Sunday, August 16, 2009

Duisburg Redux

This is a bit embarrassing at this point. PG's Cutting Edge this week catches a few stray comments here today. Last week, both PG and Trib were reading here as well.

But there is more interesting stuff you should be reading in the paper today. Stuff I actually should have written was on the PG's Next Page. Read Tracy Certo's account of a trip to Europe and our Post-Industrial peers. She starts by talking about the remade coal mine Zollverein. One of the major sites there, that readers here know I like to talk about is Duisburg, Germany's Landscape Park. You can read those previous posts on the impact of Emscher Park, which I really think may count as one of the greatest environmental reclamations ever attempted. The scale of which Tracy only hints at. Zolverin she quotes as costing several hundred million dollars. The entire Emscher Park IBA exhibit was probably over a billion in current dollars over a decade ago.

In fact, I did actually did once write up my thoughts on Duisburg, which really is Pittsburgh's alter ego: one of the largest inland ports in Europe, once the center of the Ruhr Valley steel industry and experiencing a revitalization based a lot on it's local university. I had thought for years it was surely one of Pittsburgh's 'sister cities', but have learned it is on no such list as far as I can tell. It really should be; you will find few places in the world with such similar a story as Pittsburgh's.

Years ago one of the few things the PG never printed of mine was a travelogue of one of my visits to Duisburg and Landscape Park. But I had pitched it as a travel story which I learn is a lot harder to do well compared to my usual typing here. While I may have dreams of being Paul Theroux, I may have to stick to various points in the continuum between opining and bloviating.

Nonetheless, if any of the above or Tracy's piece interests you, here are a few links. If ever want to see what Homestead Steel Works here looked like before it was demolished, you just need to visit Duisburg's Landscape Park: Landscape park being just one of innumerable post-industrial sites part of Germany's vast Route IndustrieKultur .

I once had some of my pictures from my last visit to Duisburg online here, but it's a funny technology story. I can be a technology Luddite, but not always. I had started putting pictures online long ago. Did I use Flikr? No. I am not even sure flikr was around when I started. I found some site called Photosite. For years I put photos from various places online there. Of course Flikr came to rule that space and photosite eventually faded into oblivion. The domain does not even have a legacy connection to it's past. Looks like you could buy it even.

Leads me to think that it is about time to have another conference on post-steel regions. Seems like every 10 years there is a post-steel redevelopment conference that compares Pittsburgh to places like the Ruhr Valley and similar places that saw such massive declines in manufacturing employment. One of the bigger such conferences was in the late 1980's (here is one paper from then which is worth reading for it's perspective from the time), then about 10 years later it was repeated. It would be an interesting time to do it again as the first round was focused on how to deal with the manufacturing recession of the 80's almost as it was ongoing, the next was more a retrospective after 10 years and now we see recession again hammering manufacturing industries especially steel around the world. For many the current recession seems quite new, but are there lessons to be learned or unlearned from the very real recessions of not so long ago?


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