Festspielhaus (Festival Theatre) site⎟ Regeneration of the area
After the withdrawal of the Soviet army in 1992, the Festspielhaus (Festival Theatre) and its surrounding buildings presented a picture of decay. It was not long before the idea emerged to revive the Festspielhaus (Festival Theatre) grounds as a cultural venue. The Förderverein für Europäische Werkstatt für Kunst und Kultur Hellerau e. V. (Association for the Promotion of the European Workshop for Art and Culture Hellerau) was founded as early as 1990 and developed visions for the future use and design of the ensemble. The driving force was the commitment of the Wüstenrot Stiftung foundation, which aimed to combine forces and actively shape the regeneration by providing financial resources. First of all, emergency measures saved the Festspielhaus (Festival Theatre) from decay, then the boarding houses were renovated.
Inventory and brainstorming
After the withdrawal of the Soviet army, the Festspielhaus (Festival Theatre) and its surrounding buildings presented a picture of decay due to the intensive military use, economic scarcity, and neglect of the historical circumstances. It was not long before the idea developed to revive the Festspielhaus (Festival Theatre) grounds again as a cultural venue in Germany, reflecting on its history of the dream, megalomania and destruction. The Förderverein für Europäische Werkstatt für Kunst und Kultur Hellerau e. V. (Association for the Promotion of the European Workshop for Art and Culture Hellerau) was founded under the chair of theatre studies expert Detlev Schneider as early as 1990 and developed visions for the future use and design of the ensemble. The driving force was the commitment of the Wüstenrot Stiftung foundation, which aimed to combine forces and actively shape the regeneration by providing financial resources.
At the beginning of 1995, the Wüstenrot Stiftung, in cooperation with the Kulturstiftung des Freistaates Sachsen und dem Förderverein (Cultural Foundation of the Free State of Saxony and Friends), organised the international symposium ‘Hellerau: Stand Ort Bestimmung’ (Hellerau: Status Location Purpose). In 1997, an international ideas competition was held for the site, but the winning design was never realised. This was followed in 1999 by a design competition, which was won by the Munich architects Meier-Scupin & Partner in 2000. Their winning design formed the basis for the subsequent development plan and the basic concept completed in 2002.
First basic protection of the Festspielhaus (Festival Theatre)
The long military use of the area had left the Festspielhaus (Festival Theatre) severely damaged. To save it from being permanently lost, emergency measures were initially carried out on the roof and side wings in 1994/95. Further basic repair work in 1997-99 restored the roofs, the foyer, and the staircases to their original condition, in particular with funds from the Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz (German Foundation for Monument Protection).
History of the boarding houses
The four single-storey larger boarding houses to the east and west of the Festspielhaus (Festival Theatre)were demolished for conversion into a police school in 1938 and replaced by two two-storey barracks. They now closed the once unrestricted and open square, significantly changing the overall effect of the building ensemble.
The boarding houses opposite the Festspielhaus (Festival Theatre), on the other hand, remained largely intact and were occupied until the Soviet army left in 1992. The many years of military use as living quarters for the officers led to a high degree of wear and tear on the building fabric. Eventually, the four houses were at risk of total collapse. With the commitment of the Wüstenrot Stiftung, these important witnesses to the history of Hellerau could be saved as architectural monuments. On 3 October 1996, the two eastern buildings were ready for occupancy following reconstructive restoration supported by the local heritage conservation department. On 27 June 2002, the western boarding houses were also handed over in an official ceremony. Today, all four houses are used by the Kulturstiftung des Freistaates Sachsen (Cultural Foundation of the Free State of Saxony) and the Sächsischer Kultursenat (Saxon Cultural Senate), one of them as a scholarship holders’ house with one apartment each for a writer living in exile and a Tessenow scholarship holder.
Construction with the Tessenow Wall
Tessenow reverted to the traditional half-timbered construction for the single-storey buildings, which, as a simple and cost-saving construction method, was most in keeping with his conception of purpose-built housing. He had worked intensively on stylising the wall components and in 1909 he patented the ‘Tessenow wall’ he had developed, which was also used in the boarding houses. This load-bearing cavity wall with a circulating layer of air has a frame construction made of sill beams and frame beams as well as solid corner posts with boards set in between. The wall structure is bricked on the outside and inside with upright staggered bricks. The remaining about 7 cm layer of air had supply air openings in the room-side skirting boards, which were covered with brass rosettes. The air outlet was probably through the roof space to outside.
Due to insufficient ventilation of the wall construction and regular penetration of moisture, an infestation of dry rot had developed in the lower area of the exterior wall, which severely damaged the building monuments.
Renovation of the boarding houses
Due to their very poor condition, the two eastern buildings and their connecting building were renovated first. Since a renovation that preserved the building fabric did not seem possible in many areas, it was decided to reconstruct the buildings based on historical findings. All damaged parts were removed and rebuilt true to the original.
In the case of the western boarding houses, on the other hand, the Wüstenrot Stiftung decided to preserve the existing buildings in their entirety. They were renovated as historical monuments where signs of age and use are to be preserved. The differences to the principle of a complete renovation, as with the eastern boarding houses, is clearly visible when they are compared. For example, to get rid of the dry rot infestation, only the destroyed parts were removed down to the load-bearing cross-section and any remaining dry rot was then killed using a special treatment.
All conservation measures were aimed at preserving the historical monument. The aim was to make the planning, construction, and original use of the buildings traceable for later generations. The spatial structure from the time of construction was clearly recognisable during the building research, but the function of the individual rooms was not. All that is known is that the teachers of the Dalcroze School lived here.
Through careful renovation, it has therefore been possible to save a unique building complex with extensive original building fabric. The renovation of the western boarding houses has also shown that repair work of this kind can make an important contribution to the research and development of new methods with which even very damaged building components can be preserved in a way that is appropriate to their construction and design.