The Way of the Coal – Reconstruction of the Coal Washing Plant by Rem Koolhaas

The Way of the Coal – Reconstruction of the Coal Washing Plant by Rem Koolhaas

Coal washing plant

The nearly 42 meters high coal washing plant in Essen is now used as a Ruhr museum.

Rem Koolhaas in the Ruhr area: At the beginning of the cultural capital year RUHR.2010, the new Ruhr Museum of the Zeche Zollverein 12 was opened in Essen last year. Just as remarkable as the exhibits from various centuries, are the premises of the former coal washing plant istelf, redesigned based on plans by Rem Koolhaas. A perfect backdrop for a museum dedicated to the history of the Ruhr area!

Gangway of Steel and Glass

The Zeche Zollverein 12, erected between 1928 and 1932 based on plans by Fritz Schupp, is among the most exciting testimonials of European interior architecture. The largest and most complex building on the area, closed down in 1986 and put on the list of the UNESCO cultural heritage in 200, is the 42 meters high coal washing plant. In order to make use of the building’s cubistic-functional interior architecture as a Ruhr Museum, Rem Koolhaas and his German partner Heinrich Böll have developed an exciting museum course, in major parts following the former way of the coal. A spectacular element towards the outside is the 55 meters long gangway of steel and glass, featuring the longest self-supporting escalator in Germany, its shape resembling the numerous conveyor bridges on the premises, getting visitors from the free area right up to the visitor center at a height of 24 meters. The latter houses and information point along with a ticket counter, but also a Café, a cloak room and a museum shop.

The levels towards the top are part of the Zollverein monumental path, featuring old machinery and an observation deck on the roof. The levels below house the Ruhr Museum’s exhibition rooms, designed by Stuttgart HG Merz bureau and reachable via the newly designed staircase.

High-Contrast Design

The redesign of the former coal washing plant mainlylives on the clear contrast of old and new. The very few selected interventions made by the architects emphasize the quality of the already existing, at the same time opening up new perspectives. Thus, the escalator outside has been designed in trendy orange with flashy yellow-orange illumination, as a screaming contrast to the already existing industrial architecture, but also as an associative reference to hot ashes. With a similar idea in mind, Rem Koolhaas also designed the interior staircase with impressively illuminated handrails as a modern passage into the world of coal and mining. A remarkable transformation of a former industrial fossil!

Project details


Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), Rotterdam; Böll & Krabel, Essen, Germany


Opening: October 2008 (special exhibition)


GFA: 17,000 square meters


Entwicklungsgesellschaft Zollverein mbH, Essen, Germany


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admin's picture
admin 15. June 2011 - 22:07

Great reconstruction.

admin's picture
admin 15. June 2011 - 22:15


admin's picture
admin 15. June 2011 - 22:18

in love with this postindustrial vibe!

admin's picture
admin 15. June 2011 - 22:21

Awsum Construction....

admin's picture
admin 15. June 2011 - 22:34


admin's picture
admin 15. June 2011 - 23:45


admin's picture
admin 16. June 2011 - 15:28

Nice one

admin's picture
admin 17. June 2011 - 10:51

good 1..

banik.prabir's picture
banik.prabir 17. September 2015 - 13:11

The transformation has almost become magical here, the architects have done a great job. Now the architectural designs of manufacturing units, chemical plants are becoming more dynamic and unique. However, the manufacturers can find the tools, supplies they need online. If they need ammonia refrigeration equipment they could get these from ARESCO online.