From Coal Field to Creative Quarter: An Architectural Walk around the Ruhr area

Central perspective of Norman Foster’s redesigned boiler house, which now houses the Red Dot Design Museum
Central perspective of Norman Foster’s redesigned boiler house, which now houses the Red Dot Design Museum | © Thomas Willemsen, Stiftung Zollverein



The Ruhr area’s architectural scenery is dominated by old industrial developments, which have been revived by modern planning. An Architecture Walk around the Ruhr cities Bochum and Essen.

The Ruhr area’s architectural scenery is dominated by old industrial developments, which have been revived by modern planning. This new creative centre was once Europe’s biggest coal, iron and steel facility. In 2001, the Zollverein coal mine in Essen was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Ruhr area is made up of 53 cities and boroughs, all of which were part of the restructuring process. The 1989–1999 International Building Exhibition at Emscher Park laid down the foundation for investments. Another important boost came from the Ruhr 2010 nomination as European City of Culture.

The energy and steel industry still visibly dominate the area. The highlight of Essen’s skyline is a 120m high glass cylinder, the headquarters of German energy giant RWE, and one of the first eco high rise buildings that features a double-skin glass facade for natural office ventilation. Additionally, Thyssen Krupp’s Essen headquarters saw a 17-hectare property redeveloped.

A tour of Bochum and Essen gives compelling insights into the harsh aesthetics of the area’s industrial heritage.


The ten stops

The German Mining Museum Bochum Bochum Westpark and Jahrhunderthalle
Bochum’s Concrete High-rise Bunker Essen’s Folkwang Library
Museum Folkwang Essen Visitor Center Zollverein Essen
Zollverein Ruhr Museum in Essen Zollverein Works Swimming Pool and Ice Rink
Zollverein SANAA Building in Essen Nightclub Hotel Shanghai in Essen