“There are landscapes in the countryside or in the midst of cities which have been left behind and forgotten – a no-man’s-land where the life of animals and plants remains hidden and people are rare. The landscape of the former Zollverein colliery is situated away from the city, difficult to reach, and secured with walls and fences. Zollverein Park emerged over just a few years amidst collieries and coking plants. Admittedly, there were structural changes, but landscape designers with their teams of gardeners did initially not take part in it. Despite or even because of this, everything is ever so magnificent and at the same time strange. A multifaceted open space arose in the immediate surroundings of a unique industrial monument – a park with light forests, dark scrub, lakes, and open, wide spaces for sighting the tree-shaded paths.”
This has been our view on Zollverein Park in 1994. Subsequently, the area of the Zollverein colliery and coking plant took a rapid development. The Zollverein Park was made accessible and visitors were allowed to enter the unexplored site. The concept with which we took Zollverein Park into architectural competition in 2005 linked two different views together: carefully emphasizing the existing characteristics and qualities of a forgotten landscape, and making available necessary new, multifaceted and robust infrastructure for new activities at Zollverein.
Our approach and handling of Zollverein is based on several principles: emphasis on the architectural ensemble, restraint in landscape design, reduction of elements and materials, respect for the existing, preservation of industrial origin, acquisition of space by the visitors, making the transformation from a hermetically sealed-off industrial site to a public tourist highlight visible and experience-able. Zollverein Park – which has developed on industrially embossed terrain and does not deny its origins by gently adding and classifying – keeps its unique selling point by the high-contrast interacting between the clear, simple forms and structures of industrial architecture and the variety of spontaneous vegetation. The shape and outer appearance of Zollverein Park are being developed by a systematic and continuous maintenance.
The long-term concept of development by maintenance goes hand in hand with the gradual realization of the elements of Zollverein Park. Over a relatively long period, a forbidden zone develops to a park which is ready to get explored. It is not about establishing a museum-like industrial landscape, yet about composing a landscape with already existing elements; this concept consciously includes historical and current developments and signs in a credible manner and offers surface and room for future developments and purposes – open to interpretation and offering a pragmatic dysfunction.
With the concept of design by maintenance, the gentle approach to emphasizing the existing vegetation and to dispensing with any large intervention is linked. The vegetation is given time and calmness to develop naturally, and any potential intervention in the existing and future vegetation is being executed very carefully. Therefore, Zollverein became a place that develops a special atmosphere and energy out of itself. The cautious care and maintenance is at the same time easy to be arrangeable and practicable, and relatively cost-effective.
With its status as world heritage site, Zollverein has a very high radiance and attraction for the city of Essen and the Ruhr region. At the foreground is the impressive industrial architecture of the mine plant. The open spaces have an unobtrusive look which creates a surface to take an appropriate effect on the architecture; they complement the ensemble to a formal framework that makes the dimensions of the site tangible. Zollverein Park is an exceptional open space, which offers a unique experience with its complex offer of open spaces in conjunction with the mine facility, and attracts tourists and local residents equally. The visitor is invited to individually discover the park.