Standing atop a man-made mountain made of mining waste, which is itself surrounded by bustling highways, Richard Serra’s industrial sculpture piece, Slab for the Ruhr reminds visitors of the industry on which the region thrives.
The literal slag heap in the middle of Essen, Germany known as the Schurenbachhalde is a 50-meter tall pile of chaff produced by the local mining industry. While the collection of dark rock existed as an eyesore for most of its life, it was rehabilitated in the mid-1990’s and was converted into a greenery-covered hill, save for the stark plateau at its top which is home to Serra’s Slab for the Ruhr (Bramme für das Ruhrgebiet in the original German).
Installed in 1998, the 67-ton steel plate towers over 14.5 meters (47 feet) feet into the air, an unadorned monolith echoing the bleak, but proud legacy of the mining industry. The monument stands in the center of the plateau, which was landscaped by the artist as part of the piece, surrounded on all sides by barren expanses of slag that reach to the sloped wooded edges of the hill. The piece is accessible via a staircase which leads through the hillside trees before revealing the lunar landscape.
Today, the base of the piece is often covered in graffiti, but the vandalism does little to take away from the monolith’s looming dystopian power.