Entrance area of Neuss City Hall



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City Mayors ranks the world’s largest, best as well as richest cities and urban areas. It also ranks the cities in individual countries, and provides a list of the capital cities of some 200 sovereign countries. More


City Mayors profiles city leaders from around the world. More


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City Mayors reports political events, analyses the issues and depicts the main players. More


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City Mayors deals with economic and investment issues affecting towns and cities. More


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Neuss: A department store
transformed into a city hall

By Gregor Gosciniak and Benjamin Josephs

16 September 2007: The scattered district administration of Neuss has been brought together under one roof – in a converted 1960s-built department store, which is also a complex for politics and art. This might seem an almost improbable transformation, but it has been achieved with great success within 21 months of the store’s closure.

Architects Robert and Oliver Ingenhoven set to work in 1999 and sympathetically planned the reconstruction so that it blended in with the town landscape. The result has been a ‘compact urban ensemble’.

The complex lies in the southern end of the main shopping street and is within sight of the town hall, the St. Quirinus, the Clemens-Sels-Museum and the Obertor.

The former department store houses the various offices of the district administration, the new stage of the Rheinisches Landestheater, an arts cinema, a restaurant and a shopping arcade.

The administration, which was scattered all over the town following a local government reform 25 years ago, not only enjoys this centralisation of all of its departments, but was able to relocate its headquarters from Grevenbroich to Neuss. The project has united cultural, political and commercial functions under one roof, and where private enterprise, municipal, district and regional government have entered into a new partnership.

This metamorphosis was achieved by means of bold and radical architectural measures that have left practically no trace of the building’s original use. The new colour is gleaming white. Virtually the only thing to be retained was the reinforced concrete skeleton frame, as well as large parts of the floor bays.

The building is divided along its central axis into two halves. The newly-drawn boundary has a legal significance, for the district of Neuss and the Neusser Bauverein (Neuss Building Association) were joint clients. The district administration, with offices for 265 local government employees, occupies the tract facing away from the town centre. At the front is the theatre, together with a small independent arts cinema and a restaurant. On the ground floor, a new arcade with a department store forms the division between the various facilities and the local government offices. Neuss has thus drawn the broader region together through the theatre, and has united the whole district by being the centre of the administration.

When the Merkur department store opened in 1962, it was hailed as ’’the most modern department store in West Germany’’. Its distinct form of functionalism implied a general reorientation towards an emporium-type concept, with the creation of broad, undivided areas in which the many and various wares were laid out, in more or less random order, in the paths of customers. It differed greatly from the traditional palatial style department store.

The great depth of the internal spaces necessitated artificial lightning, and since mixed forms of lightning were regarded as unsuitable for the presentation of coloured products, buildings of this type distanced themselves from the sunlight and the city. The Merkur - and later the Horten department store - was the answer to this unprecedented trend in Germany. This uniform style, by Helmut Rhode in 1958 for a project in Duisburg and later developed by Egon Eiermann into its most popular form – a facade clad with ceramic elements – heralded the principle of the corporate identity building. The building in Neuss was designed by Hentrich & Petschnigg Architects.


Neuss City Hall (Kreishaus) at night


Also by Gregor Gosciniak
Cologne City Hall
Visually, the German Rhine metropolis of Cologne is dominated by its gothic cathedral. The magnitude of the cathedral (Kölner Dom), one of the world’s most photographed monuments and Germany’s number one tourist attraction, often lets one forget that the city is also home to many more historical buildings. One of them is the Cologne City Hall (Kölner Rathaus).

Cologne City Hall is Germany’s oldest city hall. It was first mentioned between 1135 and 1152. The City Hall was then located next to the city’s medieval Jewish quarter. In the 14th century a new City Hall was build on the foundations of the old one. In 1367 a fire in the Jewish quarter caused severe damage to the building.

As often, the Rhineland people turned a mishap into an opportunity for improvements. After the fire, the square in front of City Hall (Rathaus Platz) was enlarged and the City Hall itself expanded. At the same time, work started on the first vestibule. The City Hall’s impressive gothic tower was added between 1407 and 1414. The tower is 61 meters high and it is built right over the City Hall’s former wine cellar. The wine cellar, which to the sorrow of some is not lined with racks of vintage bottles anymore, is these days used for wedding ceremonies.

In 1424, Cologne’s Jewish community, one of the oldest in Europe, was expelled from the City. Two years after the expulsion their synagogue was turned into the chapel of the City Hall. More council buildings for different purposes where built around City Hall Square in the following years and decades. Between 1569 and 1573 a beautiful loggia was build to replace an older one. The loggia, the main entrance of today’s City Hall, has been carefully renovated and preserved. In 1794 the French revolutionary army invaded Cologne and the City Hall became property of the French government. The Rhineland was passed to Prussia in 1815. Between 1860 and 1890 the City Hall was restored. There were some plans to erect a completely new building, but Prussian patriotism allowed the old building to survive. More