Rathaus Dresden

Dresden Town Hall

Rathaus Dresden

Dresden Town Hall with its historic tower is a key feature of the famous city skyline. The four to five-storey sandstone building is a mixture of different architectural styles: Renaissance Revival architecture, Art Nouveau and Neo-baroque. It comprises five inner courtyards and a 100-metre high tower with the “Golden Town Hall Man” perched right at the top. He symbolises Hercules as the patron saint of the city, standing with his right arm raised over Dresden and his left hand emptying his horn of plenty over the city.

On 13. and 14. February, 1945 in the Second World War, Dresden was almost completely destroyed, and the town hall was severely damaged. Reconstruction began slowly but surely in 1948. The “Trümmerfrau” statue that was erected in front of the new town hall in 1952 is dedicated to the many women who helped clear the bombed cities of the millions of tons of rubble after the war. The Golden Gate on the main facade of the town hall was also restored. This comprises four gold-plated lattice gates, in front of which two bronze lions sit enthroned. After the war, the coats of arms of a number of other cities who had suffered a similar fate to that of Dresden were mounted on the facade of the town hall.

Since 1979, the new town hall has been regarded as a monument to urban planning and architecture, and today also as a monument to the reconstruction of the city. The new town hall project therefore comprises a revitalisation project that only involved “interfering” with the historic building fabric to the extent that needed to be endorsed by those responsible for the preservation of historic buildings and monuments, and enables it to continue to be used for contemporary needs.

The renovation work started in the summer of 2009. Given its exposed location in the city, high-quality lighting design was required for the unique building. The architecture firm Winkels und Partner – International Light Architects had already designed a lighting master plan in 2008, and this provided Studio DL with information as to the required colour temperatures and luminous intensity for the new lighting design. While analysing what was required for the ultimate lighting master plan it came to the lighting designers’ attention that the new town hall did not really stand out on the city skyline. A warm colour temperature had been recommended for those facades that were primarily made of Elbe sandstone. The overall arrangement of the different sections of the building as viewed from the banks of the Elbe had already been defined in the lighting master plan for Dresden. The urban planning department thereupon regarded the front facade as being the most important view and were looking for a new lighting design solution.

Studio DL first refined and further enhanced the simplified 3D model of the city that was to be used for the design of the concept. The textures were adapted to suit the client’s requirements, and the facades reworked in detail. It was thus possible to use the 3D model as a basis to show, discuss and agree on where the luminaires were to be mounted, what brightness levels were required and what aesthetic result was to be achieved. It only took a few meetings to convince the committee that the proposed design was the right solution.

The lighting installed further away from the building to illuminate the large roof surfaces was maintained, but in a reduced form. The positioning of the lighting installed close to the town hall to accentuate the different sections of the building was coordinated with the Department for Cultural Heritage Sites and Buildings. The window recesses on the ballroom wing were defined using LEDs in order to accentuate the individual windows using different shades of white.
The arcade luminaires were renovated and are now used to celebrate the plinth area of the building in warm white incandescent-like light. This warm colour temperature interacts perfectly with the Golden Gate, which was designed by Karl Gross. The town hall tower has been illuminated using state-of-the-art lighting technology and the backlighting for the clock has also been renewed. Given that the side facades have less of an impact on the cityscape, only the balconies and other protruding elements on these facades have been discreetly underscored and the facades softly illuminated by luminaires mounted on poles located at a specific distance from the building.  

The design objective was achieved in collaboration with ILB Dr. Rönitzsch GmbH, who were responsible for the management and realisation of the project. The new town hall can now be clearly perceived as a key feature of the city skyline after dark, and when viewed up close the structure and aura of the building can be truly appreciated.

Project data

Client: Urban Planning Dept., Dresden
Project management & electrical engineering: ILB Dr. Rönitzsch GmbH
Project partners: iGuzzini, Meyer + Sohn GmbH, WE-EF Leuchten GmbH, Philips Lighting GmbH
Realisation: 2009-2016
Completion: 2016
Photos: Dirk-Andre Betz

Project photos | Dresden Town Hall

Rathaus Dresden
Rathaus Dresden
Rathaus Dresden
Rathaus Dresden
Rathaus Dresden
Rathaus Dresden