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Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex
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Item Details
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modern German architecture styles and movements
Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex
Elevated rail with Shaft XII and Coal Washery
Elevated rail line looking towards Shaft XII and coal washery
Work Type
coal mines; coke plants; adaptive reuse
Image: April 5, 2019
Gelsenkirchener Str. 181, 45309 Essen, Germany
Essen, Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Latitude: 51.490 N
Longitude: 7.042 E
Brick, steel trelliswork, glass, concrete
Functionalism, modernism, New Objectivity
Conveyor belts and elevated rail lines made it easy to move coal and machinery around the vast site. Today, much of this original elevated rail has been converted into pedestrian paths, such as this one, which connects Shaft 1/2/8 and Shaft XII.
Commentary: Development of the coal pits below what is today the Zollverein XII Coal Mine Industrial Complex began in the mid-nineteenth century, but the buildings that remain on the site today were erected between 1928 and 1932 under the direction of architects Fritz Schupp and Martin Kremmer. Much of the interpretation at the site itself credits the Bauhaus as the primary stylistic influence, though as Kathleen James-Chakraborty has argued recently in Modernism as Memory, Schupp and Kremmer did not identify as modernists and in fact detested the leftist politics of the Bauhaus. What is undeniable is that Schupp and Kremmer sought a rational, efficient, and economical design and arrangement of the buildings on this vast, vertically-integrated site. This site was developed to extract, treat, and process coal, to produce coke, to transport coal and its products via railway, and additionally, to dispose of the associated slag or pit waste resulting from mining and processing activities. The mine remained operational until 1986 and the coking plant into the mid-1990s. In the early 2000s, a master plan by Rem Koolhaas of OMA reimagined the site as an interpretive center, a new home for the Ruhr Museum, with additional space for office, retail, and educational functions. Koolhaas’s visible interventions in the main coal washery plant include a dramatic orange escalator on the exterior and a brightly lit neon orange staircase in the Ruhr Museum’s interior. Norman Foster + Partners contributed the redesign of the former power house as the Red Dot Design Museum, and SANAA designed a new building for the Folkwang University of the Arts in 2010.
Contributor: Sarah Rovang
Information: “Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen,” UNESCO: World Heritage Convention, accessed June 9, 2019, . See also James-Chakraborty, Kathleen. Modernism As Memory: Building Identity in the Federal Republic of Germany. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018.
Photographer: Sarah Rovang
Historic Designation
Sarah Rovang, 2019
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