Zeche Zollverein in Essen

Friday, 11.09.2015

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The ‘Doppelbock’ winding tower at ‘Schacht’ shaft XII

The ‘Zeche Zollverein’ was a coal mine industrial complex active between 1851-1986 in Essen. Today the whole complex which includes the coal mine and the coking plant is a listed architectural and industrial heritage site.

During my visit in the summer of 2010, Shaft 12 was of most interest since it was built between 1928-1932 in the Bauhaus style. The shaft was initially named after Albert Vögler the director general of the Gelsenkirchener Bergwerks-AG (GBAG) and designed by the architects Fritz Schupp (Uerdingen 1896-1974 Essen) and Martin Kremmer (Posen 1894-1945 Berlin). Both Schupp and Kremmer opened an architectural firm in 1922 which specialized in industrial architecture. The firm has left behind about 17,500 sketches and plans of various industrial buildings that are now kept at the ‘Bergbauarchiv’ in Bochum. The firm closed in 1945 following the death of Martin Kremmer during the bombing of Berlin. Schupp went on to plan 69 industrial complexes between the years 1920-1974.

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‘Schacht’ shaft XII from above. Its main function was the ‘Kohlenwäsche'; the coal washing

Shaft 12 was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 2001. Prior to this the ‘Rammelsberg’ in Goslar with its important silver, copper, and lead mines was also designed by Schupp & Kremmer and became a UNESCO site in 1992.

Shaft 12 was started in 1928 and very quickly became a perfect example of an objective, functionalist, industrial building along the lines of the ‘Neues Bauen’ and ‘Bauhaus’ principles. These principles are exemplified through the cubical buildings made of reinforced concrete and steel trusses. It was also considered to be technically a masterpiece and became subsequently highly influential not only in the world of architecture but also in the world of industry.

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A glass stairwell

The shaft’s most innovative element is the ‘Doppelbock’ winding tower which became the archetype for later facilities and also became to symbolise German industry in general. After the closure of the coal mine in 1986 the city of Essen developed the entire site into a cultural heritage site with the ‘Doppelbock’ becoming the symbol of not only Essen but the whole ‘Ruhrgebiet’.