Stuttgart City Hall is one of a few post-war city halls that still incorporates a tower (Photos: Kevin Visdeloup)



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Stuttgart’s new City Hall
A symbol of civic pride

By Kevin Visdeloup

20 August 2009: Stuttgart’s first City Hall was built in 1456. Situated on the market place (Marktplatz) in the middle of the city, the building served as Stuttgart’s administrative centre and accommodated a trading exchange on its ground floor. During the following centuries, Stuttgart City Hall underwent several structural changes, such as in 1582-83, when the timber-framed building received a new façade in the then popular Renaissance style, adding pictures and emblems.

With the rapid increase in population in the middle of the 19tht century came an urgent need for more space for Stuttgart's expanding administration. In 1899 the Berlin-based architects Heinrich Jassoy and Johannes Vollmer were commissioned to design a new building in the late Gothic style, which had been widely used for city halls in Flanders and the Netherlands. The size of the building made it necessary to demolish more than 20 houses, some dating back to the Middle Ages. In 1905 Stuttgart’s new City Hall was inaugurated in the presence of the King of Württemberg.

Nearly 40 years later, in 1944, the City Hall with its 68m high tower was hit in an airstrike by the Allies. While the tower remained almost untouched, the rear wings of the building were partially gutted by fire and rebuilding was therefore required.

Stuttgart City Hall, as it is today, was inaugurated in May 1955. West Germany’s first President, Theodor Heuss, gave a short speech, which was followed by a lengthy discourse by Mayor Arnulf Klett. The mayor tried to answer the many critics, who disliked the City Hall’s modern design, by saying that it took time to appreciate a new architectural style. By recreating the wing on the front of the City Hall, giving the tower a modern façade as well as restoring and extending the rear wings, architects Paul Schmohl and Paul Stohrer rebuilt a municipal edifice that, at that time, was considered one of the most modern of its kind in Europe.

The annex buildings along Rathauspassage and Eberhardstraße were added in 1958 and 1962. A complete restauration and modernisation of the City Hall, costing some 26 million euros, was accomplished in 2004,.

Stuttgart City Hall with its façade made of coral rock and limestone is one of a few post-war city halls still incorporating a tower. Stuttgart’s city hall tower is meant to embody civic self-confidence and municipal power. This self-confidence is also acoustically expressed by 30 different bells, measuring up to 115cm and weighing up to 950kg. Five times a day they mostly delight but sometimes irritate by playing Swabian folksongs.

The architectural appearance of Stuttgart's city hall throughout the centuries has always reflected the social and economic set-up as well as the political power relations between city and state. Indeed, until the 19th century all of Stuttgart's city halls bore witness to confident bourgeoisie.

Compared to its ancestors, today's City Hall at Marktplatz 1 appears considerably plainer and more unobtrusive in its architectural style. But it still impresses due to its prominent position. “The building might not be particularly aesthetic, but still it is imposing,” said an architectural student sketching in front of it.


A Jewish 17-year old modelled for Stuttgardia, a goddess meant to protect Stuttgart's citizens


Introducing
Stuttgardia

Stuttgardia is a symbolic representation of the self-contained citizen and the goddess meant to protect Stutgart's residents. The 2.41m high bronze was cast by court sculptor Heins Fritz (1873- 1927) in 1905, for Stuttgart's then newly built City Hall. Else Weil, the 17-year old daughter of a Jewish doctor acted as the model for the bronze. The statue itself holds a model of the city hall in its left hand. Stuttgardia survived the Third Reich as well as the bombings during the Second World War and was placed onto the side façade of the new City Hall in 1968. From this very place, the tutelary goddess always keeps a close watch over Stuttgart's citizens.