»Gasteig Sendling’s Calling Card« – Prof. Mathias Pfeil about the renovation of Hall E

»Gasteig Sendling’s Calling Card« – Prof. Mathias Pfeil about the renovation of Hall E General Curator Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Architect Mathias Pfeil Michael Forstner

The heart of the Gasteig Sendling is the listed Hall E, a red brick edifice that once served as a transformer hall and is now being given a new lease of life after many years’ disuse. But converting a listed building has its pitfalls. That’s why the Gasteig architects worked closely with the Bayerisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege – the Bavarian state department for heritage conservation – which is responsible for listed buildings like this striking brick hall. Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Architekt Mathias Pfeil, the General Curator for heritage conservation, explains why Hall E is of particular interest to his department.

Why is Hall E listed?
The hall is particularly interesting because of its architectural style: Built between 1926 and 1929 for the city’s utility company, it originally served as a storage and logistics space for the adjacent Heizkraftwerk Süd power station. It was designed by Hermann Leitenstorfer and Fritz Beblo, architects and city planners at Munich’s planning department, who also built the Leihamt in Augustenstraße and the Hirschau transformer station as well as their best-known work, the high-rise on Blumenstraße. It is a well-known fact that modernism had a hard time in Munich. Hall E, with its rigid geometry, is a rare example of this architectural style, also known as »Neue Sachlichkeit« (new objectivity), and is therefore worth conserving.

Has the hall changed since it was built?
Yes, it was hit and partly destroyed during World War II and rebuilt by Wilhelm von Gumberz from 1948 to 1950. Some elements were changed by von Gumberz, including the gabled roof. But the almost sacral feel of the interior remained intact, with its all-round gallery and glass ceiling, which provides good light and perfect working conditions.

What is your department’s goal regarding Hall E?
We want to see the building’s character preserved. Completely gutting the hall was never an option, for example, nor were excessive modifications or improvements. It is important to us that the building’s fabric is changed as little as possible and the appeal of this piece of industrial heritage is preserved. We also think that a somewhat dusty, harsh atmosphere suits the hall much better than a slick, styled interior. For the building’s owner, this means a lot of work: old windows, concrete staircases, exposed brick all must be conserved and meticulously restored.

Are you satisfied with the way the renovation is progressing?
Yes, the renovation of the hall is based on sound planning, and there was good coordination between the construction management, Gasteig and our department right from the start. A solid feasibility study was done before the work started, which always helps. I like the attention to detail with which the work is being done. The façade, for example, had several holes which had to be repaired. The existing materials had different colours: While the old pre-war concrete has a brownish colour, the post-war concrete is grey. The workers have repaired the damage with mortar in the appropriate colour in each case. Just a minor detail, but it shows how much care is being taken.

Have you ever had to intervene and prevent something from being done?
That’s inevitable. The original plan, for example, included a building in front of Hall E to house the University of Music and Performing Arts. But this would have blocked the view of the hall from certain perspectives. As we wanted to maintain the existing vista, we objected. So the Gasteig found a different workable solution.

So all’s well that ends well?
The construction work is not finished yet, but yes: I am sure that Hall E will become Gasteig Sendling’s calling card.

Text/Interview: Isabella Mair

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