Kulturbahnhof Aalen: A new perforated metal façade blends into the industrial surroundings of a revived monument ― 

The new Kulturbahnhof Aalen, a new cultural facility about 70km east of Stuttgart, brings together Aalen’s industrial history and twenty-first century architecture. With great sensitivity, the historical building fragments have been successfully integrated into present-day architecture.

In the past, the area now known as Aalen’s Stadtoval was occupied, among other things, by railway tracks. As part of the inner-city expansion, the Kulturbahnhof takes a central position: the building, which now accommodates a cinema, a theatre, the music school, high-quality function halls for cultural events and premises for catering, is intended to have a radiant effect throughout the region.

After a fire in 2014, fragments of several historical groups of buildings with a distinctive sandstone façade and short cross gables could still be found on the site. The guiding idea behind the design was to carefully preserve this heritage and to further develop it into a forward-looking cultural center for the 21st century.

After an architectural competition held in 2015, the award-winning team of Ackermann-Raff architects introduced a new addition, complementing and expanding the destroyed historical building. The extensively destroyed façade was replaced in a stylized manner using colored fair-faced concrete — and where possible, the historical character was revived. The roofs of the short side gables were also rebuilt according to the historical design. The longitudinal gable, by contrast, followed a different concept: it was replaced by an elongated cuboid-shaped volume clad in folded perforated plate, thereby creating a spatial reference to the urban edges of the neighboring area to the south.

In contrast to the historical sandstone façade, which has an ornamental, handcrafted and massive appearance, the superimposed cuboid is simple and restrained. Its light brown color blends in perfectly with the materiality of the sandstone façade and the industrial surroundings of the site. However, the pleated perforated skin introduces a dynamic, vertical rhythm which stands in stark contrast to the symmetrical, massive façade underneath, standing out as an unmistakably contemporary yet respectful addition. The perforated metal cladding is also to be found in the interior, covering low ceilings and accommodating lighting and mechanical fittings, appearing to have somehow always belonged in the building.

The historical façade provides the shell of a generous space. New boxes were placed inside this completely gutted space, zoning the interior for different uses. These boxes also support and brace the new load-bearing structure. The large halls and the public uses are housed in the old building. The rooms of the music school and the theatre workshops are housed in the new volume, the cuboid. These rooms “serving” cultural production and education symbolically arch over the show stages for the culturally interested public. It was important to create an authentic and independent ambience for the different cultural venues with historical components such as materials, windows, and a visible roof construction.

According to the town of Aalen, the now shared building for the diverse cultural venues, which were previously spread across several locations, is expected to contribute to optimizing resources, pooling synergies, and ensuring cost savings in the long term

Architecture: A+R Architekter

Photography: Brigida González