Smell of Linden… Feels like Home




Main material of coal is plants and transformation of plants into coal takes hundreds of millions of years.

The fact that trees are one of the main constituents from which the coal originates, has been an important factor for us to choose a tree as the material of our project. Trees are life forms and unlike a coal mine (energy from below feeds the world above), they take their energy from the sun and convey it to the underground, in other words, they formally constitute a cycle, which supported our idea of a tree as the main material of the monument.

Besides, the idea that plants—giving us their beauty, fragrance, fruits—can be transformed into coal in millions of years given the right conditions, is an aspect that conceptually highlights the circular relation between the project and its installation location.


Once we decided to use a tree as the main material of the monument, the next important issue has been to select the type of tree. Linden, a member of monumental trees family, with its significant place in mythology, its historical and physical characteristics, its perseverance enabling it to live ages, highly impressed us. Another reason to choose linden has certainly been the fact that today in Germany the oldest tree is a 1200 years old linden.

With its healing qualities, beauties it exhibits, pleasant fragrance, linden has been considered as a sacred tree throughout ages by many civilizations. Thanks to its fragrant flowers and shade, it used to be the favourable tree planted on village squares of Central Europe. People used to organize festivals, set up open markets, hold wedding banquets, even trials under linden trees. On the other hand, linden tree is the symbol of home and hospitality. In short, this mighty monumental tree witnessed many incidences and meetings in its shade throughout history.


The project deals with the common story of hundreds of thousands of labourers who have been a part of Germany’s labour force since the 1960s. Away from home, in an alien geography, unknown culture and language, those labourers shared common spaces. They managed to live together, with all their differences, they shared a common ground: empathy.

In the frame of this project, we aim to gather again, symbolically, labourers who once worked in German coal industry came to work from mainly Turkey (%74), but also from former Yugoslavia, Italy, Morocco, Spain, The Netherlands, Greece, Austria, South Korea, France, Tunisia, respectively.


The project will comprise of taking linden saplings (11 saplings from 11 countries) from motherlands of tens of thousands of labourers who once worked in German mines, to the Ruhr Museum, Zeche Zollverein in Essen city of Germany and grafting them to a regional winter linden tree. Together with the German mother linden tree they will be 12; they will be intertwined, united in one body. Linden saplings, coming from different geographies, with different characteristics, living together in one body conceptually gives reference to the communal life founded in Germany. Visual and fragrant harmony created in time by twelve different linden trees, will host a shade spot where people would gather; this shade, as it did in history, will present itself to us as a space for our memories, talks, celebrations, stories.


And the path opening to the linden tree will point to one of the trajectories of many labourers from Turkey to Germany on their way to join the labour force. And the visitors, crossing the projection of this migration route, will head for the monument.


A circular bench, divided to two by the route, to be placed right under the linden tree, will invite visitors to spend some time under the tree together.


As the location of the project, we plan the green space in front of the main gate to the mine, a place that once functioned as the main entrance-exit of the labourers of the time. This location, once being the place where the labourers were welcomed, and today would welcome the museum visitors, can be considered as a “greeting” place.


Every June, flowers of the monumental tree harbouring 12 different lindens will be picked and put in packets to be designed by artists. Visitors of the Ruhr Museum, Zeche Zollverein will have a chance to enjoy the crossbred brew of this monumental tree.

Thus, flowers of the monumental tree that represent the communal life of tens of thousands of labourers who once left their homes to work in a foreign country, will enter other homes to accompany other myriads of stories.

Installation view; Ruhr Museum, Essen
photo 15: Andrea Kiesendahl, ©Ruhr Museum