Münster’s municipal theatre, built between 1954 and 1956 and then known as the Städtische Bühnen Münster, was one of the first new modernist theatres in post-war Germany It replaced the Lortzing-Theater, a venue in the Romberger Hof, which had been destroyed in the Second World War. The new building was designed by a team of young architects, Harald Deilmann, Max von Hausen, Ortwin Rave and Werner Ruhnau, who created a light-filled building that avoided the aesthetic of historical representation found in earlier theatre buildings. It is still used today by the municipal theatre of Münster.
Edmund Scharf, Münster’s planning director, originally intended to erect a monumental building for the theatre. But financial shortfalls prevented his design from being realised, and the team of young architects prevailed in a subsequent competition. They proposed an uncompromisingly modern building that rejected any attempt at conformity and stood in contrast to the historic old town.
The foyer and ancillary spaces occupy a flat-roofed plinth building that fills nearly the entire plot of land. The auditorium and the stage tower rise above this base, aligned on a diagonal. The main entrance, which also takes up this diagonal alignment, is glazed to open towards the street crossing. The oval-shaped auditorium similarly has a transparent façade that is surrounded by vertical slats. This act of opening the theatre to the urban space was an innovative gesture at the time.
The interiors had an unusual design as well: The foyer’s low ceiling was originally painted black, while the architects gave the adjoining glassed-in stair enclosure a red inner wall – whose colour has been preserved to this day. The auditorium, whose interior is similarly designed in dark tones and features a decidedly sloped seating area, dispenses entirely with representational gestures so as to focus all attention onto the stage. The canopy above is striking, lit by many ordinary domestic light fixtures rather than a chandelier.
Just outside the foyer stands a ruin, the remains of the rear façade of the Romberger Hof – which, together with two surviving plane trees, the architects incorporated into the theatre as a lasting reminder of the past. As a result, the wartime damage to the urban fabric remains visible to this day. [KS/DK]
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