View Full Version : Archived: Thyssen Sinteranlage, Duisburg-Beeck, Germany – Oct ‘09

23-10-2009, 09:11 PM
A ravaged remnant of Germany’s steel industry …

Duisburg is a neat post-industrial town in Nordrhein-Westphalia, with identikit apartment blocks clad in pastel-coloured render, an efficient tram system, and leafy public parks. The kiosks sell copies of Bild, and bottles of yoghurt milk; the streets are full of Opels, Audis, BMW’s and those cream-coloured E-series Merc taxis which would put you off ever buying a Benz. The hairdressers’ windows have posters with styles seemingly modelled on Sheena Easton or Kim Wilde from the mid-1980’s. Duisburg is a blonde highlights kind of town. North of its centre, you can see heavy industry on the distant horizon, and an isolated brick chimney stack is visible from miles around. As you get closer, a huge overgrown banking rears up, behind which Duisburg hides its shame.




Masked by the embankment, the Sinteranlage is a brute: rusty, rifled through, hauled apart, stripped out and dangerous in a Millennium Mills sense. There are huge voids in the floors, and random holes in the walls many storeys up from which machinery was removed. The four hundred foot chimney is its landmark, but apart from that, unless you knew it was there, you wouldn’t make the trek from suburban playpark to industrial wasteland. For something so large, it’s well hidden and probably out of mind for many Duisburghers. In fact, the best external shot of the Sinteranlage is from several miles away, from the top of the blast furnace cupola at Thyssen's former Duisburg Nord steelworks, which has been made into a country park. I guess you have a 300 or 400mm lens? Because you’ll need it … the bulky Sinteranlage building is isolated in a wilderness of shrubs and trees, and seems to be miles from anywhere else.




Sinter is the basic raw material used in the production of iron. Sintering is a method for making solid pellets of powdered iron ore and coke, by heating the material until its particles adhere to each other. The charge of the sintering plants consists of powdery iron ore, dolomite, lime, pulverized coke, and steel production waste – all of which is circulated by fans, then ignited from above. The carbon content of the coke in the mixture burns, and causes the ore grains to bond together. The end product, gas-permeable sinter pellets, are fed directly into the blast furnace which runs more efficiently on them than it would with lumps of coke, raw iron ore and so on. Duisburg was equipped with three sintering belts, and the whole plant is still covered in dark brown iron oxide dust ie. rust powder; the floors are covered in springy bits of steel coil which were due to be recycled back into the blast furnaces.




The Sinteranlage was begun in 1910, rebuilt in the mid-50's, and abandoned in 1995 by Thyssen Stahl AG (which was soon to merge with its great rival, Krupp, to become ThyssenKrupp). It’s appropriate that we viewed the Sinteranlage from the cupola of Duisburg Nord, because one fed the other – and when the steelworks closed, the sintering plant was sure to follow it into retirement. Yet whereas the steelworks became the Landschaftspark Duisburg-Meiderich – Peter Latz transformed 200 hectares of disused industrial land surrounding the August Thyssen ironworks into a world-famous open access industrial museum (which is highly recommended if you’re in the area) – the Sinteranlage has been left to rot. I think the technical term for its condition now, is “fucked”.




The eastern side has photogenic corners, although the wind blasts through holes in the walls; the western side is devastated. There are many dangerous drops, death-trap stairs and doors to nowhere. Despite cutting away the stairs, the Duisburg young team have got in with their spray cans and bombed the walls. Nobody seems to care. You can access the roof, ten storeys up, and look uneasily across at the sintering ovens – like oversize rusty chessmen. Much of the machinery has been removed, but conveyors remain, as do some sintering vessels and also the gantry cranes built by Krupp Ardelt in 1956. Otherwise there are large concrete floor slabs peppered with holes, and not much beyond other than fresh air.




Compared to the subtle light and colours of the other German sites we visited, the main halls at Duisburg were just a glare of light. The tighter confines of the eastern end were more conducive to photography, even though the place was riddled with pitch-dark corners. Out of sight, out of mind. You get the feeling that Duisburg would be happy if the Sinteranlage was devoured; maybe the Chinese will buy the ruins and melt them down …

Visited with Cuban.