the belval site

belval steel plant

The Belval Plant was built between 1909 and 1912 by the «Gelsenkirchener Bergwerks A.G» on the «Escher Bësch», a community forest of more than 200 hectares. Considered at the time to be one of the most modern steel plants in Europe, it covered an area of some 100 hectares and consisted of six blast furnaces, each capable of producing between 240 and 250 tonnes of cast iron per day. A workforce of more than 2000 workers has been employed there in 1912. Throughout its productive life, the Belval steel plant experienced mixed fortunes and witnessed major energy crises as well as numerous changes over the course of time. The first extension to the site was in 1919 and a further extension followed in the aftermath of the Second World War. Between 1965 and 1979 three new blast furnaces replaced the six that had been in use until 1960. The last blast furnace was turned off in 1997 and the casthouses were abandoned after the move to electric furnaces in the early 1990s.  On 18 June 2000, blast furnaces A and B were added to the “Inventaire Supplémentaire des Sites et Monuments Nationaux” (Additional list of National Sites and Monuments), where as blast furnace C was sold, dismantled and rebuilt in China.
The heart of the Belval plant has always been the Blast Furnace Terrace, where iron ore was transformed into cast iron before being turned into steel, to then create a wide range of products at the rolling mill. Although regularly updated and sometimes even completely rebuilt, these casthouses have never been physically moved or relocated since 1911. They operated along the north-south axis, lined by the blast furnaces. Located within an area of 24 hectares of Blast Furnace Terrace, the “Cité des Sciences” will cover no less than 15 hectares, with a railway link on the southern boundary. Some traces of industry are being integrated into the new urban concept and will thus become a symbol of renewal; a bridge between the past and the future.