Green Development


1960: Grey cities in Germany

The starting point of this section of our exhibition is the scenery of the coal district of Essen in north-western Germany around 1960. From here, you will explore the development of German cities over the last few decades. 

The large diorama of a pithead frame with audio station tells about the life of people in the industrial city of Essen around sixty years ago – from the point of view of the pithead frame. The somewhat menacing backdrop of a former industrial site dominates this part of the exhibition where visitors are presented with photographs, exhibits and videos that bring the 1960s back to life. 

The canary tells you about the work of miners toiling deep underground. Canaries were carried by miners underground to detect toxic gases before they could do harm to humans. The canary is still a popular pet both in Germany and China.


Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex

The metamorphosis of cities

The UNESCO World Heritage Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex is also located in Essen. After its closure as a coal mine and coke plant, the site has been converted into an urban park and green area with a focus on cultural events. The unique complex has become a popular tourist attraction for visitors from Germany and abroad. 

Before city dwellers went ahead with redeveloping the site, pioneer plants and many animals made it their home, initiating the transition from coal and dust to nature and new life. 

The double pithead frame laying on the ground symbolises the end of Essen as a city depending on coal and steel. And the little plants sprouting from the rusty steel represent the "reconquest" of the space by nature.

Enter the mine lift and travel down to the coalface. Along the way, you learn about the flora that covered this part of the world millions of years ago and is now preserved in the form of coal.


Green belts

Renaturation in Germany

Leaving Essen behind, our journey brings us right across Germany, with stops at particularly important and remarkable renaturation projects. We focus in particular on the crucial issue of renaturation and revitalisation of rivers, which is also a major topic in China. The river Emscher thereby serves as an example of what can be done to bring a watercourse back to life. Today, it is hard to believe that, in the 1960s, the Emscher was the most polluted river in Europe.

The German Green Belt is a renaturation project along the former boarder that separated the two German states and runs across the country from south to north. The former "death strip" is now a natural habitat of surprising diversity. Get to know this unique space from the point of view of a border post by listening to our audio recording and watching the multimedia show. 

There are innumerous green initiatives in Germany cities, from green roofs and cycle lanes to city apiaries and communal gardens. Local people are bringing nature back into their cities, thus creating attractive spaces to live and work.

Four LCD monitors give you an insight into some of these projects.