ArchitecTour: buildings in Düsseldorf

Location matters – especially for architectural masterpieces. And that’s why many of the buildings worth seeing in Düsseldorf are located close to the Rhine. This is particularly the case for the Media Harbour, the highlight of our ArchitecTour. Length: 3 hours, on foot.

ArchitecTour
ArchitecTour – the ports of call

The starting point of our tour is the (1) Ensemble am Ehrenhof (Court of Honour). The spacious complex was built in 1925/26 around the Kunstpalast (Palace of Arts), which had been located there since 1902. Then came more exhibition buildings, a planetarium and the Rhine Terraces in line with the plans of Wilhelm Kreis – altogether, a sort of exhibition centre for the 7.5 million visitors of the GeSoLei (Gesundheit, soziale Fürsorge und Leibesübungen – Health, Social Welfare and Physical Exercise), which focused on the “new high-performance man”. Today, this is home to the city’s Kunstpalast Museum as well as the Tonhalle (Music Hall) in the former planetarium.

Via Heinrich-Heine-Allee, we walk straight towards the (3) Wilhelm-Marx-Haus, one of the first office high-rise buildings in Germany, built in 1922/23. The architect of this project, too, was Wilhelm Kreis, Head of the Architecture Department at the Academy of Arts until 1926. The 57-metre-tall building was named after one of Düsseldorf’s Lord Mayors.

We wander through the Old Town back to the Rhine promenade, bear left and head in the direction of the Rheinturm (Rhine Tower). After several hundred metres, the two (4) Mannesmann buildings appear on the left-hand side; today, these belong to the State Government. The former administrative building of Mannesmannröhren-Werke-AG, built in 1911/12 based on a design by Peter Behrens, Wilhelm Kreis' predecessor, is comparatively small. Behrens is considered as one of the co-founders of the German Werkbund and creator of corporate design: he ensured that the architecture, graphics and product design of AEG (general electricity company) formed a coherent unit.

The Mannesmann high-rise, which can be seen towards the right of the Rhine, was built between 1956 and 1958, and is one of the tallest buildings in Düsseldorf at 93 metres.

Further upstream along the banks of the Rhine, we head in the direction of the (5) Landtag Nordrhein-Westfalen (North Rhine-Westphalia State Parliament). A circular construction, which shapes the Rhine riverfront in Düsseldorf, was completed in 1988 in line with the plans of the architects Eller, Maier, Walter and partners. The viewing platform of the neighbouring Rheinturm (Rhine Tower) offers a particularly good view over the building. In addition to conference halls, the State Parliament is also home to offices of the State parliamentary groups.

The tallest building in Düsseldorf, the around 234-metre-tall (6) Rheinturm (Rhine Tower), is located just a few minutes’ walk away. The view from the revolving restaurant, at almost 180 metres in the air, is an essential item on the agenda for visitors to the city. The architect of the tower, built completely from reinforced concrete between 1979 and 1982, is Harald Deilmann.

The light artist Horst H. Baumann developed the biggest decimal clock in the world for the Rhine Tower. It consists of circular portholes, which are ordered one above the other at three different height intervals on the shaft of the tower – and at that time were worthy of an entry into the “Guinness Book of World Records”.

The (7) Stadttor (City Gate), award-winning architecture by Overdiek Petzinka & Partner, is located slightly away from the Rhine. The 75-metre-tall building consists of two rhombus-shaped parallel glass towers with three continuous attic floors. The international real estate exhibition MIPIM (Marché International des Professionnels de l'Immobilier) in Cannes crowned it as the best building of the year in 1998.

The (8) WDR-Studio Düsseldorf (West German Broadcasting Studio) is located between the Rhine Tower and the Harbour. The designers from the architecture firm Parade and Partners came up with the asymmetric “U” shape, the open side of which is oriented towards the State Parliament, City and Rhine Tower. The massive displayed base of the building is supposed to be reminiscent of a ship – inspired by the close proximity to the Rhine.

A little bit further on, just inside the catchment area of the Media Harbour, we reach the (9) Gehry buildings. The three-part “Kunst- und Medienzentrum Rheinhafen” (Rhine Harbour Art and Media Centre) by Frank O. Gehry is asymmetrical: windows do not seem to want to fit into the façades, and irregular floorplans and different materials give the building sections their individual character. Nonetheless, the middle section functions as a kind of connecting element, in which the northern and southern ‘partners’ are reflected.
The (10) Grand Bateau by the architect Claude Vasconi lies at anchor right next to the Gehry buildings. The immobile equivalent of a huge, proud ocean liner welcomes visitors to the harbour entrance with maritime flair. The “ship” is used by the Landesanstalt für Medien NRW (NRW Regional Media Office).
Numerous further architectural gems are located in Kaistraße, such as the (11) Kai Center at no. 20. The building designed by Döring and Partners has a freely suspended disc made out of lightweight concrete, which mirrors the bend of the road.

At Kaistraße no. 2, at the end of the commercial harbour, (12) PEC and DOCK come into sight. The "Port Event Center" by the architect Norbert Wansleben runs through the old harbour buildings, which are listed as historical monuments. Just like the 16-storey “Düsseldorf Office Center Kaistraße” by Joe Coenen, it is mainly home to offices. However, a hall for events, gastronomy and wellness centres are also affiliated. Other architecturally interesting buildings, such as the “Maki Solitär” (no. 5) and the “Alte Mälzerei” (Old Malthouse) are located in (13) Speditionsstraße.

You can find a detailed overview of all relevant buildings in the Media Harbour at www.duesseldorf.de.