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The Rhein-Ruhr metropolitan area is the largest conurbation in continental Europe, consisting of historic cities separated by agricultural land along the River Rhine, and the dispersed settle­ments and industries along the River Ruhr. Although both sub-regions have had a long history of collaboration within the Hanseatic League, they have developed in quite distinct ways as industrial regions in the 20th century, the first concentrating on (hightech) manufacturing, the latter on mining and heavy steel industries. Nevertheless, the areas work together on both socio-economic and landscape issues. The landscape is well known for its river valleys (Lippe, Rhine, Ruhr, Weser, Wupper), forests, historic city cores and industrial heritage. The landscape is complimented with a complex system of infrastructure, including highways, railways, waterways and two international airports.

Rhein-Ruhr Metropolitan Area (DE)

As a polycentric metropolis, different urban and rural landscapes are always nearby, albeit limited in size. Today the area faces the main challenges of accommodating growth along the Rhine without occupying too much open space and acknowledging the effects of climate change. In the postindustrial Ruhr area brownfield regeneration and population decline are important challenges. Long-term projects such as IBA (Internationale Bau Ausstellung – International Building Exhibition) have been an important factor in the recent development of Rhein-Ruhr.


Ruhrgebiet FLICKR


Landschaftspark Duisburg Nord WIKIMEDIA AIR-QUAD UG

Rapeseed FLICKR


Autobahn FLICKR



FOUNDING STORY The cities along the Rhine date back many centuries, as the river was (and still is, for that matter) the transportation backbone of Western Europe. Until today, the Dutch and Swiss industries and logistics are strongly related to the German industries and trade activities along the Rhine. The excellent position for trading raw materials and goods, as well as the exchange of know­ledge, led to flourishing city states and later, a booming complex of different crafts and industries. Technology, manufacturing and materials are still the main pillars of the region’s economy. The Ruhr area also has a 200-year history of iron and tool production, first on a smaller scale with waterpower, and later on industrial scale with the coalmines and blast furnaces that are still present in the landscape. Just like other mining regions in Europe, the sector declined rapidly after the oil crisis in the 1970s, marking a new era for the Ruhr region. The polluted Emscher River and brownfields and unemployment in the area, became main points on the regional agenda. By then, the two regions, one growing and the other shrinking, complemented each other in many fields and are seen as one patchwork agglomeration. EMERGING METROPOLITAN LANDSCAPE The Rhine was and still is the main structuring element in the region. It divides a more hilly forest landscape east of the river from the flat and urbanized landscape intertwined with the agricultural land to the west. Strategic documents such as the Rhein Charta (2011) frame the regional challenges in fluvial terms: water management and drinking water, recreation and nature along the Rhine; research, jobs and production; and living environments along the river. Reimer Molitor of the Köln-Bonn region (2015) explains “both regions have a different approach to landscape, but they profit from each other. Köln-Bonn works with an agglomeration concept while it tries to deal with growing pains. Landscape is the backbone for spatial development.” Since the plan of 2004, the River Rhine and the green space structure are regarded as a blue and green infrastructure. “Ruhr on the other hand focuses on competitiveness in the future, as it has to deal with population shrinkage. The landscape challenge is to use what’s left of open spaces in the post-industrial region and regenerate brownfields”, Molitor adds. Here the landscape strategy serves as a common ground, which is a central item in regional policy. The development of the Ruhr region was greatly influenced by the Emscher Landschaftspark. During the 1980s it became clear that the region would not be globally competitive without solving its environmental issues, in particular the water quality of the Emscher River and the brownfields. Or as Michael Schwarze-Rodrian of the Regional Association Ruhr (RVR, 2015) put it: “we had to improve our soft location factors.” There was strong political support for these decisions. As Minister for Regional and Urban Development and later as Minister for Urban Development, Housing and Transport of North Rhine-Westphalia, Christoph Zöpel together with Johannes Rau, Minister-President of the same

BOEK Blind Spot - metropolitan landscape in the global battle for talent (4/2016, Deltametropolis)  

Publication in English, webpage in Dutch: De publicatie Blind Spot bekijkt de relatie tussen kwalitei...

BOEK Blind Spot - metropolitan landscape in the global battle for talent (4/2016, Deltametropolis)  

Publication in English, webpage in Dutch: De publicatie Blind Spot bekijkt de relatie tussen kwalitei...