The Volklingen Ironworks in Saarland was the first historical landmark of heavy industry to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This plant, which once produced raw iron, is a monument of the industrial age. Founded in 1873 by Julius Buch, it was expanded in the early twentieth century by the Röchling family in order to modernize production. The ironworks have closed, but it remains a cultural landmark
This industrial complex, which includes a coking plant, a sintering facility, and blast furnaces, is the only one of its kind to be preserved in its entirety, including its “Craftsmen’s Lane” (1907), which is now used by the University of Fine Arts, Saar. The imposing architectural elements of the grounds include: the enormous cylindrical recuperators; the tall ore shed (1900–03); a blasting hall (1900); an ore conveyor and a coal conveyor (1911 and 1924, respectively); a coking plant (1935–36), and the steel coal tower (1896)—the oldest surviving structure. These document every stage of the production of raw iron. The ferroconcrete burden shed (1912–13) and the water tower (1917–18) are considered trailblazers in industrial architecture. The most recent buildings are the Blast-Furnace Workshop and Europe Workshop (1942) and the Ore Breaker 3 (1950), which were designed by A. Strassner in collaboration with the construction department of the Röchling Iron and Steelworks.
The production of steel beams made the city of Völklingen one of the most important economic sites in Germany. During World War II, the ironworks, headed by the Nazi Hermann Röchling, became a principal supplier of raw materials for armaments. More than 12,000 forced laborers and prisoners of war worked here under the most terrible conditions; many of them died. A memorial by artist Christian Boltanski is currently in design.
Iron was produced here until 1986. At its peak, as many as 17,000 workers were employed. Today, the gigantic steel buildings are covered with rust. Since 1999, the buildings have been illuminated by a light installation by Hans-Peter Kuhn and Michael Seyl. Landscaped gardens and urban art, a multimedia science center, concerts, educational events, and exhibitions make the Völklinger Ironworks a place where industry, culture, art, and nature meet. Visitors can learn about the history of the iron and steel industry on a tour. [KM/HY]
- UNESCO world heritage site
Contact and opening hours
AddressWeltkulturerbe Völklinger Hütte
Das Weltkulturerbe Völklinger Hütte wird gefördert von der Europäischen Union, der Bundesrepublik Deutschland mit der Beauftragten für Kultur und Medien, vom Land Saarland und dem Saartoto.