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Parkour facility

Basic Information

In 2014, a workshop held as part of a youth participation project became the genesis for one of the largest parkour facilities in Germany. The bottom-up process was based on close engagement with the young community living near the Zollverein industrial heritage site. The youth group — together with landscape architects, specialist planners for parkour facilities, and the Zollverein Foundation — designed the parkour complex, which officially opened in October 2017. 
Parkour is a training discipline in which practitioners move unaided from point A to point B as quickly, efficiently, and elegantly as possible while navigating a series of obstacles — often in urban settings involving walls, facades, steps, and ramps. The parkour discipline has experienced considerable popularity and expansion worldwide since its origins in the 1980s, and competitive events have also been staged. 
The Zollverein parkour facility is free to use and is located north of the coking plant within Zollverein Park. The complex covers about 600 sqm. To ensure long-term usage, the Zollverein Foundation, through the project "Zollverein Mittendrin", is working with a local NGO (AWO Jugendwerk), the Youth Welfare Office of the City of Essen, and the Institute for Community Development and Consultation (ISSAB) of the University of Duisburg-Essen, to make the facility accessible to many different groups. 

Long-term perspective: The parkour facility attracts new user groups to the Zollverein site, who might also become interested in the industrial heritage. The engagement and participation process has stimulated and strengthened connections between the heritage site and local communities. The parkour facility provides an additional community function at the UNESCO heritage site.

Communities Engagement

The project in itself is a community initiative. The 15–25 age group is generally the largest and most active within the parkour scene, and lacked a training facility within the neighbourhood to practice their activity. The complex bottom-up process consisted of different phases involving diverse actors (see the section on Management, below). 
The implementation of the project is based on the user's decisions, thereby representing a high level of participation. The youth group "Parkour and Freerunning", founded in 2014 as part of the youth participation project "Jugendforum Zollverein", met regularly to work on realising their ideas. Examples of joint decision making and collaboration include two weekend workshops during autumn 2014, involving a landscape architect and parkour facility planner. Multi-directional information events were held. For example, the young people presented their ideas to representatives of the Zollverein Foundation, while the Foundation updated them on details of the planning consent process. 
After construction was completed, joint decision making and information has continued in the form of regular network meetings that serve to coordinate events, courses, workshops, training, and general use of the facility. The meetings are open to all interested parties, especially young people from the community, and to representatives of schools and sports clubs, children's and youth clubs, youth welfare offices, politics, and other institutions. 
Four years after the initial idea, two of the young people from the initial group are still actively involved with parkour at Zollverein, coaching younger practitioners in training sessions.

Sustainable Development & Climate Change

The parkour facility meets two of the UN SDGs (sustainable development goals): 
1. Good health and well-being: The parkour facility attracts mainly older children, teenagers, and young adults, who have already outgrown the range of movements offered by playgrounds. Parkour and freerunning offer alternative options, reducing the deficit for the respective age group.
2. Reduced inequality: Free access allows everyone to use the facility, thereby responding to economic weaknesses among citizens in the local district.
In order to protect the ecological environment, and to compensate for the sealed surfaces of the parkour facility, an area originally designated for development was converted to forest.


The initiating group of young people, in particular, has derived significant educational benefit throughout the project. The young people learned to implement a project based on their own ideas and engagement. Additionally, they practised democratic participatory processes and were trained, e.g., in teamwork, project planning, cost estimation, legal framework conditions, and presentations. 
Furthermore, the parkour facility provides an opportunity for young people to enter the site, experience the heritage, and to develop an interest in Zollverein through practising parkour. 

Urban Development

By engaging local communities, the parkour facility specifically meets the requirements of local policies, aiming mainly at strengthening local identity, social coherence, and enhancing connections between the industrial heritage site and the district. The parkour facility also contributes to further local policy objectives to upgrade green zones and enhance local infrastructure. The parkour facility thus meets one of the district's development needs: the enhancement of leisure and sports activities that are affordable for low-income families.
Due to the larger dimension of the facility, there might be more options in future, to participate in larger events and to engage in regional, national, and even international outreach. Zollverein might become a cool place to be, within the parkour scene; a possible reputation that reflects the Zollverein industrial heritage site.


The initiating project group "Parkour and Freerunning" visited various parkour facilities in other cities, and talked to those responsible for them. They were informed about materials, costs, safety regulations, and space requirements for the elements of a parkour facility. Two workshops in particular, involving a landscape planner and a specialist parkour facility planner, enabled the young people to specify their ideas more precisely and to debate their feasibility. 
As part of the Zollverein Park, the parkour facility is integrated into the corresponding monitoring of research outputs.


The Zollverein Foundation is the principal owner of the Park, and is responsible for the parkour facility and thus its safety and maintenance. However, the design and implementation was not top-down but bottom-up, involving a high level of community engagement. The entire process can be structured into four phases:
1. In the context of local social initiatives run by the AWO and the Youth Welfare Office of the City of Essen, a group of young people defined the idea to advocate for the construction of a parkour facility at the Zollverein World Heritage Site. AWO functioned as project supervisor and initiator of the "Parkour und Freerunning" group. Funds were provided by the Bertelsmann private foundation, and public money from the Social City programme.
2. Workshops were organised with specialist planners: the landscape planners of the Zollverein Park (Planergruppe Oberhausen), and a specialist planner of parkour facilities (PROELAN). Furthermore, AWO and the group contacted several administrations and possible partners to gain support for the project.
3. With the decision to build the facility in the Zollverein Park, responsibility for the process was transferred to the Zollverein Foundation. At that stage, project implementation required a diverse range of planning instruments, including: early consultation with conservation experts; formal planning processes, e.g., building consent; rededication of a forest area to a parkour facility with the permission of the regional forestry authority, due to classification of the area as “Industriewald” (industry forest) in the legally binding land-use plan (Bebauungsplan), and the creation of compensation areas. As the owner, the Zollverein Foundation fully financed the construction of the parkour facility from public funds for urban development provided by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. 
4. The promotion and usage of the facility is supported by diverse actors, and is coordinated by an AWO expert who is financed on a project-specific basis. One of the tasks is to establish a network of users (individuals, scenes, youth groups, school classes, associations) who will take on the long-term responsibility for the parkour facility.


The parkour facility is located within the Zollverein Park and thus within the boundaries of the World Heritage site. The zone was originally used as a storage area of the coking plant, designated in the legally binding land-use plan as industrial forest. Under the guidance of the conservation authorities, all stakeholders agreed on a location and construction that protects the visual integrity of the World Heritage Site.
At an initial meeting of the advisory board, the conservation authorities disagreed with two suggestions for locating the parkour facility: close to the screening plant, originally requested by the young people; and an alternative site in the vicinity of the mixing plant, proposed by the Zollverein Foundation. In the course of the discussion, agreement was reached with the conservation authorities, on an area close to the Werksschwimmbad (works swimming pool) and children’s playground.
The usual materials defined in the Zollverein Park masterplan were already taken into account in the design, i.e., restriction of the materials to steel (galvanised), concrete, and asphalt, as well as discreet colouring.


The parkour facility fully conforms to two of the Park's masterplan principles: 
1. As the project in itself is a community initiative from the local district, it contributes to the Park's vitality and attractiveness and especially strengthens a meeting point for younger generations. 
2. In the masterplan, the area of the parkour facility is designated as a "play terminal", referring not to conventional play equipment but to individually designed objects. The site gains its synergy from its closeness to the Werksschwimmbad, a playground, and the ring promenade, with their focus on play, leisure, and sport. 
The design primarily aims to satisfy different sporting ambitions. 
As Zollverein Park is always open and accessible, the parkour facility is also open, and is connected to the ring promenade. It welcomes locals as well as tourists.