Arts & Humanities

The Renaturalization of Emscher River: A Photographic Documentation

Utah State University Caine College of the Arts (CCA) students visited Germany and spent a week photographing the renaturalization of the Emscher River. Now, examples from that trip can be seen in an exhibit on the USU campus.

The Renaturalization of Emscher River: A Photographic Documentation,” an exhibition featuring the students’ photos of the river, is on display at Special Collections and Archives, located in the Merrill-Cazier Library on USU’s Logan campus, Nov. 10-Dec. 12 from 7 a.m. to midnight during the library’s open hours. A reception is planned Nov. 14 from 3-4:50 p.m. at the exhibit site located on the basement level.

The exhibit is sponsored by the CCA, Office of Research and Graduate Studies, Global Engagement and USU’s University Libraries.

Fourteen students accompanied Chris Terry, professor of art, painting and drawing in the CCA, on the study abroad program.

“The restoration of the Emscher River system in the densely populated area of Germany’s Ruhrgebiet is probably the largest European project on ecological improvement of surface waters, at least in terms of time and investment,” said Terry. “A system of open waste water sewers with a total length of more than 400 kilometers is currently being replaced with an underground system in order to develop a near-natural lowland river system again.”

The project, with a total investment of 4.5 billion Euros, includes the construction of four large wastewater treatment plants, a modern system of subterranean wastewater channels and 340 kilometers of new rivers and streams with an adjacent floodplain wherever possible, said Terry.

“The Emscher restoration provides the base for a structural change of the whole Ruhr area, including new spaces of leisure and recreation, an improvement of real estate value and the quality of life in general,” said Terry. “The project will likely be finished in 2020 after 30 years of investment and construction.”

The USU students commented on the experience.

“The river was my favorite part of the trip,” said Liesl Cannon, a student travelling with the USU group. “That aspect of the area of Germany we were in was really cool. They are trying to renaturalize and repurpose and they’re doing a really good job of that.”

The goal was to create a documentation of the project — primarily in photographic images — that tells the story of the Ruhr region’s rise to an industrial powerhouse and subsequent reinvention as a modern urban area focused on the quality of life of its inhabitants, said Terry.

“Our exhibition in Special Collections will include about 40 key images from all of the student and faculty participants,” said Terry. “A self-published book, available for sale, will also be on display at the show. The artists will be present at the reception.”

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Contact: Denise Albiston, 435-797-1500,

Writer: Whitney Schulte, 435-797-9203,

photo illustration for 'Emscher River Documentation' exhibit at USU

USU students travelled to Germany and were involved in a photography project to document revitalization of the areas around of the Emscher River.


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