A Modernist Palace of Culture
During the 1960s, Stalinist architecture in the Eastern bloc made way for the International Style, albeit with a socialist look & feel. Examples of this modernist style in Dresden are Prager Straße and the Kulturpalast, the palace of culture that opened two days shy of the German Democratic Republic’s 20th birthday in 1969. At the Kulturpalast, the societal ideals of the state became visible in two iconic artworks: the 45-m-long frieze Our Socialist Life in the foyer, by Heinz Drache & Walter Rehn, and the 30 × 10½-m mural on the western facade, The Path of the Red Flag, by Gerhard Bondzin & his comrades from the local Academy of Fine Arts, starring the usual suspects Marx, Engels & Lenin and featuring Ernst Thälmann, the communist martyr who was murdered by the Nazis in 1944, and Walter Ulbricht, the SED party leader from 1950 to 1971.
The initial design for the Kulturpalast, submitted to a competition by Leopold Wiel in 1959, was first rejected for being ‘ideologically unsound’, because it lacked a tower. However, after consultation with Moscow and docilely following its guidance, the city council accepted Wiel’s design in 1961 as ‘the only viable plan’, which was then further developed, i.e. slimmed down, by Wolfgang Hänsch. Between 2013 & 2017, the venue was renovated by Stephan Schütz & Nicolas Pomränke from GMP Architects. With great attention to detail, they restored the building to its old glory, and converted its hexagonal core from a multi-purpose hall to a dedicated concert hall with superiour acoustics. The palace also houses Dresden’s public library, which allows visitors to see the frieze in the foyer even when the Dresden Philharmonic is not on stage.kulturpalast-dresden.de