The Ruhr Area is a polycentric urban area in Nord-Rheine Westphalia in Germany with a population of 7.3 million people and an area of 4435 km2. It is nowadays considered the fourth largest urban area in Europe after Moscow, London and Paris. It comprises 53 cities, several of which were previously industrial cities with its largest cities being Dortmund, Essen and Duisburg and Bochum. The rivers Rhine to the west, Ruhr to the south and Lippe to the North border the Ruhr. Perceived from a map, the Ruhr appears like a single city, as no visible breaks are apparent amongst individual city boroughs. As described by MVRDV in Rhein-Ruhr City." If one drives through the Rhine-Ruhr District, one moves through a dispersed and low contrast periphery. It consists rather of suburbs, green spaces and old industrial sites. The Ruhr district resembles a lining up of in-between areas, where all the cities resemble each other. Here one does not find real borders between city and country" This is due to the fact that individual cities in the Ruhr grew independently from each other during the industrial revolution, unlike monocentric urban regions like London or Paris, which grew through the amalgamation of several towns around a growing central city The spatial structure of the region is an interweave of railways, roads, large industrial land linked to housing estates (Wohnsiedlungen) for workers in steel and mining industry deprived neighborhoods, high-knowledge centers and lots of green spaces, often in the form of Haldes; artificial hills created through mining. The region is characterized with coal bearing layers from the upper carboniferous period with a thickness ranging from 1 -3 meters, a fact which played a crucial role in the development of coal mining in \he Ruhr. Before the industrial revolution, the area was mostly agricultural land. It was only during the industrial revolution in the early 19th century that the Ruhr was first developed as urban region. Industrialization in the area began first with the creation of several iron works in the late 18th century but really took pace in mid 19th century when already 300 coalmines were in operation. It is during this time that the population grew drastically as more workers were required for the mines and steel mills. This led to former villages growing into cities and eventually the Ruhr coalmining district developed into the major industrial region in Europe. Bombing during the Second World War destroyed around 3 0% of the region's plants and equipment, and in the Post-war period, factories and steel plants were further dismantled until 1951 in order to weaken German industrial potential. The demand for coal decreased after 1958 leading to several phases of structural crisis in the Ruhr ranging from traditional heavy industry to service industry and now high technology And since then, the area has been suffering a large population shrinkage: more people die than are born, and many people, mainly young adults, migrate to other cities in search of better job opportunities. In Gelsenkirchen alone, the population has decreased from 400.000 to 270.000 in 50 years. Nowadays, the region is finding ways to make the area more attractive and is currently undergoing major spatial, economic and sociocultural transformations.
MSc studio BC, semester 17, 2010-13
Participants: Anahita Asgharpour, Guangrong Liu, Valerie Saavreda Lux, Sophie Vrenken.
Mentors: Oscar Rommens, Marc Schoonderbeek, Freerk Hoekstra, Pierre Jennen.