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Mass Timber Construction Journal


International Association of Mass Timber Construction





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This article discusses the significance and challenges of renovating a unique 1970s experimental timber building and iconic structure: the Multihalle Pavilion in Mannheim (Germany), which has the world’s first and largest self-supporting wooden grid shell roof structure. Originally conceived as a temporary structure for the 1975 Federal Garden Exposition, Multihalle uses a lattice grid shell structure with gentle curves, remarkably slim profiles, and a translucent roof. The term ‘grid shell’ refers to a doubly curved surface formed from the lattice of timber with uniform spacing in two directions. Furthermore, this was one of the first buildings in Germany whose plan and drawings for components were designed using a computer system, well before the arrival of ubiquitous CAD programs. The purpose of the article is to widely disseminate knowledge about an innovative building and to provide an update on the project and its ongoing renovation efforts, as recently observed by the author during a site visit. The article first discusses the history and significance of the building, its unusual structural solutions, and explains the project’s background. It then reports on the current state of the rescue initiative, the various renovation activities, and concludes with the outcome of a 2019 design competition, which called for new usage concepts to regenerate Multihalle; it produced sustainable and viable options for its redevelopment by conversion into a leisure, sports and cultural complex. A main conclusion is that the innovation and learning derived from the renovation of such an unusual structure are of immense relevance and importance for future projects. The renovation of this experimental building was not without risks and technical challenges, and the fund-raising took longer than initially expected; however, based on its influential contribution to 20th century architecture, it is also an important commitment to the preservation of our cultural heritage from the 1970s.


Grid Shell Structure; Sustainable Renovation; Structural Engineering Innovation; Temporary Building; Efficiency; Architect-engineer Frei Otto; Mannheim, Germany


Architectural Engineering | Architectural History and Criticism | Architecture

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