We Americans think we're pretty hip for converting the occasional warehouse or factory into housing, but we can't hold a candle to Europe's clever new uses for old industrial relics. Whether ore bunkers or blast furnaces, the Europeans honor these structures as landmarks of a bygone era, rather than blowing them up as we do. The German city of Duisburg in the Ruhr Valley–the German equivalent to America's Rust Belt–offers a case in point. Duisburg's one-time industrial might can be judged from the fact that it was a pivotal target of Allied bombing raids during World War II. Its industrial prominence returned after the war, albeit directed toward more peaceful pursuits. During the last two decades, however, a changing world economy brought Duisburg's long steelmaking history to a close, leaving a landscape haunted by the abandoned relics of industry. When Duisburg's vast Thyssen steel works closed in 1985, the demolition of its towering furnaces and other structures se...
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