The Centralstation in Darmstadt is a cultural venue housed in what once was an electricity generating station, built in 1889. The scheme’s volumetric design is clearly articulated: a main hall for rock concerts on the ground floor; a viewing gallery on a mezzanine level with a lounge bar directly above; and a concert chamber on the upper floor for jazz and classical recitals.

A bespoke mobile bar servicing the ground floor, finished in oak veneer, provides spatial flexibility. Four service points, integrated into the floor surface, support this concept: each node contains water, waste, electricity and IT connections. To facilitate circulation a new staircase, constructed solely from 4mm steel plating, with integrated lighting, connects the ground floor to the mezzanine level and lounge above, the latter housing a cocktail bar that volumetrically defines the room’s end elevation. Integral to this space is a frameless glass wall, enabling physical and acoustic autonomy from the main hall below. In addition, the glazing is visually bisected on its long axis with a translucent finish; this provides both a sense of privacy when standing and a view downstairs when seated. The furniture in the bar is bespoke, its horizontal accent contrasting with the lounge’s linear configuration.

The concert chamber on the upper floor is accessed via the main stairwell situated in the entrance lobby. The exposed roof structure references the building’s strong industrial past, presenting a robust historical context in which to enjoy the cultural programme. As way of respecting the building’s original fabric, and at the same time facilitating the delivery of the hall as a live venue, three subtle architectural elements have been introduced: a stainless steel bar, featuring a backlit onyx marble inlay, provides refreshments; a stage and its backdrop in selected veneer house the integrated technical services; and a series of storage units provide secure space for the seating. A key detail of this storage facility is its multi-folding doors, serving as acoustic panels if so required.

Externally the doors are configured in stainless steel; internally they are clad in a sound absorption carpet. When the doors are unfolded the quality of the acoustics is significantly altered. The vibrancy of the carpet’s colour alludes to the panels’ functional importance, as well as visually contrasting with the hall’s industrial aesthetic. The flexibility of the door design allows for numerous acoustic configurations, including drawing upon the reflective sound properties of the door’s outer stainless steel surface.

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