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Urbanism of the Ruhr Agglomeration in international Comparison

Occasion and Background

Ongoing structural change and continuing transformation processes mean that the reappraisal of the Ruhr District‘s historic and current spatial development has to become a more and more strategic priority. Compared to most German metropolitan areas the agglomeration Ruhr occupies a special position: It is a polycentric region without a dominant core governed by a multitude of local and regional sectors. At the same time it is characterized by com- plex oppositions and contradictions in all key areas such as spatial, economical and social development.

Renewal had been on the agenda for decades, a lot has been discussed, written about and initiated. It cannot be denied that transformation had been slower than anticipated, that change had not always been happening according to plan, that renewal cannot be simply decreed. A lot has been achieved but maybe not to the level as previously anticipated.

This transformation process is not even close to completion. The pressure to achieve renovation is still present and the necessity of a continuous ongoing renewal still dominates the discussion and is not questioned by any expert. The aim is to get science and industry working on this together in order to achieve a macro-cosmic approach that includes taking an international view to the region. There just is no universal blueprint in how to achieve a successful late and post industrial transformation, only some more or less applicable examples which often vary in the way they approach the problem, partly because of the different parameters. Only very few projects manage to achieve this change by impressive narratives but more so by maintaining parallel and incremental work that results in a mutual perspective such as the Internationale Bauaus- stellung (IBA) plans to do in the Emscher Park project. Big narra- tives have the tendency to end up as nothing but empty promises. This doesn‘t always have to be the case though.


The project wants to present strategies of transformation processes and urban renewal of polycentric city areas. It wants to reach the following goals:

  • Raising and focusing the standard of knowledge concerning regional transformation processes in post-industrial areas in an international comparative action.
  • Raising awareness of possible conflicts and barriers that might occur in polycentric areas and whether they are suited for sustain- able development at all.
  • The network “ Ruhr 2020+.Hochschulen und Region“ should be expanded and shall include partners from science and industry in order to connect their expertise in relevant research projects and prepare them for future collaborations.
  • Raising the global perception of the agglomeration Ruhr.


A region like the Ruhr district with all of its different parameters on such diverse levels seems predisposed to be leading the interna- tional discourse of creating a new regional plan and development strategies about the future of polycentric post industrial urban regions based on dialogue and integration.

The successful exhibition ”Emscher Park (1989-1999)” and the project ”Europäische Kulturhauptstadt RUHR.2010“ proved that the area is quite capable of developing innovative projects. Furthermore, the federal State of North Rhine Westphalia has been supporting the region with two important initiatives in 2004 and 2007 including being a financial provider for the “Emscher Land- schaftspark” and the “Route der Industriekultur” (Route of Indus- trial Culture). The strategies devised for “KlimaExpoNRW-RUHR“, „Nachhaltige Metropole Ruhr“(Sustainable Ruhr Metropolis) and for „Wissensregion Ruhr“ (Expertise Region Ruhr) show the future ori- ented trend to develop transformation processes of the Ruhr region.

In order to achieve a lasting effect and resonance the conference plans to take unbiased stock of all the previously discussed formats and approaches. An international comparative can be very helpful, not necessarily to look out for new strategies but to dissect the change of the Ruhr District in a wider context in order to class its specifics accordingly.


International Academic Partner: (updated March 2015)
  • Osaka University, Faculty of Engineering, School of Global Architecture, Dept. Urban Planning, Japan
  • ETH Zürich, Chair of Architecture and Urban Design, Switzerland
  • University of Michigan, College of Architecture and Urban Planning, USA
  • Peking University, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, China
  • London South Bank University, Department Urban and Environment Studies, Great Britain
  • Roma Tre University, Dipartimento di Architettura, Italy
  • University of Luxembourg, Faculty for Humanities, Luxembourg
  • CUJAE University, Facultad de Arquitectura, Instituto Superior Politécnico, Havana, Kuba
  • TU Vienna, Faculty of Architecture and Spatial Planning, Austria
  • TU Darmstadt, Faculty of Architecture, Department of Landscape Architecture
  • ILS - Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development, Dortmund
  • Ruhr University Bochum, Geographical Institute, Chair for Urban and Metropolitan Studies
  • Ruhr University Bochum, Institute for Social Movements
  • University of Duisburg-Essen, Faculuty of Buildings Sciences, Institute for City Planning & Urban Design, Essen
  • Technical University of Munich, Chair for Sustainable Urbanism
  • Wuppertal Institute for  Climate, Environment & Energy
  • TU Berlin, Department of Architecture, School VI Planning Building Environment, Habitat Unit


  • Regionalplanung Zürich & Umgebung (RZU)
  • Amt für Raumentwicklung, Kanton Zürich
  • Regionalverband Ruhr
  • Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung und Umwelt Berlin
  • Ministerium für Bauen, Wohnen, Stadtentwicklung und Verkehr NRW
  • Stiftung Industriedenkmalpflege und Geschichtskultur
  • Conseil régional Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Direction du Développement Durable, de la prospective et de l'Evaluation
  • Detroit Future City
  • TUCD Transatlantic Urban Climate Dialogue


  • Regionalverband Ruhr
  • Stiftung Meractor GmbH
  • Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, Bau und Reaktorsicherheit
  • Landesinitiative Stadtbaukultur NRW
  • Wirtschaftsförderung Metropole Ruhr


The project is embeded in the competence network: EURA – European Urban Research Association, is associated with AESOP – Association of European Schools of Planning and ISOCARP - International Society of City and Regional Planners.


As part of this project will be held an international conference in June 2015. This serves as a platform to exchange international partners and provides all interested parties an insight into the current research.


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Operational Time:



Project Management

Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Christa Reicher

Dr.-Ing. Jan Polívka

Dipl.-Ing. Hendrik Jansen


Project Editors

Eva Frensemeier M.Sc.

Dipl.-Ing. Katja Schlisio

Dipl.-Ing. Andrea Wagner

Mais Jafari



Dipl.-Ing. Hendrik Jansen


International Conference