The theatre Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus was built in 1965–69 according to a design by Bernhard Pfau. The free-standing architectural sculpture with its dynamic curves stands in stark contrast to the rigid geometry of the slim glass cuboid that is the directly neighbouring high-rise Dreischeibenhochhaus (1957-60, Helmut Hentrich and Hubert Petschnigg). The two buildings form one of the most important building ensembles of West-German post-war architecture. The renovation of the Schauspielhaus involves the technical and acoustic optimisation of the theatre auditorium, the careful redevelopment of the public areas and the façade, as well as how the structure is embedded in its urban surroundings.
The Schauspielhaus façade emphasises its horizontality and gives the impression of layers of ribbon-like sections that merge in some places before separating once more. Identical square windows punctuate the otherwise cohesive surfaces and form several rows with clusters in some areas. The building with only slim load-bearing supports opens outwards on the ground floor only making it seem as though it were floating.
The first comprehensive renovation took place from 2009 to 2011 and was realized by Hamburg-based architecture firm PFP Planungs GmbH. It focused on the large hall, with the acoustics there being enhanced in close coordination with urban heritage preservation authorities. In-keeping with the original design, the auditorium as visitors see it is still dominated by wooden slats, however, the new wooden cladding has been modified to optimise acoustics, with the addition of further sound-absorbing or reflecting elements. As part of the redesign the audience area has been reduced to 760 seats. Following intense discussion with theatre experts, Pfau had designed the grand hall known as »Großes Haus« as a proscenium stage, while the smaller »Kleines Haus« stage for 300 spectators may be flexibly converted to an arena, a proscenium stage or a space stage.
Neue Schauspiel GmbH took responsibility for the just finalised modernisation of the building service installations in the areas not accessible to the public. The renovation of the building, listed since 1998, that is currently being conducted by ingenhoven architects involves refurbishing the public areas as well as a fundamental renovation of the façade with its white metal panelling and the roof. The shortcomings of the original façade construction are being remedied, while the uniform appearance intended by Pfau is being retained.
With the reorganisation of the different uses, fixtures and extensions added as an afterthought – such as the ticket office – may now be removed. A special feature of the building is the foyer area located under the audience hall, flowing around the stage. It links the »urban« entrance area of the building on Gustaf-Gründgens-Platz to the »park side« with the intermission zone in the Hofgarten park. The building’s striking elements, including the expressively designed central pillar as well as the »starry sky,« are highlighted with illumination and colour.
While the renovation works are ongoing, the »Central« is used as the main stage for the theatre. The »Central« is located in the former parcel post building near the main railway station and has been used as centre for rehearsals since 2008. It also houses workshops, space for scenic painting and a storage facility for stage sets as well as for costumes.
The renovation of the theatre enjoys broad civic commitment with a campaign calling for donations organised by the »Schauspielhaus2020« board of trustees.
The full usability of the theatre is scheduled for the beginning of the 2019 / 2020 play season.