The Völklinger Hütte, which was closed in 1986, is the most important completely preserved ironworks in the world. For a century, the hut determined the life of the people and the development of the city on the Saar. Today the industrial cathedral presents itself as a center for art and industrial culture.
Völklinger Hütte: facts
|last ironworks founded in Western Europe
|Industrial archaeological ensemble as an outstanding testimony to iron smelting and the history of technology in the 19th and 20th centuries. Century
Völklinger Hütte: history
|Company founded by Julius Bach
|Acquisition by Karl Röchling
|Construction of the first blast furnace
|Construction of the large sintering plant
|1914-18 and 1939-44
|Integration into the German war economy according to naturegnosis, including Manufacture of 90% of the steel helmets in World War I; Grenade production in World War II
|Takeover by ARBED
|Shutdown after the last racking on July 4th
|placed under monument protection
|Blast furnace VI accessible to visitors
|Sponsoring company World Heritage Völklinger Hütte – European Center for Art and Industrial Culture GmbH founded
|Foundation of the Science Center Ferrodom in the Völklinger Hütte
A forbidden city
In addition to the eternal pyramids, the timeless cathedrals and the baroque castles, which are part of our cultural world heritage, the rusty ironworks looks like a proletarian upstart. The massive aesthetics, the sheer dimensions and the romantic coloring of the decay are the real secrets of the Alte Völklinger Hütte. With the huge colossus made of rusty steel, held together by rivets and finger-thick welds, human resourcefulness and labor formed an extremely impressive technological organism.
Lorraine ores and the sulphurous Saarland coal formed the regional raw material basis for the flow of liquid pig iron, which left the bottom of the six Völklingen blast furnaces glistening and at a murderous 2,000 degrees – many thousands of tons, around the clock. After more than a hundred years of constant expansion, the boiling liveliness of the location was suddenly put to an end with the last tapping of a blast furnace in 1986.
As soon as the last regular shift was over, a small miracle of spontaneous monument preservation happened. A committed group of preservationists and citizens of the city sealed doors and locks. In this way, the mighty torso of the hut was spared the ruthless slaughter of its entrails, an otherwise common fate of abandoned industrial sites. Fortunately, the complete demolition of the facilities in the late 1980s offered no economic incentive. Therefore, a largely intact industrial ensemble has been preserved, which is unparalleled in the world.
The modern viewer can hardly escape the aura of sublime silence that characterizes a site that previously brought 17,000 people to life with their work. The Alte Völklinger Hütte is a »narrative monument«, not a timeless monument. It is also a symbol of its own impermanence. Where previously the moisture simply evaporated on the hot metal, it now settles permanently. Grasses grow unabashedly on former hot air tubes, and lush green mosses, lush like in a Japanese garden, populate the rough steel plates. The “blower machines” have fallen silent, actually nothing more than simple gasoline engines: four cycles, hulking flywheels and pistons as thick as chimneys; Indeed, dinosaurs of the end of the machine age.
Völklingen was a city in shifts. The hut regulated the everyday life of the residents up to the mean concentration of pollutants in their lungs. The rampant factory grounds between the steam cranes on the banks of the Saar and the walls, powdered by the incessantly trickling sinter dust, looked like a “forbidden city”. During “shift change” the colossus spat out thousands of thirsty figures who were marked by hard physical labor. Just as many disappeared apparently without a trace behind the factory gates. The entirety of this monstrous factory site, which with its coke ovens, central iron smelter, steel converters and rolling mills formed a dense, matted whole, threatened to literally blow up the limited space of the site. The technological “progress”, The engine and unwritten creed of industrialization was sometimes able to preserve the past in special niches that were more or less accidentally spared from extensive innovations. In this way, a hundred years of industrial history have accumulated in Völklingen and condensed in a unique way.