collecting inspiration and thoughts
It is a tradition, though still a tradition in a fledgling state: the Tour de ‘name-any-region’. First organised in 2007, Annemarie Bakker, Mark Kino, Joeri Meliefste and I, take on a (yearly/2-yearly/5-yearly) Tour, seeking inspiration and surprise. Where during the first version in 2007 we carefully but elaborately combed through the Netherlands, this year we packed our bags, booked hotels online, and bought maps of the Ruhrgebiet. Attracted by the rusty industrial heritage of the coal mining history, this metropolitan region along the Ruhr offered us (almost) anything we could wish for in these 4 sunny days in June.
After a picnic on the grounds of Twickel – a country estate of which the gardens are famously redesigned by Michael van Gessel – we headed off to Roombeek. Roombeek is a suburb of the Dutch city of Enschede, which was struck by a warehouse explosion in 2000. As a result of that explosion, around 400 homes were destroyed and more than 1,500 homes severely damaged. The neighbourhood, however, has been reconstructed at a surprising rate. Nowadays if features high-quality urban design, a variety of public spaces and lots of privately-commissioned (and innovative?) architecture.
The days thereafter we hired bikes and cycled around the heart of the Ruhrgebiet, starting at Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord. This industrial hotspot is an excellent example of successful reprogramming without the strangling restrictions of Health and Safety regulations. Visitors are free to roam around, climb the old structures, enjoy artwork, play in sandpits, or just simply enjoy the immensity of the complex and the strength which nature shows by seeking refuge on narrow ridges, between bricks and on pathways. Continuing our cycle-tour we visited Nordsternpark, the site of a former (1997) Bundesgartenschau. The park offers an incredible amount of recreational facilities and perfectly shows that (lots of) user groups can exist next to each other. Visits that have surprised me most were the immaculate detailing of Zollverein Cole Mine Industrial Complex and the immediate comfort I experienced at the garden city of Wellheim.
To complement the variety of projects, we also visited inner city areas and expressions of art. The artwork Crouching Tiger and Turtle overlooks the Ruhrgebiet and it sure is a thrill ride to climb its steps. Sub-named ‘The Roller Coaster Walkway’ visitors (and daredevils) are challenged to climb and descend the stairway that leads you steadily around the structure. Stunning views, excited kids and people taking funny pictures comes for free. Lastly, we explored the refurbished harbours of both Duisburg and Düsseldorf: mostly pompous buildings, lots of overwhelming artworks, but also places where you can seek refuge: lush courtyards, bars and restaurants, and monuments.