The Duhamel Landmark – named after its location on top of the Duhamel coal mining overburden – is a sculpture symbolizing the profound transition the Saarland region is going through after the end of the coal-mining era. It simultaneously points to the 250-years-long tradition of the coal mining and the future opportunities of the region.
For more than 250 years, the underground coal mining and its related industries - like steel and energy production – have reshaped the Saarland region and its landscape. This era ended in 2012 with suspension of the coal delivery due to a political decision. On this occasion the German coal mining company, RAG, called for an international competition to realize a landmark sculpture on top of the Duhamel overburden at the Saar mine, Ensdorf. The winning project had to embody multiple aspects, thus functioning as „a symbol for 250 years of coal mining tradition, the necessary re-start and the structural change after its suspension“, so to become „an identification point for the Saarland people that have been closely related to the coal mining for many decades“ and „to stimulate a new perception of the post-mining landscape with new images.“
Selected out of 147 entries was the Saarpolygon project by Katja Pfeiffer and Oliver Sachse (pfeiffer sachse architekten that was consequently realized by the newly founded Förderverein BergbauErbeSaar e.V. (Association for the Heritage of the Saar Coal Mining).
The design concept of the Saarpolygon addresses the multiple challenges offered by the task with an abstract 3-dimensional mountable sculpture on the crown of the overburden summit. The sculpture provides a panoramic viewing platform of approx. 30 metres height over the Saar river valley.
The appearance of the Saarpolygon is transformed with the movement of the visitor around the summit and with the change of light conditions during the course of the day. Its silhouette thus changes forming different iconographic figures that can be associated with symbols of the coal mining, like hammer and chisel, a shaft tower or a gate into the future. In addition to it, the light installation along the inner circulation (stairs and viewing platform) continues the theme of transformation bringing it onto a different level of perception: during the day the outer shell of the landmark dominates the appearance, while during the night the interior light emphazises the internal circulation geometry.
Construction method and material of the landmark's structure refer to the industrial culture of the region. Galvanized steel profiles form a space frame composing three tube-like segments: a bridge carried by two pylons. The pylons accommodate two stair runs accessing the viewing platform inside the bridge segment. The outer shell is composed by hollow steel profiles.
LED stripes inside the banisters provide an indirect lighting that makes the stairs appear as glowing themselves.
The construction of the Saarpolygon landmark started in November 2015. In February 2016 the foundations of a volume of 600 m³ were cast in one run. The prefabricated steel elements were brought to the site in small units to be assembled to larger segments and then mounted into their final position. In June 2016 the positioning of the bridge segment completed the landmark geometry.
The opening of the landmark took place on September 17, 2016.