Zeche Zollverein Schacht XII. Photo: http://www.zollverein.de.
This post was originally written in Portuguese.
Designed by the architects Fritz Schupp and Martin Kremmer in Bauhaus style, the Zollverein industrial complex (Zeche Zollverein) is a symbol that represents the rise and fall of all an industry that dominated and formed the Ruhr area. When it was built, it was considered a marvel of efficiency. It was the last mine to be closed down in the city of Essen in 1986. The colliery (used to transform coal into coke: an essential fuel for the steel industry) was the largest and most modern plant in Europe when it was built in 1961. It was also closed down in 1993.
Today Zollverein is a symbol of rebirth. The industrial complex, that since 2001 is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, searches for innovative solutions to give a new impulse to the economy of an area that still retains one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. 110 million euros were invested from 2002 e 2007 by the European Union, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the city of Essen to transform Zollverein into a centre of excellency focusing on the development of creative industry. Today, the complex is home to several cultural institutions, like the Red Dot Museum, and the famous Zollverein School of Management and Design.
Zollverein collery, closed in 1993. Now it is used as a space for shows and theatrical performances. Photo: http://www.zollverein.de
The Zollverein industrial complex is huge (look at this satellite image). There are dozens of buildings connected by tubes, tunnels, bridges and cables. You can walk or move from one area to another on rails by hanging bridges that spread for hundreds of metres, connecting one sector to the other. There is still a lot of space that can be used. In 2007 Zollverein will have a new museum: Ruhr Museum and in 2010, when the Ruhrgebiet becomes Europe’s Capital of Culture, you can visit the Invisible City (Die Zweite Stadt), an underground museum 1000 metres bellow Zollverein Shaft XII.
I have been in Zollverein several times from June 5 to 9, this year, participating in the Play-off/06 international theatre festival. The festival’s welcome party was held in one of the Zollverein buildings, as well as several theatre performances (including ours) and workshops.
See more images of Zeche Zollverein.
Credits: 1, 2 e 3: Helder da Rocha. 4, 5 e 6: Uli Benke (Flickr).7: Gloria (Flickr). 8 e 9: Oliver Regelmann (Flickr)