Germany's Ruhr area was the industrial heart of Europe, but declined. The Design Task Force visited to see its innovative regeneration programme that holds lessons for post-industrial parts of England.
Germany has been working to regenerate its huge and complex post-industrial Ruhr region for more than 20 years. In England, the housing market renewal programme has some significant advantages over the Ruhr project, not least of which is a considerable budget. However, we could learn from the way in which the regeneration of the Ruhr was led, and the coherent vision that was pursued.
Karl Ganser, the charismatic chief executive of the IBA (International Building Exhibition), the organisation set up to shape the project and make things happen, helped communicate a strong vision of what the programme was all about and what it was trying to achieve. This subsequently fed into the masterplan.
Other differences between the Ruhr regeneration and the pathfinders in England include the high level of intellectual debate about the project, both among those directly involved, and the public, about the changing nature and function of the cities. Marketing and communications were used to stimulate debate and interest in what was happening in the area, and have helped attract visitors from Germany and abroad. In contrast, in England few people who are not directly involved in housing market renewal areas even know of their existence.
More about Emscher Landschaftspark
The biggest challenge in improving the Rhur area was political. The creation of a 10-year 'International Building Exhibition' led to a strong vision for improvement and new collaborations.
The regional regeneration initiated by the IBA is a mixture of strategic environmental improvements; new uses for iconic industrial buildings; and the introduction of new structures.