The Bensberg Town Hall was designed in 1962 by Gottfried Böhm and completed in 1969. Thick concrete slabs and seamless glass creates a rationalist base for the tower which rises in layers of spiraling windows towards a blocky crown. Despite its modern language, its color harmonizes with the neighboring town castle to blend with the surroundings.
Bensberg Town Hall Technical Information
- Architects: Gottfried Böhm
- Location: Wilhelm-Wagener-Platz 1, 51429 Bergisch Gladbach, Germany
- Material: Concrete
- Typology: Cultural Architecture / City Hall
- Style: Brutalism
- Project Year: 1962 – 1969
- Photographs: © Xavier De Jaureguiberry, © Seir+Seir
New buildings should fit naturally into their surroundings, both architecturally and historically, without denying or prettifying the concerns of our time.
– Gottfried Böhm
Bensberg Town Hall Photographs
With origins in the 12th century, the “Old Castle” of Bensberg was a hilltop fortress that went through several changes of use in its long history, having already been a castle, a monastery, and a hospital by the mid-20th century. At the start of the 1960s, the civic dignitaries of Bensberg needed a new town hall (Rathaus in German), and the idea was mooted to convert the then semi-ruinous yet adaptable medieval castle into the new municipal headquarters.
The controversial conversion of the medieval castle into an aggressively angular town hall began in 1962 and was the work of expressionist German architect and concrete enthusiast Gottfried Böhm. The works began with the removal of post-1850 additions to the decrepit structure and the restoration of surviving 12th-century walls and towers. The Town Hall was built on the ruin of the old medieval castle including the remains of the wall and towers and the creation of a new ensemble. The new additions were made of exposed concrete and dominated by the sculpturally shaped stair tower in the courtyard of the town hall, which complements the old towers’ play with its modern tower interpretation.
The structure opens toward the inner ward, with its fully glazed ground floor. The facade is broken down by continuous horizontal windows above 1.70m high parapets and underlines the overall castle-like character. This bewildering turret-topped building dominates the small German town of Bensberg, looking as if two completely unrelated structures crashed into each other on a misty hilltop.
The striking ‘60s additions to the site formed a horseshoe shape following the castle’s original footprint. The whole bizarre construction was curiously crowned by a cavalier concrete observation tower jutting high above its conjoined medieval ancestor.
The concept of a modern office complex, rising phoenix-like out of the ruins of a medieval castle was not without its detractors, even among the civil servants of Bensberg. They likened it variously to “bomb-damage,” “a garden gnome,” a “monkey-rock,” and a “public servants bunker.” The audacious building project earned its designer the coveted Pritzker Prize for Architecture and it remains a symbol of this small industrial town that still divides opinion.
Bensberg Town Hall Floor Plan
About Gottfried Böhm
Gottfried Böhm is an architect practicing in Cologne, Germany. His work ranges from the simple to the complex, using many different kinds of materials, with results that sometimes appear humble, sometimes monumental. He has been described in the sixties as an expressionist, and more recently as post-Bauhaus, but almost always he stands alone in departing from the conventions of established architecture, seeking to go one step beyond.