Eastern Exploration

Capturing decay.

Kristallpalast Dessau

The history of the theater and event hall starts in 1707 when Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff constructed the Palais Branconi, which would later become the Kristallpalast. It was constructed in the classical style and faced the Zerbster Straße. The Heilig-Geist-Hospital, which stood on the property before, was demolished and the new palace would be finished soon after. It changed owners a couple of times over the decades till it got in the hands of Friedrich Bolling. He renovated the whole building and initiated the construction of the big event hall on the back of the palace. It was opened on the 20th of February 1904 and was used as a theater and for other events. The Kristallpalast was very noble and luxurious, and this way become very liked in the city of Dessau. However, Bolling went bankrupt in 1906 and the building changed owners several times afterwards.

During the 1930s, it was often used as a place for political speeches, especially from the national socialist party. Just like in the First World War, the Kristallpalast was used as a sickbay during the 2nd. After a heavy bombing attack on the 7th March 1945 the whole building was set on flames. The Soviets fixed it up to a small extent and it opened again later that year. During the following four years till 1949 the Kristallpalast was used by the Anhaltischen Landestheater. The Konsumgesellschaft took over the building in 1949 and ran it till the end of the GDR with great success. The venue was well known among the residents of Dessau yet again. During the late 80s, the structure was in a bad shape and needed a renovation badly. When it got reprivatized, the ownership wasn’t clear and the Kristallpalast was closed down in 1990. From then on it remained abandoned.

In the year 2006 it was discussed by the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar to reuse and renovate the building, while at the same time a citizen’s initiative was founded which had the goal to save the place. The city Dessau came forward with a development plan which aimed to revive the Kristallpalast as a center for culture and congress in 2008. However, none of these plans were carried out and the citizen’s initiative disbanded in 2013.

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