Alvar Aalto Culture House,
formerly Cultural Centre
On 1st July 1958, the exact date of the 20 year jubilee of the town of Wolfsburg, the decision was made in a ceremonial meeting to give Alvar Aalto the contract for the planning and construction of the Cultural Centre. Aalto received the project without contest, the alternative design by Paul Baumgarten not being able to fulfil the emotional expectations of a young city seeking its identity in building projects because of Baumgarten’s reserved functional coolness.
The politicians and administration of the city had unlimited confidence in Aalto’s capabilities, something from which he profited in the following four years. The comparatively slight alterations in the design concept which arose from the fine tuning according to the projected use of this building, were encountered by an unconditional willingness to extend the budget and the time frame more than once in order to enable Aalto to carry out his project to perfection. “A project in which the practical and functional elements are held in balance with artistic imaginative creativity and which represent symbolically the creative intentions of the city”, as summarised in the certificate of dedication.
Equipped with a superior quantum of idealistic and architectural strength, the Cultural House opened its doors in 1962 and caught the spirit of contemporary society. The three cultural facilities, Library, Adult education centre and Youth club reached towards one another in perfect balance and reciprocal inspiration under one common roof. Alto succeeded in giving each of the facilities its own special spatial characteristics and atmosphere, integrating it, however, at the same time into a part of one airy ordered unit. In its exterior contours the building corresponds to the various urban development conditions.
The polygonal main foyer leading to the Town Hall Square in the north and the raised-floor, fan-shaped offset lecture halls of the upper storey form the “dominant head” of the building. The west flank on the Porsche Street forms a line of retail businesses with a colonnade under a discreet row of administration rooms, the southside with its protruding courtyard of the children’s library serving as a transition into the landscape area of the Klieversberg. The design of the roof is considered as the fifth façade, its spatial centre in the upper storey forming a triangular enclosed terrace with an adjoining room with a fireplace which can be converted into a further exterior area through an extendable roof and façade elements.
The concept of a compact combination of functions under one roof has proved its effectivity up to the present time. Of the three original facilities only the library has remained in the building, being integrated into another part of the former youth club. Two further small apartments in the upper storey are used for administrative purposes.
On top of that, the city of Wolfburg's Bureau of Cultural Affairs and “Architectural Forum” are currently hosted in the house; their joint “Cultural Information” point is located in the adult education centre's former registration office on Porsche Street. The auditoriums in the upper floor are regularly used for both internal and external events. As early as 2001, a bistro was set up during a conversion of the building to different use. Hence, the building cannot be accessed any further through that space.
The city of Wolfsburg is currently planning a new “House of Education”, into which the library will be moved. According to current plans, the construction is supposed to start in 2018/2019. Also, the city of Wolfsburg has betrothed a team of employees from the Cultural and Construction Department with the design of a post-utilization concept for the Alvar-Aalto House of Culture.