“Palace of Culture” – History and Transformation of a communist building in Dresden

Socialist Magnificent Buildung

When in 1962 the construction of the Dresden “palace of culture” began, it was the beginning of the end of the historic and traditional city center of Dresden. This unique building of the architectural history of the GDR, affectionately called “Kultiin the vernacular, was to be the centerpiece of the new socialist town center. The glass and concrete box with an asymmetric copper roof was a rigorous break to the historical town plan. On the facade of the Schlossstraße a mural was installed called “Way of the Red Flag”, produced by the collective Gerhard Bondzin, a typical work of Socialist Realism. The entrances received five bronze doors by Gerd Jaeger, representing motifs from the Dresden history from a fishing village to a metropolis.

An important principle of socialist urbanism was: central, formative tower blocks and wide main streets. One of these main streets is today the Wilsdruffer Straße in front of the Kulturpalast, that was conceived as a marching street. Originally also the Palace of Culture was planned as a high-rise building in the style of seven Moscow tower blocks.

Multifunctional banquet hall

A special feature of the Palace of Culture was the so-called “tipping floor”. Thus the ballroom with up to 2435 seats could be turned into an auditorium with fixed seats and superelevation or into a banquet hall with a flat floor in the area of the stalls in front of the stage. Also the room acoustics could be optimized and adapted to the use as a concert hall or for electronically amplified music or speech events. In addition to the great hall, the Palace of Culture also had a studio theater with 192 seats, seminar, rehearsal and business rooms, foyer levels, office wings and a restaurant with a conference area.

Discussion about use after German reunification

The future of the Palace of Culture engages many years of discussions. There were voices who wanted to demolish the historic building. But it has been recognized that one should not make the same mistakes as our ancestors did: destroy everything, if a new era has dawned. And so the culture palace was closed in 2012 and is now undergoing a complete transformation.

Local history with a new face

After several years of renovation, only the shell of the building should be preserved. In the hollowed hexagonal interior a completely new concert hall for the Dresden Philharmonic is installed. The future auditorium will have the form of a vineyard will get excellent acoustics. Moreover, in place of the former restaurant and the old clubrooms will be installed the new main library. The third institution to move into the cellar after reconstruction is the cabaret Herkuleskeule. In 2017 the conversions is said to be completed and the Palace of Culture will shine in new splendour.

Katharina Michael
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