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PACT Zollverein – WerkStadt

Basic Information

PACT Zollverein is a centre for contemporary performing art, contributing regionally, nationally, and internationally to the recognition of dance and performance as unique art forms. PACT is housed at Zollverein in the former miners’ washrooms at Shaft Site 1/2/8. The centre and its programme both use the acronym PACT for: Performing Arts Choreographisches Zentrum NRW Tanzlandschaft Ruhr.
The work of PACT Zollverein is characterised by its diverse programming: Alongside delivering a wide-ranging programme of performances and public events, the residency programme is open to artists from all over the world, offering space for intensive artistic workflows. Within its “Platform” programme, PACT Zollverein initiates interdisciplinary exchange between artists, scientists, and students. More recently, PACT Zollverein developed another focus of its work into an interlinkage of society, urban space, and the arts. One of these projects — entitled WerkStadt — is examined here in more detail.

WerkStadt opened in 2017 as an independent satellite, meeting point, and project space in the Essen Katernberg district neighbouring the World Heritage Site. PACT has taken out a multi-year tenancy on the space, thus revitalising a formerly vacant store/salesroom.

Long-term perspective: WerkStadt contributes to the vitality of the neighbourhood around the World Heritage Site, particularly in providing a meeting point for communities engagement.

Communities Engagement

WerkStadt provides a meeting point for local residents, social advocates, activists, (inter-)national artists, and the PACT team. WerkStadt is a kind of intermediate space — between the art space at Zollverein and a diverse urban society — and functions as a hub for questions, knowledge, skills, resources, and suggestions regarding neighbourhood and urban society. The room was opened without a formulated programme, instead aiming to invite all actors to develop projects collaboratively. PACT works by listening to the needs of people. On weekdays, the space regularly hosts afternoon "open WerkStadt" activities, including one day for young people. In collaboration with the "Playful Commons" artist collective, PACT is successfully testing, redefining, and improving the profile of the WerkStadt time and again. 
PACT has been involved in a number of activities involving local communities in particular, and also projects locally linked to the WerkStadt, such as the research festival "1/2/8 Urban Frictions", aiming to address the greater role of public space and positively influence the nature of urban society; and the Young Triennale, with its "#nofear" project opening up and entering the urban space. The focus is on young people from the Ruhr region: they are the ones who initiate discussions, form networks, and experience what it means to bring the most diverse people together through art and culture. 
A further example is the district festivals "Katernberg blitzt auf" ("Katernberg Flashes"), which have already taken place three times, organised by the ›Arbeitskreis Kunst und Soziales‹ (Art and Social Engagement working group) of which PACT Zollverein is a member. The aim of the initiative is to implement, through dialogical exchange, long-term projects in the districts bordering Zollverein.

Sustainable Development & Climate Change

PACT WerkStadt meets two of the UN SDGs (sustainable development goals): 
1. Reduced inequality: Access to WerkStadt is free, enabling everyone to participate in the public programme, thereby responding to economic weakness in the local district. 
2. Quality education: WerkStadt offers space and opportunities for people to learn.


Although WerkStadt does not offer an educational programme in the classical sense, local residents are encouraged to participate (more) in public life and space, and to be part of a shared process. In addition to the open workshop programme, regular workshops are offered on specific topics such as sewing or producing recycled furniture.

Urban Development

The focus on urban topics is indicated by the name adopted for the space: WerkStadt, a mixture of the terms workshop/laboratory ("Werkstatt") and city/town ("Stadt").
PACT WerkStadt indirectly contributes to the redevelopment of the former Zollverein industrial area through its connection as a satellite of the main PACT Zollverein building. This led to even closer networking between a well-established art institution and residents of the local district, working in close cooperation with ›Arbeitskreis Kunst und Soziales‹. Most importantly, PACT WerkStadt thus contributes to the district's vitality. 
WerkStadt repeatedly addresses topics of urban development. The transdisciplinary research festival '1/2/8', planned in several chapters, is a PACT residency programme with a special focus on linking science and practice. In 2018, the focus was on urban processes and the fragile and dynamic structures of urban societies. Within that festival programme, the "Playful Commons" artist collective realised small, creative "special uses" at market places, green areas, traffic islands, and parking bays around the WerkStadt, making the interests, areas of responsibility, and procedures of public administrations and urban population comprehensible and transparent. A further example is the exhibition titled "Wem gehört die Stadt?" (Whose town is it?), which presents the photographic results of a seminar at Folkwang University. 


PACT's activities are generally located at the interface between science, technology, and society, within the scope of action research, action art, and living lab.
In 2015, the Ministries of Science, Economics, and Urban Development of North Rhine-Westphalia recognised PACT as a 'place of innovation' for its interdisciplinary work. 


The Tanzlandschaft Ruhr project and the Choreographisches Zentrum NRW institution merged in February 2002 to form PACT. Thus, the institution is regionally conceived and financed. In this partnership, flexible funds to support the institution and its projects are combined into an efficient funding arrangement. WerkStadt was initiated by PACT Zollverein as a project within the Alliance of International Production Houses with the support of federal public funds. The WerkStadt is managed by members of the PACT team.


The main PACT building at Shaft Site 1/2/8 was originally built in 1907 as a washroom complex, providing showering facilities for 3,000 miners. The building is not only structurally well preserved but also retains the charm of its former function, of which it reminds visitors with its white-tiled walls, the numerous soap dishes into which soaps are still placed, and the numbers that can be read on the ceiling above the stage. During 1999–2000 the main PACT building was converted into the Choreographisches Zentrum NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia Choreographic Centre) by the architectural firm Christoph Mäckler, preserving the original substance of the building and allowing only minimal alterations.
WerkStadt contributes to conservation in an alternative way: The involvement of the local community could provide an opportunity to consolidate and intensify the oral history of the World Heritage Complex and strengthen its intangible cultural heritage.


The main PACT building can be classified as a conventional form of reuse. Since the WerkStadt is neither within the boundaries of the World Heritage Site nor a listed building, the reuse here concerns preventing buildings from lying vacant. However, the WerkStadt could nevertheless represent a point of access to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, thereby lowering possible thresholds, stimulating and strengthening connections between the heritage site and local communities.