Oberhausen and Essen Germany 24 September 2014

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September 25th 2014
Published: September 26th 2014
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Oberhausen and Essen Germany 24 September 2014

On the advice of the German couple who we parked next to in Duisburg, we decided to visit the tallest Gasometer in Germany. Inside the gasometer, it has been transformed into an art gallery. For the exhibition "The Appearance of Beauty" the artists' group URBANSCREEN have transformed the Gasometer space into one of the largest multimedia art works ever seen. Over a radius of 320 degrees, we viewed a fantastic graphic pattern growing and changing along the 100 metre high inner wall: a continuously changing play of light somewhere between a real and virtual spatial experience. We laid on the bean bags that were provided, and watched the light display. We then caught a lift up to the ceiling and looked at the light display from a different angle. Incredible!

The Gasometer was built in 1929 to store gas for the Oberhausen ironworks. The inside area was topped by a gigantic disc suspended on top of the gas. The size of the gasometer changed as the disc moved up and down. The heavy, moving disc ensured that the gas pressure remained constant no matter how full the gasometer was.

For a time the nearby Osterfeld coking plant - now disused - also supplied gas to the gasometer. In 1988 the gasometer was closed down and rebuilt in 1993/4 as the largest and most extraordinary exhibition hall in Europe. Exhibitions are held at regular intervals. We saw a display of many notable artists' work, both painting and sculpture. It was a very different experience.

After a couple of hours, we then drove about 15 kms to Essen.

We first visited the Villa Hugal which was built by the lead industrialist, Alfried Krupp von Bohlen in the 1500s. Many generations since then have lead the way towards this region being an industrial leader, through the manufacturing of 100s and 100s of day to day and specialised items, all manufactured under the Krupp Badge. There was a museum and the history of the Krupp family over the centuries. Unfortunately all descriptions were in German with no English. We however got the message very strongly that the family had contributed economically, politically and socially to the improvement of the region.

In June this year, there had been a fierce storm which uprooted many big trees and so some of the roads and paths around the estate were still closed. We saw several massive trees still waiting to be cut up and removed.

Today the Villa Hügel with its park is property and domicile of the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Stiftung. The non-profit foundation is the bequest of Dr. Ing. E.H. Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach. The last owner of the company Fried. Krupp enacted in his testament, that after his death his entire estate passed to a foundation serving the public welfare. This foundation was made possible by his only son, Arndt von Bohlen und Halbach, who renounced his inheritance.

The Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Stiftung became active in January 1968, less than half a year after Krupp’s death. It supports national and international projects in the fields of science in research and teaching, education, health care, sports as well as literature, music and fine art.

We then drove another 10 kms or so to the Zollverein UNESCO World Heritage Site which is described as the "cultural heart of the Ruhr Area". This is another 100ha site that has seen many changes. The coal mine and coking plant had discontinued its operations in 1993. It has
Zeche Zollverein in Essen Germany (33)Zeche Zollverein in Essen Germany (33)Zeche Zollverein in Essen Germany (33)

A stadium built in an old coal mine
become the 'Ruhr Metropolis'.

The whole area is now taken up by museums, dance, music, theatre, culinary art, and light.

The change that has been made to this disused plant was using the principle "Preservation through Conservation". The overriding objective: "the preservation of culture and natural heritage sites of mankind, which have an outstanding universal value and are thus both unique and authentic, but are simultaneously sensibly integrated into public life". The Zech Zollverein site has all this and more.

The museum had 1000s of items representing life over the centuries, including life in the industrial and mining era, particularly in the early 20th century. It also had the history of the cold and smelting operations. All of this was displayed onside the old buildings - the coking plant and the shafts.

We even caught a cable cart which used to be used for moving the coal. We walked up to the viewing platform and saw there was a swimming pool, restaurants and outside dining, Ferris wheel made of old mining material. It was a real little community. There was an history train station, and events hall, shops and studios, and play areas. We could have spent a whole day there.

There was even one building which was used as the Design Museum where all innovative designs were displayed. Over the last 2 days, we have been very impressed with what the region has done with its old mining and manufacturing plants. Fantastic.

Once again, we finished looking through the buildings and walking around a very small section of the 100ha, and decided to stay in the massive car part over night. It showered with rain a little in the evening and was overcast in the morning. The next morning we headed for a leisurely drive along the Rhine River towards Arnhem.

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