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Coking plant development

Basic Information

In 1993, with the closure of the coking plant, production at Zollverein finally ceased. Together with Zollverein's central Shaft XII, the coking plant was designed by Fritz Schupp. Construction of the plant began in 1957 and coke production started in 1961. As with Shaft XII, the coking plant offered superlative production capacities: Europe's most modern coking plant at that time was expanded in the early 1970s into one of the world's largest coking plants with a length of about 1 km. In total, the coking plant covers approximately 43 ha, nearly half of the entire protected site.

The ongoing revitalisation of the coking plant area witnessed its first milestone in 1999 with the final exhibition of the International Building Exhibition (IBA) Emscher Park "Sun, Moon, and Stars", which took place in the newly converted mixing plant (Mischanlage) and almost half the area of the coke oven battery, gaining wider public acknowledgment of and access to the site. Masterplans, conservation principles, development guidelines, and formal planning processes were leading instruments in the revitalisation process. From the very beginning, the redevelopment focused on cultural projects, such as the Salzlager event venue, mixing plant, and the recently converted Grand Hall. With the construction of the new administrative headquarters of RAG Montan Immobilien and RAG-Stiftung with RAG Aktiengesellschaft, the focus also includes commercial development of the Zollverein coking plant site. The RAG Group is a central actor not only in Ruhr mining (including funding the remediation and consequential costs of mining operations) but also prepares former coal mining sites for new uses.

Long-term perspective: The conservation principles define the protection and conservation area (the core), and enable and guide change and development through new buildings in the surrounding area (the shell). The coking plant site strengthens tourism activities (e.g., through the Denkmalpfad and the event venues), and addresses the settlement not only of office locations but also of creative industries and educational institutions, aiming at new job opportunities.


The Zollverein Foundation and RAG Montan Immobilien function jointly as proprietors, investors, and developers, and additional private investments are integrated in the development process.

The entire development process can be structured into three main phases:
1. The conservation masterplan (Denkmalpflegerische Rahmenkonzeption) functions as documentation and definition of the main conservation principles. The (urban) masterplan created conservation and development guidance, and is a component of the UNESCO World Heritage nomination. A third masterplan was created for Zollverein Park, also respecting the conservation masterplan.
2. In the detailing phase, ASTOC architects and planners, commissioned by the Zollverein Foundation and co-financed by the prospective investor, presented in 2008 the concept for the general development (Entwicklungskonzept), based on the masterplan, and a more detailed concept for the particular design (Gestaltungskonzept) was conducted in 2010. Roundtable meetings were regularly convened among the owners, conservation authorities, planners, and potential investors. Under the guidance of the Zollverein Foundation, all stakeholders agreed on a precise framework for the development and design, which ultimately resulted in the legally binding land-use plan (Bebauungsplan) in 2010. A development contract regulated in detail the commitments of the two owners, such as access and infrastructure connections.
3. Under the title ZOLLVEREIN 2020!, an investment framework from 2011, Zollverein Foundation has been in charge of pushing ahead the structural development of the area. The aim is to transform the former Zollverein coal mine and coking plant into a cultural and business location of the future. This strategy also includes support for its partner NRW.URBAN in the development of the former Shaft Sites 1/2/8. On the basis of the masterplan by Rem Koolhaas, the location development will be continued with a number of new buildings and conversion projects as well as conservation measures. Furthermore, local maintenance is routinely scheduled and the condition of former technical installations is regularly monitored and their safety assessed. 


The structural elements of the coking plant site fully meet UNESCO World Heritage criteria (ii) and (iii) for the site's outstanding universal value. 
The area of the coking plant is very densely built-up, both with buildings and with technical facilities, pipelines, and pipe bridges. The "black side" of the central Zollverein coking plant, which extends over approximately 1 km, retains details of the entire coking process, from the mixing tower via the charging towers and charging carriages, the kilns themselves, the coke slaking systems, the screening plant, and the loading area. The "white side" is represented by the complete gas-treatment process, including all pipelines and technical equipment, and by auxiliary buildings, e.g., administrative headquarters, compressed air production, workshops, and laboratories. The conservation masterplan's "object books" (i.e., photo-documentation of all buildings and technical installations, published in 2002) listed 183 of these structural elements throughout the coking plant, of which the largest proportion were "to be preserved" (partly with equipment, partly without) and only a few objects were categorised as disposable.
Following a lengthy consideration process, and in line with the general Zollverein concept of conservation through reuse, the conservation authorities together with all stakeholders accepted two requests by the former owner RAG for demolition of selected structures in 2007 and 2009. The preservation of the architecture and the technical equipment were the major challenges at that time: The first series of measures (Dach- und Fachsanierung) focussed on preservation principles, while the second focussed on enhancements, mainly on the “white side”, through sensitive adaptive reuse based on the principles of minimal intervention and ensuring visual integrity. The heritage preservation concept regarding the exemplary preservation of technical features and machinery is best shown by the case of the Comb Building (Kammgebäude) situated within the coking plant site.


The coking plant redevelopment is fully in line with the policies and planning documents, and considers the conservation plan: According to the urban masterplan and to real estate guidelines (Immobilienwirtschaftliche Leitlinien), the coking plant was to be converted into a design and cultural location with an urban character. Companies from the creative industries and the tertiary sector are sought as future tenants. For the development of new buildings within the "white side", the primary objective was to preserve as many existing structures as possible, most of them not reusable but remaining as museal objects. New constructions are permitted in accordance with the conservation and development guidelines. 
The coking plant benefits from the newly expanded road and path network: In the centre, new roads mainly improve commercial access, while at the fringes the ring promenade allows sport-, tourism- and leisure-oriented trips.

Communities Engagement

The usual public participation procedures were taken into account. As part of the official consent process, the city authorities consulted the retail committee of Essen (Konsultationskreis Einzelhandel). 
As commercial users from the surrounding city districts are especially welcome at the site, particular attention was given to disseminating information locally, about the development of the area, for example at the scheduled Katernberg conferences. 

Sustainable Development & Climate Change

The development of the coking plant area mainly meets two of the UN SDGs (sustainable development goals): 
1. Decent work and economic growth: The revitalisation of the area with an urban density also provides impulses for a larger catchment area, but especially for the north of Essen. This particularly addresses the economic weaknesses and high unemployment among district residents.
2. Sustainable cities and communities: Revitalisation and densification will also help to avoid urban sprawl and could thus contribute to reducing CO2 concentrations at both regional and global level, to less land-sealing, and to more environmentally friendly buildings. 
One of the key projects with a focus on sustainability goals is the new administrative headquarters of the RAG Stiftung (Foundation) and RAG Aktiengesellschaft, which aim to achieve platinum certification from the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB). This is the first building in Germany to be planned and constructed according to the cradle-to-cradle principles for product design and reuse. 
A large proportion of the coking plant's total area comprises green space that forms part of the Zollverein Park. In particular, the industrial forest in the north of the coking plant also provides a fresh air corridor at regional level. The close proximity to the Cologne–Minden railway line offers future options: the activation of local public transport by re-establishing a train station, as outlined in the urban masterplan.


Information on the development of the entire coking plant area was communicated in various magazines and through the Foundation's marketing activities. The guided tours offered as part of the Denkmalpfad Zollverein (Monument Path Zollverein) are an important element in helping local and international visitors to understand the former technological processes and workflows of the coking plant. For all other visitors, more information would be desirable here directly on site.

Urban Development

The revitalisation of the coking plant area fully meets the requirements of urban policy, aiming for preservation of the site, its development as an economic and cultural location, and the opening up and presentation of the World Heritage to the general public.
The decision to locate the headquarters of three RAG companies at Zollverein potentially generates spill-over effects in attracting other employers.


Basic research was conducted on the coking plant complex, including for its listing as an industrial monument according to the regional protection law. The conservation authorities listed a full building inventory. Furthermore, the conservation masterplan (Denkmalpflegerische Rahmenkonzeption) contains not only extensive "object books" (i.e., photo-documentation of all buildings and technical installations), but also includes a first evaluation of the historic structures, with the aim of developing an overall concept for the site.