Two years ago, on a Saturday afternoon in May 2019, I attended a Meetup event organised by a photography group based in Düsseldorf. We met in Duisburg, a city 15 minutes north of Düsseldorf by train. I’d travelled through Duisburg’s main station several times before, but had never been in the city, and so this constituted my first proper visit. (If you’re transferring at Duisburg and have spent any amount of time in the Netherlands before, look out for the little Albert Heijn supermarket!)
I didn’t actually see much of Duisburg that day, but rather travelled to its outskirts to visit a monument representing a key part of the city’s history. Along with other cities like Dortmund and Essen, Duisburg is located in a part of Germany known as the Ruhr region (Ruhrgebiet). Probably the most densely-populated area in the country, the Ruhr was formerly known for its heavy industry (and accompanying pollution), characterised by coal and steel. In recent decades, however, the region’s cities have diversified beyond those materials and developed service and technology industries.
The Landscape Park of Duisburg-Nord was formerly an iron works, producing pig iron which was to be further processed into steel. The works was owned by the steel company Thyssen (now known as ThyssenKrupp after a merger in 1999) and, according to its official heritage website, operated from 1901 to 1985. Throughout its lifetime it produced 37 million tonnes of pig iron out of five blast furnaces.
These days the blast furnaces and heavy machinery are silent, and the only sounds one would hear are those of people and children. Admission is free and visitors are able to enter and make their way through the plant, climbing stairs to explore various nooks and crannies and following rusty piping of various diameters wherever they lead.
This is exactly what we as the photography group did. The following photographs depict some scenes that I captured. What you won’t see, however, is what happened at an open area in the park: there was a street food festival on the same day, but I didn’t make any photos of it because I was busy checking out the different stalls and deciding what to get for lunch. I can’t remember what I ate but I remember regretting not eating more (i.e. the food was good).
Since I’m not going to pretend to know anything about the various parts of an iron works, I’ll present my photographs in the order in which I made them.
If you’ve made it this far and are interested in visiting the park, I’ve got some good news for you: it is open daily despite the pandemic! However, blast furnace 5 and other enclosed areas remain closed. Check the park’s heritage website for further information and updates, as well as directions to get there.