Building Identity – postwar architecture in the Ruhr area

The knowledge that sometimes one have to go away to see things more clearly is not new. I had exactly this feeling when I applied in 2018 for the Ruhr Residency with my research about postwar architecture in the Ruhr area.

I studied at the Art Academy in Muenster and Düsseldorf, so I should have been familiar with this region. But I wasn’t. If one is studying in Düsseldorf you might go (for example) to see an Exhibition at the Kunsthalle Recklinghausen. But then one will see the train station and the museum, that’s it. Shamefully I had to admit, that all I knew about the region was their museums. Even though, I am working with architecture in my artistic practice for quite some time and the Ruhr area has some outstanding examples of modernist buildings.

In 2018 was also the European Year of Cultural Heritage, with Germany’s contribution under the motto of “Sharing Heritage”. One of the Initiative called “ Big Beautiful Buildings” was particularly focused on post-modernism in the Ruhr area.

It was a great coincidence that I could join all their events while I was staying with the Ruhr Residence in that region.

Being part of the Ruhr Residency,  I had the great opportunity to live and work for 3 months in Recklinghausen with the possibility to travel as much as I like, by using public transport for free, to explore the region.

And that’s what I did during the first half of my Residency. I traveled a lot! I visit places I have never visited before or even heard of. Lünen, Bottrop, Castrop-Rauxel, Dorsten, Herne, Hagen and cities where I only used to go to museums, like Bochum, Dortmund, Duisburg, Marl and Gladbeck.

The Ruhr area has an unbelievable density of buildings and housing estate structures from the post-war period. Building a new identity by leaving the past behind and creating a better future, was the spirit of that time. I had the chance to see exceptionally innovative architecture like schools, universities, town halls and churches.

One highlight of the Residency was the International Conference about modernist architecture at the Christus Church in Bochum organized by the Big Beautiful Building Initiative. During two days national and international speakers where talking about architecture, culture heritage and examples of good practice in caring for the existing buildings.

With this in mind, good bye Ruhr Residency and thank you very much!

This Residency has been a great continuation in my artistic research about modernist architecture and I am looking forward to the projects to come!

Many thanks to KunstVereineRuhr for organizing this Residency and to Kunsthalle Recklinghausen for the great opportunity to show my works within the final event of the Ruhr Residency. Special thanks to Linda Schröer (Dortmunder Kunstverein) and Reinhard Buskies (Kunstverein Bochum) for the great support!

Image: Kristin Wenzel: Tischstück, 2019

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