OMA’s masterplan for Zeche Zollverein, near Essen, covers a former coal mine and refinery of approximately 100,000m2. Completed in 2010, the site has been transformed into a successful public amenity. The masterplan entailed the retention of not only the former colliery buildings, but also much of the infrastructure. In doing so, it has provided the site with a promising post-industrial future.
In 1983 the coal mines (‘Black Side’) were closed – five years later, the coal refinery (‘White Side’) followed suit. In an abrupt shift away from heavy industry, the Ruhrgebiet lost the driving forces behind its identity. For the decade which followed, the local authorities were unsure of the future of the site, however recognising its industrial and cultural significance they had the foresight to purchase it as a speculative acquisition. Parallel to the involvement of OMA, in 2001 UNESCO declared Zeche Zollverein an industrial monument. The masterplan was developed through a collaboration with heritage specialists and conservationists, being completed over eight years.
The masterplan was envisaged as a walled city with a band encompassing the site. New service roads and the extension of an existing highway create improved access. Notably, the disused railway lines have been retained across much of the site, infilled to create public walkways and informal squares. Supporting a new mode of transport, they once again act as a network connecting the buildings. Sky bridges, which formerly carried coal around the vast site, have been transformed into walkways.
The periphery of the masterplan has been designated for new buildings and programmes ancillary to the former colliery workings. This has the effect of respecting the latter as a distinct, monumental territory. The programming of the new buildings and re-programming of the existing buildings contain many functions, most of which are related to the arts and culture. Amongst these is the Ruhr Museum, housed in a former coal washery. A frequent programme of temporary and semi-permanent events is hosted across the masterplan which successfully secure high visitor numbers year round.