Diesel Power Plant
The diesel power plant in Cottbus, built in 1927, is one of the most impressive buildings by architect Werner Issel. Together with Walter Klingenberg, Issel designed more than 70 power plants. Thus he made a significant contribution to the modernisation and aestheticisation of power plant architecture and industrial architecture in general in both Germany and elsewhere. The diesel power plant in Cottbus is a striking example of Issel’s work. Its functional adaptability is also evidenced by the adaptive reuse the building underwent 80 years later: since 2008 the diesel power plant has been home to the state of Brandenburg’s widely respected museum of modern art and its extensive collection.
But the building ensemble itself is also a showpiece of museum quality. A listed historical monument since 1975, the two parts of the complex still embody the great architectural styles of the 1920s. In its articulated and sober aesthetics, the south-oriented turbine hall incorporates elements of the New Objectivity, whereas the transformer house is characterised by the playful and sometimes ornamental architecture of Brick Expressionism. The potency of the building emanates from the typical colouration of the variegated clinker façade and from the unique design of the pointed-arch arcades of the building’s middle portion, which also serves as a stair tower.
The diesel power plant fulfilled its original purpose for only a few decades: While the substation’s power generation technology was still at the forefront of progress when built, it soon became outdated. The plant ultimately closed its doors in the 1960s but it did not lose its historical relevance. After four years of renovation and alterations under the stewardship of Anderhalten Architekten, the industrial monument was given a new architectural guise in 2008 as the Brandenburgische Kunstsammlung Cottbus (today: Brandenburg State Museum of Modern Art). With a house-in-house concept and using modern materials such as glass and concrete, the industrial brick building has been converted into a place for contemporary art. [KM/DK]