Ruhr valley slagheaps instead of the Swiss Alps – field report from a trainee

In August 2017, after completing my bachelor’s degree in Basel, I came to WILDDESIGN for a three-month internship in Gelsenkirchen. This internship was my first work experience as a product designer so that many things were new and unknown to me. Outside of the office, many things seemed also strange to me. I left my familiar environment in Switzerland and came to the Ruhr area. At WILDDESIGN, I can count myself as the first Swiss employee.

Halde Rungenberg - Route Industriekultur
“Mountains” can be climbed not only in Switzerland, but also in the Ruhr area: From the summit of the Rungenberghalde in Gelsenkirchen you can enjoy a wide view over the area.

London, New York – or Gelsenkirchen?

How is it that I am the first Swiss at WILDDESIGN? Even before my arrival I had to realize, that the Ruhr area is not very appealing for Swiss people, especially Gelsenkirchen. If Swiss designer are going to leave Switzerland for work then it´s going to be rather London, Berlin or New York. At the beginning I also thought that I would go to the WILDDESIGN office in Munich. But the circumstances made me come to WILDDESIGN in Gelsenkirchen.

Thereby I had the opportunity to get to know the Ruhr area and its people here. At work everyone is very open and has a global thinking. So, I didn´t feel any differences. Already at the first day, I got a warm welcome and became involved in exciting projects. Perhaps the mentality of this area might be a bit rougher, still I felt a part of the team very fast.

Searching for inspiration

The differences got more visible when I wanted to have a balance to the creative work. The “Wissenschaftspark” is not at all comparable to the exchange which I had in my familiar and creative surrounding at the university. Additional I liked to get inspired by all the contrasts existing in Switzerland. I was often on the go by train and crossed the whole country while I was working. I searched the alternation, what was provided in Switzerland by the good public systems and the big cultural variety. Either the impressive nature, nice museums or the people in the vivid cities. But where do I find inspiration in the Ruhr area?

Attractive contrasts and an atmosphere of change create a special charm

Very fast I realized: the Ruhr area is also characterized by contrasts. The variety appears just in a different sense. First, I had to admit myself to it. Therefore, the WILDDESIGN office and the Intern flat is located very central in the area. To create a good balance beside work, I curiously discovered the Ruhr area, most likely by bike: You will drive through a pleasant neighbourhood, then you pass a pit which are very iconic here, after that you cross a bushy section of a forest, followed by an unattractive sixties block.

In the end you reach a view point on top of a dump and you have a great view over the whole area.The landscape with several dumps and pits, modelled by humans is very impressive and inspirational. As well it shows the contrast of the people living here. It is not really quaint, it is rough and authentic. And especially this contrast between the old coal industry and some kind of upheaval is palpable. That is why this area has a very special charm and offers an interesting balance to work.

museums of the area
My discovery expeditions also took me to the museums of the area: From Dusseldorf (left) to the Red Dot Design Museum in Essen.

My conclusion: First the Ruhr area had to come to my mind as an option. I started this adventure with a bit of respect, but excited. Afterwards it was a very valuable experience that opened my horizon in many different ways.  For sure differently than an international city would have done it, but very positive. Therefore, WILDDESIGN is a great opportunity where the Ruhr area is represented in an open minded and innovative manner. As Swiss it is a nice workplace to get to know the region as well!

Swiss cheese fondue evening in the trainee flatshare
Swiss cheese fondue evening in the trainee flatshare

Oct. 2017, Pascal Hirt

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Happy Rooster Year !
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Pascal is interested in culture and art. He likes to influence his experiences in projects. Thereby he is spurred to design functional and high-quality products.

Originally written by Pascal Hirt, 21. November 2017. Last updated 15. May 2023


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