< Institutsausflug 2018
30.07.2018 13:56 Age: 300 Tage
Category: Geographie, Stadt- und Regionalökonomie
By: Kiese

Global Economic Geographers Study Structural Change Through Knowledge-Based Urban Development

in Dortmund and Bochum

Economic Geographers on the Skywalk at Phoenix West, Dortmund Photograph by Heike Regener

Since the first coal crisis of 1957, the Ruhr has undergone substantial structural change from coalmines and steel mills to a service-driven economy. The establishment of universities may be seen as an early response, but the region's knowledge economy is still held back by the shadows of its industrial past. During their field trip on Saturday, 28 July, participants of the Fifth Global Conference on Economic Geography (GCEG) explored the different trajectories of two neighbouring cities in the western Ruhr, Dortmund and Bochum. From an urban and economic development perspective, the trip highlighted the development of knowledge and transfer infrastructures including technology parks, but also took a critical look at the knowledge-driven development of residential and recreational spaces, using Dortmund's Phoenix project as an example.

A truly international group of 18 participants representing no less than 14 countries entered the tour bus at the Cologne conference venue, including GCEG veterans Prof Päivi Oinas from the University of Turku in Finland and Prof Örjan Sjöberg from the Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden. Organised by Prof Matthias Kiese and Elena-Franziska Schlich, the itinerary started with the technology centre and park developed around the Technical University of Dortmund from the late 1980s. From there, the group moved on to Dortmund’s new technology park gradually filling up on Phoenix West, formerly a site of blast furnaces producing raw iron. Some of these former structures remained as industrial heritage, made accessible to visitors via a Skybridge that the international visitors eagerly climbed. Vividly explained by Mrs Heike Regener, a tour guide native to the former working-class district of Hoerde, the tour also briefly visited the former steel mill site of Phoenix East, which has now been transformed into a lake surrounded by high-value residential and office uses.

For a comparative perspective in this “tale of two cities”, the field trip continued in Bochum. Following a brief tour passing by the Ruhr University campus and the new Health Campus, the group received a warm welcome and lunch by the Bochum Perspektive 2022 on Mark 51°7. This re-branded former site of coal mining and car manufacturing is currently undergoing massive restructuring following the closure of the Opel plant, which shut down in 2014 after 52 years of operation. While the new DHL parcel distribution centre has already taken shape, the 600-meter-long former car body factory was still standing for the tour bus to pass through. Mr. Michael Hey of Bochum Perspektive 2022 introduced the planning process and concept, which includes university research and transfer centres and knowledge-based firms in some parts, but is also flexible to accommodate anything except residential and retail uses in others. After a comprehensive and comparative programme, the group of economic geographers returned to Cologne with many new impressions and inspirations from the Ruhr.

Online resources:

Field trip handout

Fifth Global Conference on Economic Geography

Skywalk Phoenix West by Heike Regener

Bochum Perspektive 2022

Mark 51°7