Building for Society
and Individuals

From the beginning of the 1970s onwards, community buildings played an exceptional role in Günter Behnisch’s oeuvre. Alongside the countless schools and sports halls, there were other projects that involved specific architectural solutions addressing the needs of vulnerable groups: kindergartens, old people’s homes, and buildings for church institutions such as for social and welfare purposes.

The use of colors and natural construction materials with tangible textures and light were very important to Behnisch, as was the interaction of outside and inside and the incorporation of nature. The intention was to create individual spaces that appealed above all to the human senses and enabled the evolution of a personal relationship to the building. Behnisch inserted characteristic spaces primarily destined to enhance wellbeing into the sequences of the daily life of various different users. In addition to developing a site-specific solution, he firmly prioritized careful detailing. This led both to structural details being rendered visible and to emphasis of elements that had no such function. As with his earlier projects, he arranged the functions around a jointly used center.

Looking back, in his lecture on “Architecture and the Individual” delivered in Tallin in 1993, Günter Behnisch stated that the aesthetic value of specific situations derives from the fact that people develop a relationship to them. There are therefore echoes of something atmospheric in the appeal of his architecture.

"We should support everything that is small, unorganized, weak, individual but under no circumstances the establishment!“
Günter Behnisch 1977

Retirement and Nursing Home

Behnisch & Partner

The plans locked into an existing retirement home dating from the 1920s. The old and new builds are clearly separated from each other and only connected by glass corridors.

The new building sections for the care home and retirement home each rise up on a triangular ground plan, the one overlapping with the other. The residential areas face south, and the setbacks and projections interact in the surrounding parkland. The façade is clearly subdivided so as to mask the building’s actual size, while the protruding oriel sections of the rooms with the greened balconies connecting them render the individuals’ living spaces visible within the overall complex. 

On the inside, the personal rooms are always grouped around a jointly used center. The extensive transparency of the ground-floor zone makes for a fluid transition between the inside world and the parkland outside.

Project architect:
Dieter Herrmann

“What disturbs us about the architectural forms is uniformity, thoughtlessness, a lack of imagination, a lack of individuality, an absence of moderation, secretiveness ...
We are delighted with individuality, moderation, vitality, openness, the small ...”
Günter Behnisch 1977
“Our goal is not the organization of the masses, but the awareness of the individual in society. The organization of the masses is undertaken by the state. We start at the bottom, with the small, and work our way up, hoping to find an inner order that can be understood from below. Sometimes, in the process, the large, meaning in architecture the large gesture, the large order, dissolves somewhat.”
Günter Behnisch 1977

Kindergarten Pelikanstraße

Behnisch & Partner

The kindergarten in Stuttgart’s Neugereut district is located in the immediate vicinity of massive 1960s and 1970s apartment blocks and contrasts sharply with them. First, it is a single-story structure topped in wood, beneath which the rooms can be arranged independently of the overall structure as required thanks to non-load-bearing walls. Second, there is a playful use of materials and detailing both inside the building and in the outdoor areas.

Polygonal day rooms are grouped around a central hall and form niches as well as oriels. In combination with the effect of the materials used, this patchwork structure and the resulting special-purpose spaces foster a relationship to the children, who can engage in a carefree manner each day anew with the architecture that surrounds them.

At the client’s request, the architecture practice abandoned its original idea of converting a decommissioned Neckar river barge.

Project architect:
Christian Kandzia

“Defining a form? Finding a form? We believe it is about looking for a form or to take it even further: searching for the essence of the task. It is this approach that allows us to see all the parts individually.”
Günter Behnisch 1987
“Much of what impressed us as children is less appreciated in the efficient world of adults. Does it have to be that way? Even when we are planning a kindergarten?”
Günter Behnisch 1981

Regional Office of the Diakonische Werke Evangelische Landeskirche Württemberg

Behnisch & Partner

On the basis of existing pre-planning and a binding structural layout, as well as urban planning stipulations, Behnisch & Partner developed an administration and conference building for the Lutheran Church in the State of Württemberg. 

The building was intended to render the contrast between restrictive stipulations and open charitable use legible in the architecture. For this reason, the individual sections of the building toy with the load-bearing structure and are visible both on the inside and from outside thanks to setbacks and projecting volumes. For example, the room-dividing walls for the office spaces are not aligned to the axis lines of the supports and allow for different configurations. On the ground floor, the glazed café seems to have been squeezed out of the main volume of the building, while an array of divergent elements and principles are apparent from the choice of materials and the structure. 

These contrast with the predefined structural layout and thus give rise to a building that is visibly an “open organism.”

Project architect:
Gerald Staib

“Beware of external, geometric, formal, or even technological orders. The individual is often best recognized in its individuality by the fact that it is not fully assimilated into the whole. This is indicated by apparent inconsistencies.”
Günter Behnisch 1977

Study and Training Center of the Evangelische Landeskirche Württemberg

Behnisch & Partner

The Study & Training Center is another example of community-used buildings in Behnisch’s oeuvre. In this instance, the center is not closed off but more strongly aligned to the landscape. 

Project architect:
Carlo Weber