The present-day facility housing both, the opera house and the theatre on Willy Brandt Platz, forms a structural unit in appearance only. It is actually a complex ensemble of structures, which have grown together over more than 100 years. The first theatre on this site opened in 1902, built to a design by the theatre architect Heinrich Seeling on the road through the former city ramparts called Gallustor. The building was badly damaged in an air raid in 1944.
The theatre building was partially reconstructed from 1949–51 by Otto Apel, working as part of a consortium with Letocha, Rohrer, Herdt and Lehberger and was then used primarily for opera performances.
The City Council passed a resolution to create a building housing both, opera and theatre, in 1958. The company Otto Apel, ABB Architekten was commissioned with the planning. The solution seemed beneficial on account of the fact that it would be possible for the theatre and the opera to use the workshops, storage space, and administrative offices jointly. The two structures were united by the striking, new, 120-metre-long and 9-metre-high glass foyer embracing the opera house and the theatre. The different construction stages are, however, even today still clearly legible from the groundfloor entrances to the two buildings.
As part of the reconstruction of the opera house auditorium (following an arson attack in 1987), the complex was extended to include a new structure with artists’ and rehearsal rooms and an added ballet hall
In 1991-92 the foyer and auditorium of the theatre were redesigned and given a technical overhaul.
From 2007 to 2010 the entire workshop complex in the southeast of the facility was rebuilt, and new spaces added to the existing structure. The design was the work of gmp – Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner. The new entrance to the Kammerspiel was also built as part of these measures.
The June 2017 building assessment / feasibility study
Over 50 years after the building was completed, the City of Frankfurt Building Department has to spend a lot of money every year on basic repairs. As a first step and as the basis of a coordinated overall refurbishment concept, in August 2011 the then heads of the Departments of Culture and Building commissioned an extensive Review with an Assessment of the Overall Situation. This study is divided into three stages:
- Building assessment (stage 1)
- Status analysis / user needs analysis (stage 2)
- Feasibility study (stage 3)
The building assessment and analysis (stages 1+2)
Alongside archive research, the building assessment also included on-site inspections and detailed measurements, opening structural elements, surveying, and camera inspections. This resulted in the very first consistent set of planning documents, comprising views, footprints and cross-sections on a scale of 1:50 of the entire building ensemble with all the building and stage equipment, as well as the relevant power lines and ducts.
The assessment of the existing structure produced an extensive list of shortcomings in many respects, such as energetically and structurally defective façades, damp on the basement levels, leaking roofs, insufficient ceiling heights and a lack of storage space. With regard to ventilation, electrical, sanitation, heating and cooling systems, as well as parts of the building automation and control systems, the technical fittings throughout the building is outdated and insufficient. The construction history has resulted in the two main stages being at different heights, and staggered heights in the access corridors. As such, there is no barrier-free access in place.
Given the »entangled« structure of the ensemble, any measure always impacts on other areas. This results in a situation in which, in terms of technical standards or fire prevention measures, the existing permit could expire due to the necessity for substantial changes. For this reason, all work would need to be coordinated in a detailed refurbishment concept.
The feasibility study (stage 3)
Three versions of how to proceed with the refurbishment were developed and examined in terms of the expected costs:
- Version 1: Refurbishment and extension: The theatre and opera house remain at their present location
- Version 2: Refurbishment and extension: The theatre relocates to an external venue
- Version 3: Demolition and newbuild: The opera and theatre relocate to an external venue
For the cost calculation for the three versions all relevant costs were included, namely costs for demolition, construction costs for refurbishment or newbuild, additional cost provisions due to possible risks, external interim costs as well as price increases to be expected.