A Temporary Home for the Frankfurt Opera

The 2019 autumn workshop of the Academy for Architectural Culture (aac) focused on the question as to what a design of a temporary home for the Frankfurt Opera could look like.

Under the guidance of Meinhard von Gerkan and Stephan Schütz, the international scholarship students developed designs for a temporary home for the Opera at Bockenheimer Warte which, together with the existing Bockenheimer Depot, could further enhance this area as a cultural hub. The results will be exhibited at the DAM (German Architecture Museum) in Frankfurt from January 24, 2020.

Many German theaters and opera houses are in need of substantial refurbishment and don’t have the benefit of the latest stage technology. Therefore numerous conversion or rebuilding measures will have to be undertaken by these state-owned cultural institutions in the near future. In order to ensure that these institutions can retain their high-quality ensembles and their subscribers and regular audiences during such refurbishment
phases, it is necessary to find interim solutions with the help of which it is possible to continue the performance program in pleasant surroundings. In this context the workshop focused on temporary accommodation, a subject with much future relevance: the task at hand consisted of the design of a temporary home for the Frankfurt Opera in the vicinity of the current location, i.e. at Bockenheimer Warte, which is three underground stops away. For the purpose of the workshop, a fictitious site close to the inner city and with good public access was chosen, consisting of the grounds of the university library and the turfed area directly adjacent to the Bockenheimer Depot.

The seminar started with a three-day excursion to Frankfurt. Here, the participants were able to obtain an impression of the Opera as well as the Bockenheimer Depot venue. The excursion was rounded off with a guided city tour and attendance at the “Radamisto” opera by Handel in the evening. Based on these impressions, Stephan Schütz presented the design task, for which initial ideas were worked out in a charrette and subsequently presented. Back in Hamburg, work on the design started in earnest in the aac studios. The four teams of four students were mentored by experienced tutors. Input lectures and regular crits with the visiting professors Prof. Much Untertrifaller of Dietrich | Untertrifaller Architects from Bregenz, Prof. Jörg Friedrich of pfp architects from Hamburg, and Fabian Hörmann of EM2N from Zurich rounded off the comprehensive teaching curriculum. All four groups have not only developed ideas for an interim building, but have also created an ensemble including the Bockenheimer Depot, which dates from 1900, that would further enhance the area as a cultural hub. Each of the proposed new buildings could accommodate the full range of the Opera’s performance program without significant functional shortcomings: Group 1 places the functions loosely and visibly within an
open walk-on scaffolding structure. Group  2 developed a lightweight and transparent sculpture that, using folds, defines inviting urban spaces both in plan layout and in the facades. Group 3 makes the functions of the temporary venue part of the public street space, similar to a shop window. Group 4 stacks the functions in a semi-transparent compact cube. The results will now be exhibited at the German Architecture Museum in Frankfurt am Main, kicking off with an opening event on January 24, 2020.

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