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Zollverein Park

Basic Information

The Zollverein Park covers an area of approximately 70 ha and comprises different zones of green- and open space, the largest part of which is the Industrial Forest (Industriewald) at approximately 25 ha. Its topography is shaped by its historic uses as spoil tip, stockyards, and for railway construction; parts of the open space and green areas at Shaft Site XII and the coking plant were created by the architects Schupp and Kremmer as part of the original design of the industrial complex. Presently, the emerging Park, with pioneer flora and fauna, is acknowledged for its biodiversity. In 2002, the Agence Ter landscape design office won the masterplan competition, and the design concept has been adapted and implemented since 2006 by an interdisciplinary team under the aegis of landscape architects Planergruppe Oberhausen. Today, Zollverein Park is an accessible recreation park offering an orientation system for visitors to Zollverein and enabling multiple activities for all. Approximately one million people visit and use the Park each year.

Long-term perspective: The Zollverein Park was shaped within the International Building Exhibition Emscher Park (1989–1999) and its concept, creating and enhancing public green zones within the industrial Emscher region. Since then, it has been part of the Emscher Landschaftspark.

Sustainable Development & Climate Change

The Park explicitly serves two pillars of sustainability. The social dimension of sustainability corresponds to the diverse activities provided or enabled within the Park. The Park functions as public space for locals, and provides an urban green space in a district where many people live in apartments that lack gardens. The environmental dimension is constituted by the Park's diverse green zones and by two protected habitats located within the post-industrial landscape, which enrich biodiversity within the city and contribute to improving the region's air quality. The Park hosts nearly 100 vertebrate species, most of them birds, plus many invertebrates documented in research, as well as more than 540 species of fungus, lichen, and moss, and more than 540 ferns and flowering plants. Although not offering an economic impact directly, the Park does contribute indirectly, by strengthening the quality of public spaces and providing a healthy environment in the city. 

The Park hosts, amongst other local routes, parts of the Emscher Park Cycle Trail, which responds to climate change by offering CO2-neutral mobility both for visitors and residents of the region. More than 30% of visitors arrive by bicycle. Local bus, train, and tram stations provide public transport, although services are limited at the time of evening events.


The Park's information and orientation system consists of information desks, signs, 3D models of the entire site, and lettering on the pathways. Furthermore, the ring promenade, as the central element of the landscape design, guides visitors around the complex without getting lost. Since 2014, the Nature Zollverein collaboration, which is run by NABU, RAG Montan Immobilien, the Ruhr Museum, and the Zollverein Foundation, conceptualises and implements activities, publishes trail maps of trails, and conducts research. One example is the Nature Path implemented at Zollverein, comprising twelve locations offering a discovery tour of the Zollverein ecosystem, which works interactively via digital devices. 

Urban Development

Regional and federal policies are supported through the site's newly established integration and interconnectivity in the urban setting, as well as its general enhancement of environmental quality within a settlement area. Furthermore, the new public green space is used for daily activities and mobility, thereby specifically meeting the requirements of local policies.

The Park has opened the former gated industrial sites, becoming an integrated space within the district, city, and region. At the site level, Zollverein Park provides access to all buildings and machinery included in the UNESCO World Heritage designation. At the district level, the Park functions as a local recreation area within a district that, historically, has long lacked private and public green spaces. At least sixteen entrances allow entry to and use of the Park for individual or group activities and events, such as walking, running, or play. Although often formerly perceived as a closed island, the green spaces and pathways for walking and cycling now interconnect the Zollverein area with its surroundings, the city, and the region.  

To date, negative tendencies such as gentrification are not apparent. Due to its character as an open public space, the security of the Park has been discussed: it is not illuminated all night or generally secured against vandalism, etc. The Zollverein Foundation provides a limited security service in accordance with its financial resources. The presence of tour guides and the growing number of activities and people at the site might help as a form of social control. 


For more than two decades there has been ongoing research into the environmental development of the Ruhr region. The International Building Exhibition Emscher Park (1989–1999) started to highlight the concept of industrial nature (Industrienatur) and pushed the Ruhr, and specifically the Emscher region, towards becoming a green region. Other publications have concentrated on interpretations and reuses of the Park. The Ruhr Regional Association has implemented a three-year framework for monitoring research outputs.


The Zollverein Foundation is the principal owner of the Park and is responsible at the local level for design and activities, development, as well as maintenance. The Ruhr Regional Association is responsible at the regional level for coordination, managing regional maintenance, public relations, realisation of projects such as the regional cycle path system, and monitoring. Diverse planning instruments were used in the transformation process: listing of historic objects, especially the railway system; landscape design competition; formal planning processes (e.g., public procurement procedures); and binding, long-term cooperation between the region, city, and owner. Financial resources are provided, through various funding mechanisms, by the Ruhr Regional Association, the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the national UNESCO funding programme, and the European Union. 

The Park's core resources are its biodiversity, the unsealed ground, and its secured layout and boundaries integrating historic and new elements. Activated resources include the open and accessible space for diverse community activities and projects, as well as the opportunities for information and education through information boxes and signage systems. Community activities might be further expanded through additional uses and options, such as barbeque or playground areas. A Parkour training facility, for traceurs who are enthusiastic about sports, is now located in the Zollverein Park and demonstrates how the Zollverein Foundation has dealt with requests for additional facilities.


The Park itself is located within the boundaries of the World Heritage Site, and its historic objects are listed. However, the post-industrial ecology of the site (succession vegetation, etc.) itself is not included in the conservation measures. Uncontrolled vegetation growth might cover or destroy historic objects such as railways tracks, and impact the visual integrity of the World Heritage Site. Thus, on the one hand wilderness is an obstacle to the conservation of Zollverein. On the other hand, the specific biodiversity that has colonised the site following the closure of its original functions is part of the character of Zollverein today. Consequently, a design was developed that integrates historic objects, pioneer plant species, and new elements of landscape design. Furthermore, a binding maintenance plan cares for and monitors the Park's condition.


In the 1990s, the placement in the Park of sculptural art objects by Ulrich Rückriem triggered a new interpretation of the abandoned and formerly inaccessible Zollverein industrial site: from a brownfield site to a valuable park and heritage site. During 30 years of transformation processes, art and design have been used as an important approach for interpreting heritage. 

The objective of the Agence Ter landscape design office (2002) and Planergruppe Oberhausen (2005) was to transform the industrial area into a public and popular destination experienced by locals and visitors. The design supported and enabled several activities: (dog-) walking, running, rollerblading, and cycling, as well as specific summer and winter attractions that were established for the long term, such as the Werksschwimmbad (works swimming pool), parkour facility, open-air cinema, and winter ice-skating rink. The open, paved spaces of the Park host diverse events, such as the annual colliery festival (Zechenfest), a huge event for the district. The Park is reused as an access and information facility to the Zollverein industrial complex through its information boxes and signage system.

Zollverein Park is always open and accessible from all directions. The general trend seems to be that people — locals as well as visitors — are increasingly using the Park. Further facilities, such as barbeque spaces or adventure playgrounds, could increase its attractiveness to the surrounding community. The Park is probably the most important element in the continuous revitalisation process at Zollverein.

Communities Engagement

A parkour project is located within the Park, and is presented on the website as an example of good practice, specifically due to communities engagement. Further examples of active participation include several children's play facilities within the park. These were developed through workshops titled "Wilderness on the Doorstep", by and with around 150 children from educational institutions in the immediate vicinity of the Zollverein site, and implemented with the support of the planners and artists involved. The open-air cinema, which hosts around five events each summer, is another project with active community involvement. Initiatives and decisions are taken by the NGO Friends and Supporters of Zollverein. Appropriation and use of the Park by the community can be valued as a form of involvement. Additionally, information about events happening at Zollverein and Zollverein Park is generally provided through an improving system of collaboration between Zollverein, local politics, and the Social City (Soziale Stadt) programme with its district coordinator.