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To the manor born.

An ancient manor house which has gone through many transformations is reborn as a local musical centre. Old and new, while never being confused, work together in harmony, married by precise and exquisite detailing.

The manor house of Witten in the Ruhrgebiet has gone through numerous transformations since it was founded in the mid fifteenth century. Three hundred years later, it was a grand Baroque schloss, but by the nineteenth century it had become an ironworks, and after the last World War, it was a ruin, preserved by order of the state. Recently, the city authorities decided to make it into an evening institute, music school, film club and cafe, and asked architects Hans Busso von Busse and Eberhard Carl Klapp to make the conversion. They decided to emphasize differences between old and new work, and have produced a remarkably consistent and imaginative series of interventions.

A new bridge leads to the courtyard of the old building, where the west side is formed by a new glass wall which encloses a double-height foyer. A long gallery is reached up straight flights of steel stairs and is suspended from the roof structure. Over the gallery is a continuous skylight which brings luminance into the back of a volume which would otherwise be rather gloomy. Everything is very simple: the expressed steel structure, roof deck and balusters are grey, handrails are stainless steel and treads and gallery deck in plain beech. Where the old random rubble structure is sound, it has been retained and cleaned down; stone lintels have been reinforced with ingenious steel straps, and where new areas of wall are required, they are simply plastered white and recessed slightly to allow the old work to speak out. New timber doors are set back from the inner surface of the wall in veneered planes connected to the stone by glass strips that fit into grooves cut in the rubble.

The gallery leads to the spatial climax of the building, the big new music room. Here, a double-height volume of the old building contains a glass box which is acoustically separated from the old shell by such devices as rubber bearings for the steel floor structure. The masonry is bathed in light from a continuous rooflight between old and new shells, The separation was necessitated by the proximity of a busy railway a few metres from the southern face of the complex, but its main immediate impact is visual. The simple quiet rectangular space inside the rough stone volume is both a treasure house and a shrine. Its transparent walls are modulated by rectangular opaque panels of perforated metal over quilt applied in a more or less random fashion. Acoustically, the panels are both absorptive and reflective, with their positioning and diamond-patterned surfaces arranged to prevent standing sound waves being set up between the parallel glass walls. The resulting visual pattern allows you to experience both spaces simultaneously without the inner one melting into the outer.

While the music room is the most dramatic new volume, there are many other fine spaces in the complex, almost all of which rely for effect on carefully controlled contrasts between old and new: the old is always old, the new, new. They work in harmony, with neither being allowed to dominate: a remarkable demonstration of firm modesty.


Hans Busso von Busse and Eberhard Carl Klapp, Essen, with Arndt Bruning, Andrea Eggenmuller

Electrics and sanitation

Hochbauamt der Stadt Witten: Axel Melcher, Detlef Schroeder, Ludwig Vennhoff, Klaus Klinke, Wolfgang Spiering

Structural engineer

Dieter Meyer

Heating and ventilation

Gerhard Kahlert


Ing-Buro Peutz


Jorg Winde Fotodesign
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Title Annotation:architectural design of the Music and Film Institute in Witten, Germany
Author:Street, Jane
Publication:The Architectural Review
Date:Apr 1, 1998
Previous Article:Manhattan online.
Next Article:Unfolding.

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