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A cracked, rather unattractive block, a solitary figure in the middle of an uninhabited industrial wasteland, impressive and also slightly scary; inside, eight moderately well lit, uniform storeys – it was certainly no easy task, to build a Centre for Art and Creativity into this problematic and unconventional relic of Dortmund’s brewing tradition.
The architect Professor Eckhard Gerber from Dortmund and his colleagues won one of two Second Prizes in the architects’ competition (a First Prize was not awarded) and were able to win through with their design at a later stage of the process. Their work was different from that of their competitors principally in the way they proposed opening up the building. While musea and media people are not exactly unhappy with limited daylight from small windows, because they like to work with controlled artificial light anyway, visitors and also architects like light, air and an impression of space.
Many competition entrants planned therefore to knock light shafts through the building, which would on the one hand provide extra light, and on the other hand create a spatial connection between the building’s floors. But the openness desired by these designs had no chance of being realized, because the floors were to be used by different institutions and because such shafts would have contravened safety and fire considerations.
Gerber Architects found another way to enable a whole-building experience. They suggested taking out the first section of ceiling along the east side of the building on all levels, thus creating an atrium of the building’s full height between the outer wall and the floors. This “vertical art space” would open up the building and enable visitors to experience the historical building’s dimensions and aura. At the same time the atrium creates an optical and physical connection between the floors and their institutions, a prerequisite for the desired synergy effect and the multifunctional use of the building. This vertical art space, along with the connection between the spaces in the building and the annexe as well as the large sky-lit hall, that Gerber Architects offered to create on the 6th floor, were the decisive factors for the decision to entrust the task to the Dortmund office.
Text: Prof. Dr. Falk Jaeger
© Gerber Architekten, Foto: Hans Jürgen Landes