The first time I … went to an industrial park.

I like going to the park. No matter where I go overseas, I will always try to visit the local park for some down time or a bit of exercise.

Recently, I got the chance to check out a unique place called Landschaftspark or Landscape Park Duisburg-Nord in the Ruhr Valley near Dusseldorf, Germany.

This park is special because instead of beautiful gardens, ponds and playgrounds, the main features here are run-down blast furnaces, industrial buildings and warehouses. This is the first time I had ever come across such a park, and after spending about two hours there, I am convinced that something like it should also exist in Malaysia.

Formerly the Thyssen-Meiderich steel production plant, this landscape park is a hit with locals because it is family-friendly and special events are held at the venue almost every week.

When I was there, a couple dressed in formal wear were having a private photo session – apparently, the park is popular with photography enthusiasts.

Ruhr was once a thriving industrial region famous for coal, iron and steel manufacturing/processing. A large part of the valley used to be filled with factories and power plants. When Germany’s Industrial Revolution started to spiral, some companies were forced to either shut, move or shift their focus in other industries, like finance.

Buildings like the enormous Thyssen-Meiderich plant were left idle for years in the 1980s and the looming negative environmental impact from this became a cause for concern for the government.

To remedy this, major plans were put in place to not only secure the plant but also to turn it into a public space. However, there was one catch: almost all the structures had to remain as is. The idea was to integrate, develop and link the existing structures and patterns to form one unified space. At the same time, the park was meant to educate visitors on Germany’s controversial industrial past.

Adventure seekers using the sides of the building as rock climbing walls.

Engineers, architects, designers and landscape artists were commissioned to work on this project, which opened in 1991.

Some of the most important structures at the park include the blast furnace, the coking oven and the railway tracks. There’s also a handful of the original train wagons used to transport coal and steel back in the day, on display.

The local guide passionately shared all there is to learn about steel production. She even brought samples of coal, ore and other heavy objects to show us, but I’m not entirely sure if we needed to know every single detail though.

She also talked about the Industrial Revolution, the history of Duisburg city and the significance of the park today to its community. As we walk around, we could see that the park is a great place for young families to spend their weekends.

There’s a big adventure playground in the back area that’s fit for not just kids but adults too. A lot of the playground “toys” are upcycled items from the factories. One of the buildings’ outer wall has been turned into a giant slope where visitors – young and old – can gleefully slide down.

Other walls and a number of pillars are being utilised by rock climbing fans. There’s also a rickety hanging bridge at one section of the building, which is apparently meant for mountaineers who wish to train for conquering difficult peaks like Mount Everest.

Closer to the event space is an old gasometer which is now used as a place for diving lessons. Cool!

Duisburg is about 90 minutes away from Dusseldorf. It is best to rent a car to get there, or make arrangements with a tour company. While the landscape park has signboards and information charts for tourists, you may want to hire a local guide to learn more about the place.

You can try the different obstacle courses that are set up at some of the old buildings.

Singapore Airlines flies 4x weekly to Dusseldorf, Germany.