Watercourse at Herne-Sodingen Academy

 

The Emscher Park International Building Exhibition was held between 1989 and 1999, in an area bounded by Kamen in the east and Duisburg in the west, Recklinghausen in the north and Essen in the south. It was also a ten-year celebration of structural change in Europe’s largest industrialized area.

This entire region in the heart of Ger­many was celebrated as an incomplete work of art that will in fact never be finished. Birches and poplars climb up the peaceful slag-heaps. Most of the pit-head gear has come to a standstill, and only a very few of the chimneys are still belching smoke. Printed circuit boards for computers are soldered here now, and scarcely any steel girders are welded. The acclaimed Emscher Park IBA ended on 1 October 1999. And the closing ceremony was held in a place that could not be more futuristic and that could not show the structural change to a service society more vividly: it was at the Education Academy in Herne-Sodingen of the Ministry for Home Affairs. Coal had been mined here from 1871 to 1978, and 30 hectares of contaminated land left behind, and now several buildings stand under a single roof. People come out of the buildings, but they remain under cover and behind glass.

A rectangular pool of water thrusts out from under this glass into the fore­court. From there a man-made ‘Fissure’ races via four plinths and flights of steps in the direction of one of the abandoned shafts of the Mont Cenis pit. Cracks in the surface of the earth are common­place in this coal-bearing region, which is characterized by mining subsidence, but this one is different – it has water flowing in it. The watercourse is con­tained by rough steel shuttering, sealed with strips of plastic and concrete and covered with gravel. It turns several sharp corners, and opens up a little in some places. Triangular pieces of metal are welded to the bed on the steps,

 

A fissure runs through the forecourt of the Mont Cenis Education Adademy. It sug­gests faults and subsidence caused by the mining here, and indeed, throughout the Ruhr region.

 

Watercourse at Herne-Sodingen Academy

The hard structural

language of the installation and the use of steel, water and rust produces a distinct aesthetic.

 

The Academy interior: the use of water within the climate envelope creates a Mediterranean atmosphere.

 

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Watercourse at Herne-Sodingen Academy

Akademie Mont-Cenis Herne ш

 

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Watercourse at Herne-Sodingen Academy

Watercourse at Herne-Sodingen Academy

 

Water cascades on the terraces show interesting flow phenomena, developed in experiments in the work­shop.

 

Plan showing the water fissure and academy pools

 

ht housing

 

V2A high-grade steel pipe

 

Watercourse at Herne-Sodingen Academy

welded

 

thread

 

Pool wall lighting detail

 

Section through a water outlet

 

cover plate, pre-cast concrete

 

mounting sheet

 

Watercourse at Herne-Sodingen Academy
Watercourse at Herne-Sodingen Academy
Watercourse at Herne-Sodingen Academy

waterproof concrete B35

 

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Watercourse at Herne-Sodingen Academy

 

forming obstacles that produce inter­esting currents. The watercourse ends in the ‘Depths’, a triangular pool in which the water only seems to seep away. In fact 40 centimetres of water remain in it, and the water that flows in is pumped back from here to the pools in the Aca­demy building. Herbert Dreiseitl sees these ‘Depths’ as a sculpture, rather than as a working pool of water. On one side visitors stand above the ‘Depths’, behind a barrier to prevent them falling made up of crude steel sheets 3 millimetres thick. The water falls one metre down from the channel into the pool under their feet. Opposite, rusty sheets of metal are placed on a metal plinth, arranged apparently randomly as steps. This is not a place for sitting down, but more a place for looking, for remembering the region’s iron and steel days. Floodlights mounted under the sheets forming the steps plunge the ‘Depths’ into a mysterious light after dark. The ‘Fissure’ also makes a more powerful effect at night because it is lit. Water vapour emerges from illuminated chinks, an illusion to the underground mining activities that used to take place here.

The water disappears As in numerous IBA projects, the ‘Fis-

down into the depths. sure’ and the ‘Depths’ are intended to

symbolize the transition from one epoch to another.

 

The water fissure under construction, showing the steel structure of the foundations. The Academy is in the background, with the largest solar roof in Europe.

 

A flow phenomenon detail at a slight change in level in the cascade – here the water starts to pulsate.

 

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Watercourse at Herne-Sodingen AcademyE_01_a_dreiseitl_001-041_16 19.09.2005 10:55 Uhr Seite 29