With deep roots in its past built on steel, its heritage is coming back to life

The Rout Lëns site is remarkable in many ways, not least because of its location and its history.

Shaped by the steel industry, it is still home to some stunning heritage buildings around which the new urban project is being built.

The Rout Lëns or “Lentille (Terres) Rouges” takes its name from the iron ore that makes its soil so rich. The former mining basin has long been a source of income for the whole region.

A few key dates

The golden age of the steel industry

Back in 1870, Rout Lëns became a major hub for Europe’s steel industry. Iron was extracted from its ferruginous soil. This iron was turned to liquid in the site’s blast furnaces and then transported as molten iron by train to the Esch-Belval and Esch-Schiffange plants. It was at these 2 other sites that the cast iron was transformed into rolled steel.

The 3 Esch sites are connected to each other by a private rail network and form a vast steelmaking complex. 

During this thriving period for the steel industry, “Lentille Terres-Rouges” was incredibly vibrant, like a small town within a town.

The end of one era and the beginning of a new one

In the 1950s, production began to decline. It ceased completely in 1977.

As “Lentille Terres-Rouges” was Esch’s first steelmaking site, it also became its first brownfield site.

Since its closure, the land, which is packed with potential, has attracted a number of regeneration projects. All of them have failed due to pollution issues.  Since then, ArcelorMittal was commissioned to clean up the site. (Remediation work is underway and is expected to be completed in 2022.)

In September 2017, IKO Real Estate started to reflect on the site, taking into account the scale of the challenge involved.

In partnership with the municipal authorities and all of Luxembourg’s administrations and inspired by the participatory process put in place, the plans for the Rout Lëns neighbourhood are coming to life!

Today, the 10.5-hectare site, which will include 163,226m² of buildings, is rising from the ashes to become a sustainable, innovative and exemplary new neighbourhood!

5 heritage buildings remarkable for their legacy

Regarded as the neighbourhood’s backbone, the Allée de la Culture Industrielle is a pedestrian avenue that connects 5 stunning vestiges of the past. Extensively renovated, they will become unique meeting places that bring the neighbourhood to life.

  • When you’re a child, what a joy it is to learn and grow just a stone’s throw away from where you live!

    The new school is one of the neighbourhood’s flagship projects. It will give the youngest residents the chance to take ownership of their new home, immersed in the rich history of those who went before them.

    The school is full of joy where people can come together. It will make the neighbourhood more appealing over time by encouraging future parents to move here.

    The public consultation process revealed the importance of integrating every generation. That’s why the Esch authorities will begin construction work on the school complex in phase 1.  The school is expected to open in 2027.

  • Another ambition of Rout Lëns is to provide the home for the elderly that they deserve. Thanks to the retirement home, they will be able to enjoy all the facilities and comfort of living in a small, vibrant, caring town.

    With children nearby, they will be able to enjoy their retirement, with the added reassurance that the new hospital (CHEM) isn’t far away.

  • Rout Lëns is a 5-minute train journey from the University of Luxembourg. It will also be accessible by bike, on foot or by bus!

    This makes the new neighbourhood an ideal location for student accommodation. Luxembourgers from the north, inhabitants from around the borders and from all over the world are bound to bring a bit of cosmopolitan energy to Rout Lëns.

  • 5% of the building area in Rout Lëns will be dedicated to offices and shared working spaces. The Halle des Turbines could even, in time, house a co-working space.

    Border workers and local residents will be able to work in a pleasant setting where urban living meets nature, a 20-minute train journey from the capital of Luxembourg. Close to the French border, the area is also very easy to access by bike.

  • Cultural events will transcend history in Rout Lëns!

    Exhibitions, concerts, shows, conferences and much more can be hosted in a dedicated space in the heart of the Halle des Turbines or, why not, under the metal legs of the immense Portique.

  • In 2023, the “Maison du Projet” will be opening in the Magasin TT to showcase all the different ideas that will be coming to life as the work progresses.

    It will be the neighbourhood’s first welcoming meeting space. The perfect place to come together and reflect on how all of these initiatives are being rolled out!

  • This is the most common kind of accommodation. They are housed in mid-rise buildings with 7 or 8 storeys (ground floor plus 6 storeys and ground floor plus 7 storeys), so rise up, emerging from the ground.

    These lovely apartments are designed to be dual aspect and/or corner units, offering residents as much light as possible.

    They will have a balcony and/or loggia, and will range from studios to 1, 2 or 3-bedroom apartments.

    The Émergences have 8 or 9 storeys and are suitable for split-level apartments with the bedroom(s) and bathroom upstairs.

  • Accommodation with “Shared rooftop gardens”

    Two buildings, one near the Halle des Soufflante and the other to the west of the site, will have rooftop gardens. These buildings are part of the Totems. They have 8 or 9 storeys, offering a panoramic view of the neighbourhood.

    These will house split-level apartments with 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms.

    Their residents will be able to benefit from the shared hanging gardens.

  • Rout Lëns will include 2 high-rise tower blocks.  The taller (60m) will be reminiscent of the red tower in Esch-Belval. Apartments and studios will be the focal point of the neighbourhood’s skyline.

    IKO would like these to be built with timber frames. A real technical feat for such tall tower blocks!

    Using wood in construction has lots of ecological benefits including CO² storage, ease of transport and no water consumption. Wood is very resistant to fire, as well as being an excellent thermal insulator and a very good moisture regulator.

    Building with wood fits in perfectly with the project’s values in terms of sustainability.

  • A large student accommodation complex is planned for the centre of Rout Lëns. It will benefit from all the local services available, including public transport.

    The ground floor will be set aside for socialising. The other 4 floors will be divided into mini studios with small balconies.

  • Close to the centre and the school, the retirement home will be made up of two low-rise buildings facing each other. These will be connected by a private garden dedicated to residents’ well-being.

    The building will include studios as well as 1- and 2-bedroom apartments. Most will have a balcony looking out on to the garden.

  • Detached houses will be built in the western part of Rout Lëns near the Poste d’Aiguillage. They will create a bridge to the houses in Hiehl.

    There will be a mixture of private and shared gardens to offer residents a peaceful atmosphere surrounded by nature.

  • Built in the 20th century, this building once sold all kinds of things, both for the mines and for its employees. It also housed a brewery.

    Its 3 storeys and facades studded with decorative columns undeniably give it real character in terms of architecture, heritage and historical interest.

    It used to be a sociable meeting place, and the idea is to preserve these key functions. For example, its impressive metal frame mean that it is a suitable home for a microbrewery and a market selling local produce. Two projects that epitomise the project’s values.

    While we wait for these two initiatives to come to life, it is the 1st building to be renovated. From 2023, it will house the “Maison du Projet”.

  • Built in 1901, the Halle des Turbines is the site’s flagship.

    On industrial sites of this size, turbines were used to generate the electricity needed to power the steel industry.

    The Halle des Turbines is a large rectangular building with variable ceiling heights. Its structure and facades are of great architectural interest.

    In the new project, it is set to become the hub for culture and new technologies. Exhibitions and concerts will be put on in a multipurpose room. One area is also expected to be used for co-working.

  • This building, which resembles a gigantic myriapod, was used to fill the minecarts with molten iron.

    In the new project, it will be given back its lofty space. The area between its metal legs is due to remain empty so that pedestrians can marvel at the structure. They will probably also be able to linger in front of curtains of climbing plants. Hanging hops could be grown here to supply the micro-brewery for example.

    Dedicated to social events and seasonal fairground activities, the area around the Portique is designed to be a meeting space that people can take ownership of.

  • A “Soufflante” is the part of a blast furnace that supplies the combustion air needed to operate.

    The traditional architecture of the Halle des Soufflantes, which was built in the 20th century, makes it a striking symbol of the site. In its centre, it is 20 metres tall.

    The plan is to leave its design as it is, making as few changes as possible.

    The very thin walls and large bay windows make it impossible to heat. Which makes it the perfect venue for urban sport! For example, a 16-metre climbing wall could be installed here, which local climbers will love. Other covered sports could also be practised here.

  • Much more modest in size, the Poste d’Aiguillage (which means signal box) also dates back to the 20th century. It once directed the trains that travelled to and from the site.

    Its original hat shape earned it several nicknames, including the “U-boot”, which means submarine, or the “mushroom”.

    It will be converted into unique accommodation for tourists in search of an unusual experience.

Questions about heritage

  • A number of studies were carried out to determine the feasibility of retaining all or part of the Mollereï. First of all, it was a purely technical and enclosed concrete structure (ore silos) and therefore very difficult to convert and use for something else.  One study looked into the possibility of a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists from the Plateau Barbourg opposite, but this proved to be technically rather complex, particularly in terms of the slopes required. It is worth remembering that this story of local heritage began 40 years ago. This means that we started to destroy and dismantle this industrial site 2 generations ago. Buildings were left behind that were iconic. There were 2 types of building: this concrete one and all the metal structures. The urban aspect of the project, not the heritage dimension, is about working for future generations, in other words, it’s about remembering that the buildings that we have preserved and that we are going to link together with the Allée de la Culture Industrielle, are buildings that will be given a new lease of life, not for the benefit of the last people who worked at the site, but for their grandchildren. We have therefore chosen to preserve the iconic parts of this building, which are the metal gantries and silos. As a tribute to the original site, they are regarded as one of the key elements of the Allée de la Culture Industrielle, which is at the heart of the project.

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