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75 Years of NRW – Building Permission for the Exhibition Areas in the Behrensbau in Düsseldorf

On 23 August 1946, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia was founded with the state capital Düsseldorf. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia will celebrate its 75th anniversary from August 2021 to Whitsun 2022 with an anniversary exhibition entitled “75 Years of North Rhine-Westphalia” in the “Behrensbau” on the banks of the Rhine in Düsseldorf.

Eller + Eller Architekten have been commissioned with the conversion planning of the Behrens Building for the anniversary exhibition. A feasibility study on the revitalisation, including an analysis of the existing situation and a description of the potential, was carried out by us in the period from January to April 2020. The building application was submitted in mid-October 2020, and the building permit has been available since the beginning of December. The conversion measures can now begin.

The “Behrensbau” was built in 1911/1912 by Peter Behrens as a multifunctional and expandable headquarters for the Mannesmannröhren-Werke, which was untypical for the time. From 1936 to 1938, the building was extended by the architect Hans Väth with a building lower in floor height.

After the war, the Behrensbau was the seat of the Prime Minister and the State Chancellery until 1953. With the subsequent removal of the destruction caused by the war, the roof of the Behrens Building was rebuilt in 1953 with two storeys (5th and 6th upper storey). The courtyard façades were extended by two storeys and the roof shape was reconstructed as a gable roof to match the external façades. The “Väthbau” was also raised by one floor.

Today’s building complex also includes the neighbouring so-called “Mannesmann high-rise” (also known as the “Vodafon high-rise” after its takeover by Vodafon AG in 2000), built between 1956 and 1958 by Egon Eiermann and Paul Schneider-Esleben, which today houses the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalisation and Energy (MWIDE) of the State of NRW. It is connected to the Väthbau via a glass bridge passage.

In 1982, the Behrensbau was added to the list of monuments. In 1990, a comprehensive refurbishment took place, which included a spatial restructuring, took the monument into consideration and, incidentally, made use of the possibilities for flexible design that Behrens had envisaged.

The last major renovation work on the building complex was carried out in 2002 when it was converted into the Vodafon headquarters. The renovation measures mainly comprised fire protection measures and the renewal of the technical building equipment. Since the end of 2008, the buildings have been owned by the state. The Behrens- and Väthbau are currently empty except for a kindergarten use. Temporarily, the buildings have served as temporary accommodation. Many listed building components were behind protective cladding and have already been dismantled.

Mannesmann House, Düsseldorf
Behrensbau/Mannesmann-House, Düsseldorf. Architect: Peter Behrens, 1911/12. Photo: "Joschi71", CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71770197

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