Germany: Wuppertal’s Historic Town Hall


Up and above

For an international meeting planners’ audience not familiar with Germany, the city of Wuppertal may not come to mind instantaneously when looking for a destination suitable for a glitzy function. If they knew, what Wuppertal – pretty close to Duesseldorf and Cologne and their airports – had in stock, they would surely be envious of its 350,000 inhabitants and its numerous visitors and might rapidly change their attitude. The town, embedded in the lovely scenery of the Bergisches Land situated in the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia, may rather be associated with down-to-earth features. But especially for these two cases of the „elevated“ variety, quite the opposite is true.

The most extraordinary attraction is perhaps the suspended monorail inaugurated in 1901 and in operation for public transport since. It’s most stunning property may be this one:

Her Majesty, The Historische Stadthalle Wuppertal (Historic Town Hall), graciously overlooks the town from atop the Johannisberg and is a worthy member of the Historic Conference Centres of Europe (HCCE). The header photo displays the Wandelhalle – a gallery of breath-taking appeal.

Wuppertal's Historische Stadthalle - the Town Hall - is a HCCE member.

Wuppertal’s Historische Stadthalle – the Town Hall – is a HCCE member.

Following an architectural competition in 1895 and erected in an opulent style typical of the Emperor William II period, the official opening of the Historische Stadthalle was celebrated in the summer of 1900 with a dazzling musical festival. One of the conductors during the frolicsome party was young Richard Strauss, the German composer of operas like Salome and Electra.

Miraculously, the Historische Stadthalle survived both World Wars virtually unscathed. Considerable injury was inflicted to the venue later in the 1950s, when character and appearance were nearly extinguished to satisfy the plain taste prevailing at the time. All pictorial elements and colourful mouldings vanished for decades under an unkindly layer of monochrome paint!

A delicacy for eyes and ears

By means of a thorough and elaborate renovation undertaken in the first half of the 1990s, aesthetic appearance and functional properties of the Historische Stadthalle were restored to their origins. Since reopening with a bombastic feast in 1995 – which attracted a crowd of some 40,000 astounded visitors – the edifice’s authentic turn-of-the-century charm is now combined with the latest in technology to meet the demands of modern events for up to 2,000 persons. The venue sees about 500 functions a year and has become a popular backdrop for movie and television productions, image films, video clips and photo shootings – next to serving as a location for exceptional concerts, festivities, balls, shows, galas, conferences, congresses, presentations, trade fairs or exhibitions (on 2,300 sq.m.).

The Großer Saal reverberates from the brilliant sound this organ emits.

The Großer Saal reverberates from the brilliant sound this organ emits.

As regal as the building itself is the fine organ that dominates the hall Großer Saal. It is an instrument whose magnificent sound quality has become legendary – along with the outstanding acoustics the venue itself boasts. The organ, a technical masterpiece built by renowned Siegfried Sauer, consists of 4,706 pipes with 67 stops, nine of which are located above the ceiling, as well as of an array of refined features. Modern technical support today includes 256 pre-set combinations, widening the variety of occasions to benefit from the profound sensations this organ is able – and confirmed – to provoke in hearts and souls. And on the surface of skins.

Starting off with only 18 musicians in 1862, Wuppertal has maintained its own Symphony Orchestra for more than 150 years. Prof. Toshiyuki Kamioka became its General Musical Director in 2004/2005, and has been their maestro from 2009 to this day. Per season, the orchestra performs some 40 concerts in Wuppertal alone.

All photos shown – courtesy of Historische Stadthalle Wuppertal – were taken by Lars Langemeier.