Gasteig Cultural Center

The Gasteig in Munich, the largest cultural center in Europe, receives almost two million visitors a year and houses a unique combination of programs: a concert hall, an auditorium, educational facilities, and a public library.

Constructed in 1985, the original Gasteig is a fortress-like compound of introverted functions. HENN’s proposal transforms it into an open and democractic space whose cultural and educational programs are part of a dynamic exchange—with each other and with the city.

The heart of the New Gasteig is the Kulturbühne or Culture Stage—a bridge-like glass volume that connects the many functions of the center and displays their vibrant interior to the city of Munich. Its transparent and open architecture stands in deliberate contrast to the monolithic character of the existing building. The Culture Stage functions as circulation, foyer, exhibition space and event area, a new space of encounter and connection. With this simple, yet radical gesture, HENN has transformed the Gasteig from an inert container of culture into an active collaborator—it is a space of cultural production where employees, students, and visitors are all actors on the Cultural Stage.

Each program—the Philharmonic, the Carl Orff Hall, the Munich City Library, the Munich Center of Further Education and the University of Music and Performing Arts—underwent its own transformation. In collaboration with the renowned acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, the Philharmonic was given a complete acoustic re-design while the library, constructed during the height of print media, was updated for the digital age, its closed-off, silent spaces were opened up and its collaborative spaces emphasized.

HENN’s modernization of the cultural center is a radical reconceptualization of the building and the role of culture within the city. Now more than ever, we understand and appreciate the power of art, music, literature, and education to reflect and elevate society during moments of prosperity, and to comfort and stabilize during times of hardship. The New Gasteig—open, transparent, and inviting—anticipates a future where it will once again receive millions of annual visitors.

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