Duisburg

A month ago I was in Duisburg, the Ruhrgebiet city in Germany that is today a scene of tragedy following the death of 19 attendees at the Love Parade, an event held in Berlin for almost twenty years after the fall of the Wall. A tunnel to the festival ground in a former railyard became choked with people and a stampede led to death and hundreds of injuries. The event will never happen again, and an inquiry is beginning. The human tragedy is paramount, but it also represents a setback for a city that was beginning to reinvent itself. The Duisburg I saw this June was very different from the city I saw in 1982 and 1986, when it was still in the throes of the loss of heavy industry, coal and smokestacks that built it. It was dark and plain, and even the commercial center had few felicities. In 2010 the center is marked by the city’s new icon, a Niki Saint-Phalle that is more colorful than anything I remember from the 1980s.

The center of the city was revitalized. Old buildings and new buildings and kid-play fountains and a sunny density to the street traffic. Again, a contrast to the city of 1986 but a contrast I would probably find in Chicago as well if I had not seen how it transformed over the last 24 years.

The Rathaus


Theater and fountain, Duisburg


art and the pedestrian mall downtown

A listed (landmarked) 1960s department store downtown

The Rhine itself is marked with art, a huge Orange monolith. The former docks and shipyards have been transformed like similar districts in London, courtesy of SIr Norman Foster.


loft living in the new docklands of Duisburg


New Buildings in the Duisburg docklands


the five ships

And this preservationist enjoyed the fragments of the old city wall that survived from medieval Duisburg, for this is a city not well known to the outside world, but with a thousand years of documented history.

But today it is “Eine Stadt im Trauma” Blame is being parceled out, claims that Duisburg could not handle the 1.4 million strong Love Parade, claims that the security plan was faulty; that the event plan was faulty; that somewhere, fault must be found and death and trauma somehow avenged. I wonder how much this will set back a city I have long known and felt at home in: a place where I saw so much growth after nearly a quarter century away – what will happen now?

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