Until 1985, the German town of Duisburg, in the country’s west, was home to a sprawling blast furnace complex belonging to the local Thyssen ironworks company. When a downturn in the city’s steel and mining sectors resulted in the closure of the complex, Duisburg was left with a 180-hectare industrial wasteland crowded with hulking buildings.
Rather than raze the rusty skeletons of the ironworks, the city decided to convert the whole area into a public park. Designed in 1991, Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord (the Landscape Park of North Duisburg) has since become a grand recreation venue that embraces its industrial past.
Many of the buildings have been repurposed for social and sporting pursuits. The gasometer, a cylindrical tank formerly used to store natural gas, is now a diving pool with a water depth of 40 feet. A towering blast furnace serves as a panoramic viewing platform, while the casting house, once home to freshly smelted pig iron, is equipped with a high ropes course and, in summer, an outdoor cinema.
The really spectacular stuff, however, happens at night. When the sun sets, the buildings glow in a rainbow of neon hues, making the smokestacks, crisscrossing metal staircases, and lofty ceilings appear even more dramatic. The light installation, by British artist Jonathan Park, was added in 1996.
Those who want to experience the park in its fullest glory can stay overnight at the on-site hostel, housed in the ironworks’ former administration building.
Other repurposed industrial sites: