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Don’t demolish the Cologne theater (Schauspielhaus)

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Please support the petition against the destruction of the Cologne Theater or Schauspielhaus. http://mutzukultur.de/

Photo: SurfGuard/flickr

Granted, the Schauspielhaus isn’t spectacular post-war architecture, but it has an aesthetic of its own. And the building is part of a larger architectural ensemble by Wilhelm Riphahn that is thought through.

In a city like Cologne, which hardly has any architectural coherence, destroying such an ensemble would be a crime.

Rebuilt from the ruins of war

More than 70 percent of Cologne was reduced to rubble by the bombs of the Second World War. In the post-war years, the city was hastily rebuilt.

Interestingly, one of the first big construction projects the citizens of Cologne started after the war was building a new opera house and theater. And architect Wilhelm Riphahn was assigned with the task.

Much of the 1950’s and 1960’s architecture in Cologne is nothing but mediocre. But Wilhelm Riphahn’s buildings have a higher quality. In addition, they are integrated into a grand design, a larger post-war reconstruction plan for the whole city.

Parts of that grand design are still visible on Cologne’s Hahnenstrasse and on Offenbachplatz, where Riphahn built the Oper, Schauspielhaus and Opernterrassen.

Big plans but no money

In recent years, many of Riphahn’s buildings have been torn down or disfigured through so-called modernization. The architectural ensemble made up of the opera, the theater and the Opernterrassen restaurant on Offenbachplatz, however, could still be saved.

But city officials doomed it for destruction. The city council voted to tear down the Schauspielhaus and the Opernterrassen and to preserve only Riphahn’s opera house.

In 2008, an architectural competition for a new theater building was called. The jury awarded architects JSWD and Atelier d’architecture first prize, but very bluntly said that “architecturally, the project does not meet the expectations. … The architectural form … lacks one essential necessary property: an identity that is adequate for the purpose of the building.

Some of the features that made the jury award this design first prize  have meanwhile been scrapped due to lack of funds (e.g. the so-called “Lichtgraben”).  So it’s already obvious that what might be built in the end will be even worse than the architectural plan. And that wasn’t very inspiring to begin with.

If you ask me, I’d say the design for the new theater looks like a giant department store or like a parking garage.

In any case, one thing that’s certain is that it will be much more expensive to build a new theater than it would be to renovate Riphahn’s 1960 Schauspielhaus.

Let’s preserve this integral part of Cologne’s post-war modernist architecture.

Please sign the petition against the destruction of the Cologne Theater at:  http://mutzukultur.de/

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Written by Thorsten

January 6, 2010 at 9:28 pm

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