in the current and following issues.

While the term "Ruhr area" was not coined until the 1930s, industrial pioneers such as Franz Haniel, Mathias Stinnes, Friedrich Krupp and Friedrich Harkort had collieries and blast furnaces popping up as early as the mid-19th century. Another innovator, Count Henrich zu Stollberg-Wernigerode, also recognised the opportunity to enter the new technology of coke-fired blast furnaces. His Henrichshütte Ironworks, founded in 1854 and only shut down more than 120 years later, is one of the most long-standing ironworks in the Ruhr region and offers several routes to explore the site.

Today, the Henrichshütte is just as much an ERIH Anchor Point as the Zollern Colliery, which was built between 1898 and 1904. The magnificent model plant with its crenellated gables and the high-gloss polished machine hall with its Art Nouveau portal attracted numerous visitors right from the time of its construction. As a modern site of industrial heritage, it provides not only architectural highlights but also an authentic insight into the hard labour of the miners. Complementing this, the Duisburg-Nord Landscape Park illustrates the technology and workflow of a blast furnace plant that August Thyssen had built in Duisburg's Meiderich district from 1901. One of the distinguishing features of this ERIH Anchor Point is the transformation of the massive former industrial site into a unique landscape park with 28 kilometres of hiking and cycling trails, climbing walls in the ore bunker, a gasometer that has been converted into Europe's largest indoor diving centre and many other attractions.

The Hansa Coking Plant, another ERIH site, is representative of the many large-scale facilities constructed throughout the Ruhr region between 1926 and 1929 to feed the booming steel industry's appetite for coke. When in operation, the coking ovens, surrounded by tar fumes and coal dust and heated to over 1,000 degrees, were a never-ending inferno - and a "forbidden city" for outsiders. Today, rusty red and birch green dominate the scene - nature is reclaiming the terrain - and the panoramic view from the 40-metre coal bunker is one of the highlights of a visit. The ERIH member Ewald Mine | Hoheward Landscape Park has also undergone profound changes: one of the Ruhr region's most productive collieries with its striking architecture from different eras has become the "Ewald future site", combining modern industrial settlements such as the hydrogen competence centre with Europe's largest slag heap scenery. This - the so-called Hoheward Landscape Park - is located right next door and amazes visitors with an astronomical park that allows them to experience ancient methods of determining time.