Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Duisburg on the Mon

With the news covering a plan on county council to create a large riverfront park in the region it is a good time to talk about the hard hat tours of the Carrie Furnace site sponsored by the Rivers of Steel heritage corporation. I had a chance to go on one of these tours a week and a half ago. This is one picture I took at the site. I think everyone ought to go on one of these. Unfortunately these tours are sold out for the fall, but are said to resume again in the spring.

You have to give credit to all who have been involved with the Rivers of Steel Project. They face some unique challenges and minimal support in their goal to preserve some of the industrial heritage in the region. I have mentioned in the past Duisburg's Landscape Park, which is a park made from the preserved Thyssen Steel Plant. Landscape Park is more on a scale of what you would have if the entire Homestead works had been preserved more than just part of the ironworks alone. If you are interested I have more of my own pictures of Duisburg online here.

One big difference between Carrie Furnace and Duisburg, here you need to sign legal papers and only enter the site in a guided and limited tour. In Duisburg, most of the site is open and you can wander freely on your own throuhout the complex. It's a long way before that will be possible here, in fact I suspect the insurance companies will never allow the same type of unfettered access as is possible in Duisburg. Here in the US there used to be open access to Gasworks Park in Seattle but when I was there last year even it has been completely gated off from the public.

It does highlight for me the different perspectives on history and environment there vs. the US. The Carrie Furnace Site has struggled to get anywhere near the $75-100 million to secure and stabilize their site. Landscape Park as part of the greater Emscher Park International Building Exhibition (or IBA in German) which can best be described as Brownfield Redevelopment on steroids. In the end, and parts are as yet undone, spent upwards of $2 Billion in current dollars to secure and redevelop industrial sites throughout the Ruhrgebeit, Germany's industrial heartland. Emscher Park refers to the Emscher River which was a river that had been redered lifeless long ago by industrial efluent in the region. The IBA has worked to restore the Emscher and may rank as one of the greatest environmental reclamations ever attempted. The striking difference between brownfield redevopment over there and here is that the IBA did not attempt to obliterate all traces of the industrial heritage as it worked to clean up various sites.


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