Werhahn-Linie in Düsseldorf, © Jan Dimog / The Link

Design­ing #urb­a­nana

From factor­ies and hi-tech, from Bauhaus and Boomtown

From tra­di­tion­al man­u­fac­tur­ing con­cepts and the finest crafts­man­ship to in­nov­a­tion labs and hi-tech pre­ci­sion, you will find a love of good-qual­ity products and soph­ist­ic­ated design in many un­ex­pec­ted places in the urb­an jungle of North Rhine-West­phalia

Clichés and con­trasts

The Co­logne design scene re­volving around the ?imm? fur­niture fair and the Designquart­i­er Ehren­feld, as well as the aura of lux­ury fash­ion in the ?Kö? (the König­sallee shop­ping street) and the ?Off-Kö? in Düs­sel­dorf are just as much a part of #urb­a­nana as the pro­ver­bi­al Gelsen­kirchen Baroque and the idyll of the small­hold­ings. There, it is broken up by the pi­on­eer­ing spir­it of the Ruhr Area en­thu­si­asts, who are cre­at­ing their own ver­sion of Ruhr urb­an life in places such as the Ro­tunde Bo­chum, Kul­tur im Turm e.V. (?Cul­ture in the tower?, or KITEV), and the Dortmund Uni­on­vier­tel dis­trict. For the as­ton­ished vis­it­or, state of the art and a stub­born un­will­ing­ness to change res­ult in a high-con­trast snap­shot of a trans­form­a­tion that is more ex­cit­ing than some high-pol­ished urb­an ven­eer.

New per­spect­ives on ma­jor changes

The aes­thet­i­cisa­tion of simple ob­jects, the ana­lyt­ic­al per­spect­ive of the Düs­sel­dorf pho­to­graphy school on the in­dus­tri­al struc­tures of the coal fields, as well as the cur­rent re­in­ter­pret­a­tion of con­cepts of beauty, which for a long time has brought over­looked ob­jects back in­to fo­cus, is an ex­pres­sion of the spir­it of the times. Sud­denly, through events such as Liebe Deine Stadt! (?Love your city!?) in Co­logne or the com­mit­ment of pro­jects such as the Ruhr­mo­d­erne, the beauty in the build­ings of the 1950s and 60s, which were formerly the sub­ject of de­ri­sion, is now be­ing dis­covered.

Then there is the ap­pro­pri­ation of in­dus­tri­al build­ings for cre­at­ive use: trans­form­a­tion pro­jects such as at Ex­enter-Haus in Bo­chum, where a gi­ant glass struc­ture is placed on top of a wa­ter tower, or where a fact­ory site is turned in­to the Fact­ory Cam­pus co-work­ing space in Düs­sel­dorf, or a gas­o­met­er be­comes either a vast art space (in Ober­hausen) or a diving pool (in Duis­burg).

A tria­logue between art, fash­ion and design

The in­spir­a­tion for the small fash­ion design stu­di­os in Co­logne, Düs­sel­dorf and Gelsen­kirchen of­ten comes from the great tex­tile tra­di­tions in North Rhine-West­phalia. The patch­work nature of these tra­di­tions in a state that has al­ways been a des­tin­a­tion for im­mig­rants forms a basis for the cos­mo­pol­it­an activ­it­ies around Jan Kath?s knot­ted car­pet art­works in Bo­chum, just in the same way as the re­gion­al fur­niture in­dustry has spawned the Marta Mu­seum in Her­fold. Art and design have long been in close dia­logue here in the west: as the Folk­wang-Im­puls from Ha­gen, which propag­ates a re­con­cili­ation between art and life, test­i­fies. The work of Peter Behrens, dir­ect­or of the Düs­sel­dorf Kun­st­gew­erbeschule (the Düs­sel­dorf school of ap­plied arts) and former rep­res­ent­at­ive of in­dus­tri­al design, also cre­ates a bridge between art and design. Today, this in­ter­play is presen­ted to vis­it­ors from all over the world in a highly con­tem­por­ary man­ner in the Mu­seum of Ap­plied Arts Co­logne, the NRW For­um Düs­sel­dorf, the Red Dot Design Mu­seum in Es­sen and in the ex­hib­i­tions of the Hart­ware Medi­en­Kun­stVer­ein (Hart­ware me­dia art as­so­ci­ation, or HMKV) in the Dortmun­der U centre for art and cre­ativ­ity.

70 years as an ex­per­i­ment­al field for new build­ing

For 70 years, #urb­a­nana has also been an ex­per­i­ment­al field for new build­ing. There are new dis­cov­er­ies to be made, from clev­er designs for new towns such as Marl, the bru­tal­ist high-rises of the post-war years and the Pritzker Prize-win­ning con­crete of Gottfried Böhm through to the in­ven­tion of in­dus­tri­al cul­ture and waste dump art through to the Em­scher-Park in­ter­na­tion­al build­ing ex­hib­i­tion and the post-mod­ern Lego-like star ar­chi­tec­ture in the Düs­sel­dorf Medi­en­hafen me­dia har­bour area.

The Link to #urb­a­nana

The glit­ter­ing pan­or­ama of a highly var­ied cen­tury of urb­an ar­chi­tec­ture is vis­ible wherever you go: this in­cludes the out­stand­ing products of Brick Ex­pres­sion­ism and early Bauhaus by Mies van der Rohe in Krefeld, the garden cit­ies of Es­sen-Mar­gareth­en­höhe and the Ko­lonie Anna in Leverkusen, and the Zollver­ein World Her­it­age Site as a rep­res­ent­at­ive of the New Ob­jectiv­ity move­ment in Es­sen. The pur­pose of The Link, an ar­chi­tec­ture and travel magazine, is to de­pict and de­scribe this vari­ety. Look at the pic­tures from their ex­ped­i­tion to #urb­a­nana by click­ing on the gal­lery ?The Link to #urb­a­nana? be­low.

21 x cre­at­ive and open

n #urb­a­nana, the open, cre­at­ive spir­it is above all trans­ferred from per­son to per­son: in thou­sands of small shops and at fest­ivals ran­ging from Öko-Rausch sus­tain­able design to .pro­cess, and from Robodoni­en to plat­ine, at maker fairs, bar­camps and in re­pair cafés, as well as, and in par­tic­u­lar, at the im­press­ive tours of the academies and high­er edu­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions. The in­ter­ac­tion is char­ac­ter­ised by un­der­state­ment rather than gar­ish­ness. The Heimat­design magazine asked 21 cre­at­ives to clear a path through their per­son­al urb­an jungle in front of their stu­dio doors and present their urb­an fa­vour­ites, from the loc­al ke­bab stall to fash­ion la­bels. After all, love flows in­to the products, not self-pro­mo­tion.

Design­ing #urb­a­nana