The first of a series of entrance pavilions for the Zeche Zollverein Unesco World Heritage Site. Materials and dimensions of the coal industry combined with the layout and intimacy of a mine worker's cottage; house, garden and stall made of steel and concrete. CELLA, COURTYARD, DOMAIN Diversity of space arouses curiosity and creates diversity of use. The succession of cella, courtyard and domain, phases the fluid links between inside and outside. Private and public are established in dialogue.
Zeche Zollverein is an abandoned coal mine in Essen, Germany, in the Ruhrgebiet, once the country's industrial heartland. Shut down in 1986, it was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 2001 due to its significance as a coal-mining operation as well as its design features, including several 20th century buildings of architectural significance. Following a 2002 master plan by OMA/Rem Koolhaas, the area is developing into an important center for culture and design. Essen has been chosen as the Cultural Capital of Europe for 2010, and Zollverein is be the main event location. The 100-hectare complex (the size of 140 soccer fields) now accommodates museums, more than 100 companies, several event locations, and a design school built in 2007. Since a Europe-wide design competition in 2005, the Zollverein Park project has been designed and implemented by a team of communication designers, landscape architects, lighting designers, and artists. The challenge of the wayfinding system was to meet the needs of 500,000 visitors each year while working within stringent regulations for monument conservation. The system also had to identify buildings and features in two languages (German and English) and include both historic and new building names. The system uses a wide variety of tools to aid wayfinding, from human beings to sign panels, cast-iron miniature models, maps, ground markings, lighted panels, and printed media.
Nature versus culture Zollverein is a world heritage site. The complex covers approximately 100 hectares of mine buildings, a coke oven, storage areas and railway marshalling yards. The gradual restoration of the buildings and their reassignment to new purposes is transforming Zollverein into an ever more lively centre of culture, tourism and design. While construction was in progress towards giving the huge machinery of the mine a second lease of life, a remarkable kind of wilderness developed here: industrial nature, a flora and fauna that feels at home in buildings, on polluted dry soil and on railway tracks. After architects such as Foster and Sanaa realized some distinctive buildings, Koolhaas plotted out a development strategy and Agence Ter supplied a master plan for the park, the Planergruppe Oberhausen team won the competition for implementation of the master plan. Four disciplines are represented within the team: landscape architecture (Planergruppe Oberhausen), communications design (Firstdesign), lighting architecture (Licht Kunst Licht) and art (Observatorium).
The jury awarded this team the implementation project on account of the high level of accessibility given to the site for local residents and tourists alike, the circumspect means used in the landscape architecture, the simplicity of the lighting and the unorthodox plan that unified communications (signposting and routing) with art. It was evident that the beauty of the weed-overgrown site and the dilapidated machinery could not be preserved. What mattered was to make room for hundreds of thousands of visitors while designing sparsely, so that nature would be able to keep the leading role it had claimed. The landscape architecture design of Planergruppe Oberhausen moreover brought an end to the gradual invasion by nature, so preserving the astonishing ensemble of buildings. And that was the core of the design: where it was really impossible to leave the natural situation undisturbed, gardening was to be carried out by observing and selecting, rather than by planting. Unorthodox Since the raw industrial character and the efficient architecture of Zollverein constituted the core of the complex, circumspection was appropriate in the communication design. If it is so difficult to find your way, one could reason, then there is only one solution: not signs but people. The site is so extensive and intricate, and the functions are so diverse, that people are needed to show visitors the way. Here, of all places, where a high point in the mechanization of production put humanity in the shade, it was desirable to reintroduce the human dimension. Hosts were to stand ready where the visitors arrive to show them the way, to hand out information and to help them however required. Observatorium designed entrance pavilions for the park, each with its own garden and mine shaft, for the hosts. This was the artistic contribution to the park. The jury saw this novel idea as unorthodox and appealing, but no provision had been made for appointing staff as part of the Zollvereinpark construction project. It took extensive discussions and years of patience before permission was given to expend some of the budget reserved for signposting on human resources.
On the border The rules for the park applied naturally to the pavilion too: circumspection in materials and form, and respect for what was already present. All other requirements, as regards functions and meanings, were left to the artists to formulate. The buildings of Zollverein are pragmatic and modular. The architects, Schupp and Kremmer, employed a set of standard proportions for the grid, and chose steel, concrete, glass and brick as their building materials. Observatorium's study of the architecture suggested a first self-imposed requirement: the pavilions should be modular and made of similar materials. Schupp and Kremmer's original purpose, to create a perfect machine for the mining industry, had resulted not only in beautiful architecture; the placing of the buildings was also meant make the labourers invisible to the outside world.