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Germany's new tallest escalators are bright orange. Can you guess the architect?





23 meter high escalators go into operation at the Bauhaus-inspired former coal processing plant at Zeche Zollverein in Essen, Germany.

 -by Lynn Becker










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We recently came across the announcement from ThyssenKrupp Fahrtreppen* that they've has just completed installation of the "two tallest freestanding escalators in Germany", with a total rise in excess Photograph:  anaachitectureof 23 meters, at Zeche Zollverein in Essen, the massive former 1930's, Bauhaus-inspired coal processing plant that closed in 1981 and was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2001 as "an outstanding industrial monument."

We borrowed the photo you see here from the anarchitecture blog, which speculates that the escalator's inspiration may have come from Marge Simpson's ill-fated monorail project. There's another great photo at fotocommunity.

If you haven't guessed, the escalator is part of a visitors center designed by architect Rem Koolhaas and OMA, also responsible for the complex's master plan. The dead giveaway may be the escalator's deep orange, a color that Koolhaas seems almost obsessively fond of, having used it, among other places, in a glass curtain wall in the new McCormick Tribune Campus Center at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Koolhaas, whose incredible skyscraper for Chinese TV is currently under construction, may posture as the ultimate globalist, but it's worth remembering that orange is the historic national color of the Netherlands, the country of his birth.

The Essen complex includes the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen, a museum designed by Norman Foster that opened in 1997 in the old boiler house. This past July, the Zollverein School, designed by SANAA's Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa opened as the first completely new building in the complex.

What's been done at Zeche Zollverein puts me in mind of a far more modest proposal to save the Acme Steel Coke Plant, which was the last surviving structure of what was once a booming steel industry centered around Chicago's Lake Calumet, converting it to a museum that would chronicle and celebrate its now departed era.

*get your mind out of the gutter - Fahrtreppen appears to translate from German as travel "Fahrt" + stairs "treppen". (although you do have to love a language where every third translation is an invitation to low comedy.)



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© Copyright 2006 Lynn Becker All rights reserved.