The facades of the exhibition wing of the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI) will disappear for four months behind the coloured billboards of artist Uwe Loesch. Nine billboards, each ten square metres in area and fastened by steel frames, will show built structures from the northern part of the Ruhr region. They represent the revamped image of this former industrial region. To illustrate the ten-year-long restructuring plan, the projects were previously exhibited in Gelsenkirchen and they will now go on display in Rotterdam under the title IBA Emscher Park in Rotterdam - The transformation of a landscape. This year is the finale of the Internationale Bauaustellung (IBA) Emscher Park, which looks back at this successful initiative in the province of Nordrhein-Westfalen. With this presentation, the NAI hopes to stimulate those interested to look across the Dutch border and take stock of new methods of re-using a landscape.
As recently as twenty-five years ago the Ruhr region
was a flourishing industrial area. Owing to technological developments
and lower production costs abroad, however, industry has shifted
to other parts of the world. The region had lost its funcfion
and what remained were signs of a once dynamic past. The function
of the abandoned landscape needed to be reconsidered. Therefore,
ten years ago, under the title 'BA Emscher Park, the government
of Nordrhein-Westfalen started the ambitious plan to inject new
life into the northern section of the Ruhr region, which has
always had a less attractive landscape than the south. This project
would strive to keep alive the identity of the area. The project
concerned an ecological, economic and social transformation,
and thus it amounted to much more than simply a large-scale architectural
project limited to the reuse of buildings. The aim was to alter
the image of an evil polluter into that of a landscape park in
which the original industrial structures would form a backdrop.
In reality this entailed an enormous change in function:
Attention for the transformation of the Ruhr region is taking
place within the framework of the NAI's long-term project The
Layout of the Netherlands, which runs from 1997 to 2001. The
subject of this project is the approach to physical developments
at various levels of scale in the Netherlands.
The 'BA Emscher Park event is being supported by various activities
in the Netherlands. In addition to the open-air exhibition around
its exhibition wing, the NAI is organizing a symposium on July
2. A further announcement will be made about this. The covering
theme will be Landscape Transformations.
In September this cross-border co-operation between Noordrhein-Westfalen
and the Netherlands will extend even further under the title
Herkennen/Erkennen. This exchange project will take place in
both countries and the aim is to promote collaborative projects
in the field of performing arts. Taking place in tandem with
'BA Emscher Park is AIR ZuidwaartslSouthbound, which is examining
the southern flank of the Randstad and the delta landscapes of
Zeeland, and focusing on the exemplary role of the island of
Hoeksche Waard. In this project and in 'BA Emscher Park, landscape
is given a new significance. This is the sixth AIR programme
(Architecture International Rotterdam) and will be on show in
the Main Hall of the NAI from May 1 to August 8 1999.