Hermes Paper Mill
Part of Düsseldorf’s harbour has been gentrified. The old warehouses have been converted or replaced by modern office blocks, with three landmark buildings designed by Frank Gehry at the centre. Together these buildings are known as the ‘Neuer Zollhof’, and are twisty and quirky in typical Gehry style. This part of the harbour – the gentrified part – is today known as the ‘Media Hafen’, and as the name would suggest is home to many media firms, including WDR, the large German broadcasting company.
The Media Hafen, though, is only one part of the Dusseldorf harbour. Behind the glitzy wharf of the Media Hafen are several working docks, largely hidden from view. There are warehouses, there is a shunting yard, there are working factories; cargo is loaded onto container barges and sent off along the Rhine; cargo is unloaded and sent off to its final destination aback a rusty freight train. Amidst all this, on a wharf about a ten minute walk from the Media Hafen, is a large abandoned paper factory (papierfabrik) that used to be run by the company Hermes.
The paper factory opened on the port in 1911, after moving from the nearby neighbourhood of Bilk. For nearly 100 years, paper was processed and manufactured on site. But, in the crash of 2008, the subsidiary company of Hermes that owned the factory went bankrupt and the factory closed. The vast open, concrete halls quickly became gratified. The offices, empty of people, soon became home to rats.
In December of 2015 a 15 year old boy fell ten metres through a hole in the unstable roof. Like many before him, he was there urban exploring. He was seriously hurt, hospitalised, and at one point close to death. Luckily he survived and is believed to be doing well.
But since the incident, security has been tightened at the factory. The once open windows and doors have been completely sealed and all other entry points blocked off. The company and are now actively seeking a permit to demolish the old factory. Gentrification has yet to spread across the entire harbour, but perhaps one day there will be a tall skyscraper where there used to be a humble paper mill.