The construction of the Schwarzwaldhalle in Karlsruhe, sometimes referred to as the Black Forest Hall, attracted attention all across Europe: It was the first hall of its size to be built with a self-supporting suspended roof made of prestressed concrete. Erich Schelling, Karlsruhe’s best-known architect of the post-war era, designed the spectacular multi-purpose hall together with Munich-based structural engineer Ulrich Finsterwalder. It drew great public attention upon being inaugurated on 19 August 1953 after just eight months of planning and construction. Since then, the experimental building has been an architectural landmark of the city.
The hall encloses an area of 2,575 square metres and is glazed all around.
Sited next to a small lake, the oval building blends organically into the landscape of the adjoining Stadtgarten park. The most striking feature of the hall is its curved, self-supporting roof with its saddle-like counter-curvature. In Ulrich Finsterwalder, architect Erich Schelling found an award-winning expert on shell roof structures built of concrete. The saddle-shaped roof is a mere six centimetres thick. When built, it represented a cutting-edge achievement in structural engineering and mechanics that was highly esteemed, not only from specialists but also from an enthusiastic public. The lightweight suspended roof seems to literally float above Schelling’s delicate glass façade construction.
In the context of 1950s post-war architecture, the hall’s spectacular roof structure was pioneering. For that and other reasons, the building has been protected as a registered cultural monument since 2000. Together with the Konzerthaus, the Stadthalle and the Kongress Hotel, the Schwarzwaldhalle remains an important and widely known venue on the campus of the Karlsruhe Convention Centre. It serves as a multi-purpose hall for a wide range of events – from sports and music to exhibitions and conferences. Because it has a demountable spectator stand and an interior unobstructed by columns, beams or pillars, all visitors are guaranteed clear views from any vantage point. [KM/DK]
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