THE LINK to #urbanana: Rhine cities and the new harbours, part 1: From breadbasket to neo-port – Architektur in Duisburg
Duisburg. Deutschland. Advertisement. The #urbanana-Rhine cities of Cologne, Düsseldorf and Duisburg have strengthened their sides facing the great river in the past few years, since the three cities began to renovate their harbours almost simultaneously. The re-use and revitalisation of Duisburg’s Innenhafen, or Inner Harbour, is an impressive story of successful restructuring in the Ruhr Area. In the first report of our three-part series about Rhine- and harbour cities, we will highlight its important architectural sites.
"A guiding principle was the creation of a flexible framework that has allowed elements to be developed independently over time by different architects. New infrastructure and public amenities were put in place first to establish the harbour as an attractive place in which to live and work or to visit. A tree-lined promenade was created along the waterfront and canals were excavated as armatures for new housing development."
Foster + Partners on their master plan for the inner harbour of Duisburg
We explored three harbours that are as different as the cities in which they exist. All three represent a fundamental reorientation and a new revaluation of the Rhine. This large river merges and divides, feeds and caresses, rules and guides life in the three #urbanana cities of Cologne, Düsseldorf and Duisburg. But the river is not the same river it once was. Industries are changing, the currents of globalisation are changing course and harbours are starting to be classified as “subordinate” in importance, as seen in the Rheinauhafen in Cologne, the Düsseldorf-Hafen and the Innenhafen in Duisburg. The successful renovations have demonstrated how decommissioned, unprofitable anchorages are able to transform into state-of-the-art apartment/office/restaurant ports. Despite all their differences, the three new harbours have one common quality: They are large and centrally located. The biggest hype has surrounded Düsseldorf’s so-called Media Harbour (Medienhafen), which was primarily due to Frank O. Gehry and his Neuer Zollhof development. The wobble-and-waves complex, finished in 1999, made the approximately 10-hectare area suddenly famous. That was also due to the productivity of the Canadian-American architect. At the turn of the millennium, one could not overlook his buildings: the “Dancing House” in Prague (1996, with Vlado Milunić), the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (1997), the DZ Bank in Berlin (2001), and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (2003). The conspicuous and unusual Neuer Zollhof is consistent with Düsseldorf’s overall strategy. Unlike in Cologne or Duisburg, Düsseldorf – the capital of the North Rhine-Westphalia region – has not performed any surface rehabilitation; rather, it has dealt with every plot of land individually, adapting them for future users. Instead of a single urban planning-architectural total concept, several renowned architecture offices have contributed to the overall image of the Media Harbour, among them David Chipperfield, Joe Coenen, Steven Holl and Claude Vasconi.For the Rheinauhafen, the freight forwarding company Häfen- und Güterverkehr Köln AG (Cologne Harbour and Freight) developed the 21-hectare area together with the city of Cologne, and gave the formerly modern industrial harbour a coherent, in parts very clean appearance and framework. What Gehry was for Düsseldorf, Foster was for Duisburg. The master plan of Foster + Partners, which won the 1991 competition, provided for a combination of work and living, culture and leisure. In the end, multiple building projects were realised on the 90-hectare area, in the context of the international building exhibition IBA Emscher Park: Foster's "Hafenforum", the Küppersmühle Museum and the Land Art artist Dani Karavan’s work of landscape architecture called the Garten der Erinnerung (memorial garden), whose building remnants and concrete walls corresponded with the concrete arms of the Jewish community centre. As a visitor, one really feels the 100-year history of the harbour and trading centre. This was the very centre of the German grain trade. Until fifty years ago, grain was milled on this site: Thus, Duisburg’s Innenhafen was called the "Breadbasket of the District". Later, it diminished in importance and was threatened by extensive demolition. Today, nothing can be seen of the grain works and the former harbour centre, and the storehouses have become museums, offices and restaurants. The cleaned-up, structured expanse of the new Innenhafen will contrast with the image of a city in crisis, with its 13 per cent unemployment rate and problem neighbourhoods. Instead, the towering mills and storehouses will gleam, confident and clinker brick-red. When one walks around them, the installations and renovations are at first barely recognisable (for example, the Küppersmühle MKM Museum of Duisburg, redesigned by Herzog & de Meuron and completed in 1999). Restraint is the greatest advantage for the renovations of the old houses, and also desired from LEG, THS, Kaiser Bautechnik and Foster + Partners, the winners of the international master plan competition, as the extension with modern, multifunctional architecture. The most important result is that people are really taking to the new residential/office/cultural harbour. They come with their children to the playground near the cultural and city history museums, hold hands with their loved ones as they stroll through the park in the old city, and take advantage of the various gastronomical offerings. A few of the restaurants in the Werhahnmühle, an old mill, score extra points for their historical ambience, which survived the restoration. A look behind the scenes is especially worthwhile. A few of the new buildings, for which the Duisburg native architect Jürgen Bahl is responsible – for example, the Looper office buildings, Hitachi and Five Boats – appear all too clean, forbidding and modular in their glass-and-steel façades. Yet when one circles around them, they surprise the observer, with views toward the interior and the exterior and with their relationship to the water. Thus the H2-Office on Schifferstraße, recreated as a catamaran by Bothe Richter Teherani, appears futuristic and open. Whoever is already here should go in the direction of the A59 highway bridge. From here, one has a view of the entire landscape of the harbour. Here, the new-old brick fortresses and the shining, glassy linear boxes join together to create a harmoniously smooth overall picture.Compared to the views from the Rheinauhafen and the Media Harbour in the nearby inner cities of Cologne and Düsseldorf, the Innenhafen makes a rather hermetic impression. All the more surprising is the moment when one comes from the nearby inner city and sees the airy clarity of the Innenhafen, whose development is not yet finished. Further building projects – like the spectacular The Curve – are planned, as is a stronger connection to the city centre. Not a bad outlook for a city that has been hit hard by structural change, and one that has proven with the Innenhafen that it can re-orient itself successfully.
Innenhafen Duisburg (inner harbour)
Landesarchiv NRW (State Archives of North Rhine Westphalia) by Ortner und Ortner Baukunst
MKM Museum Küppersmühle
Garten der Erinnerung (memorial garden), Jewish community centre and new constructions
"The practice's work in Duisburg demonstrates that the trend towards clean, quiet industries has the potential to reinvigorate declining urban areas and create sustainable communities for the future, where home, workplace and recreation are all close by. In place of the zoned and functionally segregated city of the twentieth century, it offers a twenty-first century urban paradigm of mixed-use. With many cafés and restaurants, an art museum, new housing, offices, converted historic buildings and a new park, Duisburg Inner Harbour is becoming a thriving commercial and residential centre in its own right."
Foster + Partners on their master plan (1991–2003)