An international ideas contest has been launched to regenerate Frei Otto’s iconic Mannheim Multihalle
The anonymous competition is open to students, graduates and young architects. It seeks visionary proposals to transform the iconic 1975 exhibition hall into an experimental new sports, leisure and cultural complex for the south-west German city.
The ‘Democratic Umbrella’ call for concepts aims to generate a range of potential options for the unique gridshell-roofed temporary building which was originally built for the Federal Garden Show but is now in need of urgent restoration.
According to the brief: ‘Frei Otto’s visionary concept for utilisation of the Multihalle is to be updated as an experimental urban laboratory and open space for an open society where Mannheim’s citizens can come together for sports, leisure and cultural activities, and to thereby establish the basis for a social laboratory in which pioneering methods and forms of urban coexistence can be developed and explored.
‘The Multihalle’s roof construction should not only provide the necessary setting for this visionary use, but also symbolise the idea of a “Democratic Umbrella” in public perception through its iconographic architecture. The objective of this competition is therefore to design new utilisation options for the Multihalle and to express these through its architecture.’
The Mannheim Multihalle was built by Frei Otto and Arup as a temporary pavilion for Germany’s 1975 Federal Garden Show. The structure in Mannheim’s Herzogenriedpark – originally conceived by architects Carlfried Mutschler and Joachim Langner – features a 9,500m² timber gridshell roof inspired by the ideas of Russian polymath Vladimir Shukhov.
The historic venue – which Otto considered his ‘boldest building’ – was listed in 1998 but closed to the public eight years ago due to water ingress. A multi-million euro restoration is now required and Mannheim city hall has committed to agreeing a way forward for the building later this year.
The latest competition is organised by Multihalle Mannheim e.V. Association with the Association of German Architects in Baden-Württemberg and the International Building Exhibition Heidelberg. Backers include the Baden-Württemberg Chamber of Architects and the City of Mannheim.
The call for concepts aims to generate sustainable and viable options to convert the 44-year-old structure into a sports, leisure and cultural complex. Proposals should feature a large foyer and function room which can be subdivided, offices, workshop rooms, performance studios, catering and leisure facilities.
Submissions may be in English or German. The overall winner, to be announced in March, will receive €10,000 and may also be invited to work on the restoration project if it goes forward. A second prize of €7,000, third prize of €4,000 and two honorable mentions worth €1,500 each will also be awarded.
The deadline for submissions is 23.59 local time (CET) on 15 February.
How to apply