Polycentric City Regions In Transformation

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Polycentric City Regions In Transformation – The Ruhr Agglomeration in International Perspective
11-13 June 2015
Zeche Zollverein, Essen, RUHR, Germany

** This event is part of the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of ISOCARP

For more information, please visit the event website.

Ongoing structural change and continuing transformation processes mean that the reappraisal of the Ruhr region’s historic and current spatial development has to become more and more of a strategic priority. Compared to most German metropolitan areas, the Ruhr agglomeration 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 characterised by complex juxtapositions and contradictions in all key areas, including spatial, economical and social development.

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

This transformation process is not even close to completion. The pressure to revitalize is still present; the necessity for a continuous, ongoing renewal still dominates the discussion and is unquestioned by experts. The aim of the process is to have science and industry cooperate in order to develop a macrocosmic approach that includes an international perspective on the region. There is no universal blueprint for how to achieve a successful late-industrial or post-industrial transformation, only certain 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 through impressive narratives, but more do so by maintaining parallel and incremental work that results in a mutual perspective. This is what the International Building Exhibition (IBA) plans to do in the Emscher Park project. Big narratives have the tendency to end up as nothing but empty promises. However, this does not always have to be the case.

This international congress wants to present strategies for transformation processes and the renewal of polycentric urban areas. It aims to reach the following goals:

  • Raising and focusing the level of knowledge on regional transformation processes in post-industrial areas within an international comparative action.
  • Raising awareness of possible conflicts and barriers that might occur in polycentric areas and questioning whether they are suited for sustainable development at all.
  • Expanding the network “Ruhr 2020+.Hochschulen und Region” to 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 Ruhr agglomeration.

A region such as the Ruhr valley – with its diversity of parameters and levels – seems predisposed to lead the international discourse on creating new dialogue-based, integrative regional planning and development strategies concerning the future of polycentric post-industrial urban regions.

The successful exhibition “Emscher Park (1989-1999)” and the project “Europäische Kulturhauptstadt RUHR.2010” (European Capital of Culture 2010) proved that the area is quite capable of developing innovative projects. Furthermore, the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia supported the region with two important initiatives in 2004 and 2007 by sponsoring the “Emscher Landschaftspark” and the “Route der Industriekultur” (Route of Industrial Culture). The strategies devised for “KlimaExpoNRW-RUHR”, “Nachhaltige Metropole Ruhr” (Sustainable Ruhr Metropolis) and for “Wissensregion Ruhr” (Knowledge Region Ruhr) show the future-oriented trend to develop transformation processes for 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 comparison can be very helpful – not necessarily in order to search for new strategies, but rather to dissect the change of the Ruhr district against a wider backdrop and thus accordingly classify its characteristics.

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