The two primary objectives of the International Building Exhibition (IBA) were to give the region a greener image and breathe life into the old industrial plants. A crucial vision for the redevelopment under the IBA was an Emscher Landscape Park that would act as a "green connector" between the settlements of the Rhur valley, following the path of the Emscher River and using the abandoned industrial areas along it as a unique form of greenspace. In addition to connecting the 17 towns located along the river valley, this new east-west oriented green corridor joined seven existing but expanded north-south greenbelts. The park was composed of regenerated brownfields, reclaimed forests, and existing recreational areas that together provide a cohesive set of green infrastructure for the entire region. The specific projects that created the park system ranged from the development of large fallow land areas to small scale construction schemes to installations of biotopes to the simple planting of trees.

The Emscher Landscape Park was identified to be the 800 km² of “open space” in the region – agricultural land, forests, brownfields with plant carpet, vegetation at railway embankments, slag heaps, and other more or less green structures. The classical meaning of a park was not visible there, so the aim was to connect fragmented green structures, develop new ones and make the open spaces accessible for public.

The idea behind was that all other metropolitan regions have special features that form images and identification – internally for the inhabitants as well as for tourists and visitors. Besides many smaller buildings that are often used for businesses or administrations now some of the large sites managed to fulfil the expectations. Industrial relicts like Gasometer Oberhausen, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum or Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord are today very popular sites with millions of visitors.


Results and impact

Once one of the most polluted and environmentally devastated regions of the world, the Ruhr district has been reborn. With the "International Building Exhibition Emscher Park", the run-down industrial landmarks of the region have been transformed to serve new recreational uses while still preserving the area's rich history. The redevelopment has given the region a greener image, created a more cohesive community, and maintained the area’s identity. Today, the Ruhr-Emscher district is enveloped by a beautiful green curtain that occasionally includes a historic industrial landmark standing just over the trees.

After 20 years of planning and implementation, the Emscher Landscape Park has gone from a purely fantastical vision to a reality that has inspired new urban development. The project has achieved lasting improvements in the living and working environment of the involved towns by upgrading the ecological and aesthetic quality of their nearby countryside, and by providing open space and different facilities to enhance physical activities. Furthermore, by reusing and preserving the impressive relics of the industrial era, the Ruhr region has been able to keep its unique identity and has branded itself as an ancient monument of industrial society.


Type of activity

Building health promoting infrastructure

Physical actives in natural and cultural ecosystems

Rehabilitation of old industrial zones



Place: Ruhr district of Germany

Territorial level: Regional

Organizer: State Government of NorthRhine-Westphalia

Source: | Shaw, R. (2002) The International Building Exhibition (IBA) Emscher Park, Germany: A Model for Sustainable Restructuring?. European Planning Studies, Vol. 10 (1), pp. 77-97.