High school students in China will learn about the transformation of the old Ruhr industrial base in Germany in their geography class. This remote and unfamiliar place entered the industrialized society earlier than our country, but also fell into the whirlpool of “de-industrialization” earlier.
I have always longed to come to this place that is far from being favored by tourists. I just want to see with my own eyes, can the Ruhr area in the textbook really become the target of China’s future development as described?
Dortmund: “Nirvana” of Phoenix Steel Works
I parked my car in the spacious parking lot on the outskirts of Dortmund. Unlike the office workers who hurriedly changed to the subway to the city center, my destination was Phoenix Lake not far away. At first glance, this place is no different from an ordinary German city lake: the blue lake is rippling with clear waves and the sails are full of shadows; and the walking trails around the lake are full of citizens jogging here.
Perhaps different from your imagination, the name “Phoenix Lake” is named after the “Phoenix Mining and Metallurgical Group” which has nothing to do with literature and art. This lake park, which is now surrounded by various fashionable restaurants and high-end residential areas, was originally the entire scope of the group’s “Phoenix Steel Factory”.
As the center of the world’s steel industry turned to China, Dortmund’s Phoenix Steel Plant also officially announced its closure in 2001, and the steel-making blast furnace that had been in operation for 160 years was cooled for the first time. At this time, Dortmund, like every old industrial base in the world that is declining, is faced with a choice of where to go.
Going against the trend of the times, it is obviously impossible to introduce another factory. The outflow of residents caused by the closure of the factory also made the idea of turning this area into a new residential area unrealistic. To make matters worse, the long-term industrial production has caused soil pollution here to far exceed the German limit. Overnight, the plot of the Phoenix Steel Plant changed from a hot industrial plant to a hot potato that no one cares about. What should I do?
In 2005, a bold idea was proposed and put into practice: all the contaminated soil under the original factory area was dug out, and the remaining foundation pit was turned into an artificial lake. As for the excavated soil, the measures were adapted to local conditions, and a hill was piled up on the side. After being completely sealed, it was completely wrapped in clean soil.
Under such “universal shifts”, the industrial pollution area that everyone hates has been transformed into a smart “landscape painting” within a few years. The land price here has also risen steadily, and it has become a new hot spot sought after by Dortmund residents. A large number of mid-to-high-end residential areas have sprung up in the surrounding area.
Whether on weekdays or on weekends, there will never be a shortage of residents here for leisure. There are not only young couples, but also a happy family of three. Even because of the perfect barrier-free facilities, those who live alone in electric wheelchairs can also easily come here. .
In 2001, the blast furnace of Dortmund’s Phoenix Steel Plant, which had been in operation for 160 years, cooled for the first time.
In the entire area of the original Phoenix Steel Plant, only one former blast furnace was preserved as an industrial relic, which became the best footnote to the changes of the times. The sign on the side tells people the fate of its “brother” of the machine: it has been relocated to China as a whole.
The old industrial area that was once heavily polluted is now crowded with high-end residences
The blast furnace of the Phoenix Steel Plant is the only machine left after the entire plant was relocated to China.
DASA: Old Worker in the “Work” Museum
After undergoing “de-industrialization”, a large amount of industrial heritage in the Ruhr area was moved (or even transformed into) museums on the spot. “DASA”, located on the outskirts of Dortmund, is one of countless industry-related museums here. Its full name is “WorkingWorldExhibition” (WorkingWorldExhibition), with an exhibition area of more than two football fields.
What attracts me here is that it does not use cold “industry” or “machines” as the core of the exhibition like most industrial museums, but instead focuses on living “people”.
Yes, there are also machines here, such as a constantly running manipulator, but the purpose of showing it is to make the audience think: How will increasingly intelligent machines replace the role of workers? In addition, all the exhibits here are centered on “workers” and “work”-you can sit in front of a realistic control console and experience the hardships of an air traffic controller, or you can learn to be a 19th century textile worker. The original textile machine was messed up.
The old printing press in the DASA exhibition hall is the exhibit that the commentator was most familiar with.
The instructor that day was a tall old man, dressed in a gray-blue old-fashioned worker uniform with straps, and he was just a worker who just got off the production line. Apart from me, there were no other audiences in the same period, so I got the opportunity to communicate with him alone. “Are you also a worker before?” I couldn’t hide my curiosity. Without thinking, he gave me a positive answer.
The old man used to be a printer. From the initial apprenticeship to the middle management of the printing plant, his income far exceeds the average level of German workers. However, in the wave of “de-industrialization” in the Ruhr area and even in Germany as a whole, most of the relatively “low-end” industries such as printing houses closed down or moved to Asia, and he himself could not escape the fate of being “laid off” in the end.
The Wuppertal crane, opened in 1901, is the longest-running suspended train in the world.
Fortunately, he was unemployed over half a hundred years, and he met the conditions of the local government’s counseling program for the unemployed. He was given two choices: retire early, or accept a pay cut, and come to the DASA Museum with the retired printing presses of the factory to be an instructor. “I love work, how can I retire early?” He accepted the “re-employment” arrangement without even thinking about it.
Now his job is to tell the glorious history of Ruhr’s industry and the proud past of Ruhr workers in front of visitors from all directions every day. “Then do you like your current job?” I raised this somewhat sharp question.
”Of course! The history of our German workers needs to be told. When I am happiest, whenever there are children, I must let them know that our country once had such a huge industry and workers.
” Alas, but…” He paused suddenly and sighed: “But sometimes I still feel that I was born a worker. It’s my dream life to be able to operate those machines every day.”
“Crane Crane” on the Wuppertal River
Wuppertal: a green industrial city under a century-old crane
Nowadays, light rail trains walking in the air are not new, but have you ever seen a train “hanging” in the air? The Wuppertal crane, opened in 1901, is the oldest suspended train in the world and the most prestigious one.
I remember the first time I saw it was in an “Encyclopedia of Science” when I was a child. The seemingly faltering thrilling scene almost scared me into a cold sweat when I was still young. The “psychological shadow” of childhood became the best reason to trace the roots after growing up, but when I really came here, I felt like I was in the sci-fi scene of a post-industrial utopia.
The exposed giant steel structure towering over the sky stretches along the tortuous river to the end of the line of sight. Together with the sturdy brackets inserted diagonally into the ground on both sides, it is like a giant centipede, winding and crawling among the ancient cities on both sides of the bank. A series of sleek, modern trains full of passengers rushed under the belly of this “centipede”, and even intersected calmly, accompanied by the brief vibration of the steel frame and the sharp wind.
But when he really stepped into this train and “hanged” with it under the “iron centipede”, he could hardly feel any danger. There are only urban scenes that switch rapidly like flowing water, and the passengers who have long been used to it all.
It is a pity that most tourists who come to Wuppertal stop at this peculiar crane, and do not care too much about the past and present of the city behind the crane.
The official website of the City of Wuppertal lists all the local data: permanent population of 361,157; unemployment rate of 7.9%; manufacturing accounted for 25.64%; service industry accounted for 53.39%…Behind these seemingly cold figures is an old man. Industrial cities are struggling to become the epitome of “green”.
The industrial history of Wuppertal can be traced back to the 18th century, and a large number of industrial enterprises gathered in the small Wupper Valley. Engels was born here and spent his childhood here; also “born” here, there are household vacuum cleaners and one of the most widely used drugs in the world today-aspirin.
Wuppertal’s industrial history is not unfavourable. Unlike many cities in the region that have completely turned to embrace the tertiary industry, it is still as high as 1/4 of the manufacturing output value, which means that the industry is still Wuppertal’s One of the pillar industries.
The official website of the Wuppertal City Government lists the efforts made by industrial enterprises here to transform and upgrade: the textile and printing and dyeing industries in the past are now converted to car seat belts, airbags and body paint; the former “big sewage discharger” The paper mill is now making high-end green and environmentally friendly wallpapers.
And those companies that were originally technology research and development, such as the well-known Bayer Pharmaceuticals, are still leading the development of the global industry. With a strong industrial talent pool and government support, it has also attracted a large number of foreign companies, including the US 3M company, to invest in setting up factories.
A large number of industrial enterprises have gathered in the Wupper Valley. Engels was born here and spent his childhood here.
If you just look at these descriptions, it seems that Wuppertal is already a model city for “industrial upgrading.” However, the data also reveals the shortcomings and hidden worries here: the unemployment rate as high as 7.9% is not only higher than Germany, but even higher than the global average. However, the population of more than 300,000 has not even returned to the level of more than 400,000 at the beginning of the 20th century.
Wuppertal is undoubtedly a valuable reference case for how the industry of the old industrial city realizes its transformation, but it is far from perfect.
Red Dot Design Museum, where award-winning works over the years are displayed next to the former boiler
The “Red Dot Design Award” originated in the Ruhr area of Germany has become a benchmark in the global industrial design community
Essen: Transformation from “Manufacturing” to “Creation”
Maybe you have never heard of Essen, or even the entire Ruhr area, but you must have heard of the “Red Dot Design Award”. This international design award, which is now popular all over the world and has almost become the “industry standard” of industrial design, originally originated in Essen in the Ruhr area.
In 1955, at the Hugel Estate in Essen, a permanent exhibition entitled “Elegant Industrial Products” opened. At that time, although the Ruhr area was still in the flourishing period of manufacturing, a revolutionary trend of thought from “manufacturing to creation” had quietly emerged. “Elegant Industrial Products Exhibition” eventually developed into today’s “Red Dot Design Award”, from the self-entertainment of small industrial towns to the vane of global industrial design.
Now in Essen, the world heritage “Customs Union Coal Mine Industrial Complex” stands on the outskirts of the city, but the once-hot mines are long gone. The most conspicuous one of the factory buildings, with a giant boiler room in the typical Bauhaus style, is now the location of the Red Dot Design Museum.
The intricate steam pipelines and rusty boiler iron doors still retain their original appearance. However, the historic red brick wall of the boiler has been cleverly built into a background wall displaying fashionable industrial products of all colors. From clothing, shoes, hats, tables, chairs and furniture, to household appliances, and even small helicopters, the exhibits here are diverse and all share a common name: the winner of the Red Dot Design Award.
Any industrial enterprise on the planet will regard “putting its products in this museum” as its great honor. And this abandoned mine that was once abandoned by the times has been transformed into a place with the most voice in the global industrial design community.
How to “activate” the old industrial heritage, and how to display the seemingly cold industrial culture, Essen, and even the Red Dot Design Museum here, undoubtedly gave us new ideas.