Visit to Ruhr Museum

Sitting at the centre of OMA’s 100 hectare masterplan for Zeche Zollverein is a 12,000m2 visitor centre and museum. Located in the former Zollverein Kohlenwäsche – a single building used for the sorting of coal from adjacent mines – the project gives the redundant industrial structure a new and evidently successful use.  

The design approach was to maintain the structure as an industrial monument in terms of its interior and exterior essence. This meant inserting a new program whilst visibly retaining as much machinery and structure as possible.

Previously coal would enter the top of the building via a network of enclosed conveyor belts. From here, the coal would travel downwards, being processed along the way. Likewise visitors enter the building via a 24 metre high escalator, from where they travel downwards through a series of temporary and permanent exhibitions.

Ruhr Museum, near Essen, by OMA.

Ruhr Museum, near Essen, by OMA.

Escalator leading to the entrance floor.

Escalator leading to the entrance floor.

The entrance floor acts as a distribution zone, complete with an information point, ticketing, a café and shop. Above this level, all machinery has been preserved to give visitors an idea of how the building previously functioned.  The lower levels were previously a series of storage silos where coal was located before being transported. These have been divided into a network of themed exhibition spaces for the museum.

Machinery retained in the top of the building.

Machinery retained in the top of the building.

A semi-permanent exhibition space in the museum.

A semi-permanent exhibition space in the museum.

Permanent exhibition space in the former coal washery.

Permanent exhibition space in the former coal washery.

The building’s principal circulation is a single stair connecting the entrance level to the lowest public floor. Arriving at the top of the stair is a powerful experience: the analogy of mining processes is furthered by a dark and seemingly endless central void, reminiscent of a mine shaft.

Main vertical circulation: akin to descending a mine shaft.

Main vertical circulation: akin to descending a mine shaft.

Additional circulation leads to a viewing platform. From here, the building can be read in terms of its surrounding landscape, giving a clue to how the site functioned. On a clear day the site can be viewed in terms of how it functioned within the Ruhr district, for a seeming endless landscape of chimneys and winding gear can be witnessed.

The industrial landscape of the Ruhr district.

The industrial landscape of the Ruhr district.

Entrance to Ruhr Museum.

Entrance to Ruhr Museum.