A walk through downtown Troisdorf: an English audioguide
Depending on how fast you like to walk, it will take about three hours.
This guide is offered to you by the press office of the city of Troisdorf.
texts: Peter Haas
translation: Carola Sonnet
speaker: Carola Sonnet
contact: Marc Eickelmann
We are on the Hans-Jaax-Platz in between the train station and the bus station. Hans
Jaax was mayor of Troisdorf for 18 years, from 1975 until 1993. This is an important
location in Troisdorf, because the transformation of the city to the modern era was only
possible because of the railway.
Overall, there were three railways in Troisdorf. The first one was the valley railway of the
river Sieg in between Deutz and Hennef, constructed in 1859. The second was the
railway on the right-hand side of the river Rhein from Cologne to Niederlahnstein, built in
1871. And the third and most significant one was a railway for freight trains only, from
Mülheim an der Ruhr to Troisdorf, which was exactly 100 kilometers long. 100 kilometers
was also the maximal distance a steam engine could perform before running out of water.
This automatically made Troisdorf an important stop for the state railway, because in the
meantime the railway had been nationalized.
Before, in 1859, they had forgotten to include Troisdorf in den railway system with a train
station. The village was then very small and about 400 meters away from where the
railway station stands nowadays. Thanks to Emil Langen, who had taken over the rolling
mill in Friedrich-Wilhelms-Hütte in 1843, Troisdorf received a railway stop in 1862. 24
years later, Emil Müller, who had a factory for ammunition and explosives in Opladen,
could be convinced to invest in Troisdorf. Wilhelm Engländer, legal adviser of the
Oppenheim bank, helped to persuade him. Only one year later, in 1887, the production of
explosives in Troisdorf began.
Still on the Hans-Jaax-Platz, we can take a look at the Kronprinzenstraße, the street of
the crown prince, and easily see the positive influence of the railway station for the
development of Troisdorf. First, we will take a look at the whopping house on the corner
to our right. This is the hotel “Zum Kronprinz”, built in 1900. So after the train station had
been built, it still took a few decades until people started building. This was the first house
next to the station.
The house no. 7 on the same street was built in 1913 by an architect from Troisdorf,
Josef Probst, for doctor Trier, who was a contracted physician of the state railway. The
symbol of the German state railway was placed above the entrance on the right-hand
side. Where the first floor is, we can see the rod of Asclepius which identified the person
living here as a doctor. In these times, Trier was one of the most popular inhabitants of
Troisdorf, funding a lot of institutions and associations.
Walking on, we find more houses of the first two decades of the 20th century here.
Several of them were built by engine drivers, two by directors of the Mannsteadt
factories, that we will hear more about later on.
The constructions on the other side of the street began on the corner of the Poststraße
and the Kronprinzenstraße with the post office, built in 1925.
The following houses were all built in more recent times, starting in the 1930ies. We can
tell that the original Troisdorf, in between the Hippolytus Church and the Ursulaplatz
down to the Taubengasse, moved more and more to the northeast, and closer to the
Now we are standing in front of the Protestant church of Johannes to learn more about
how the Protestants came to Troisdorf. In 1840, there were only three Protestant families
in Troisdorf and Sieglar: The administrator of the Burg Wissem, the manager of the Alaun
lodge in Spich and the telegraphist of the telegraph in the forest.
Only 60 years later, in 1903, Troisdorf already had 3500 inhabitants and almost a third
was of Protestant belief. What had happened?
With the industry growing, people from the Protestant parts of Germany came to Troisdorf
and founded a community of considerable size in the mostly Catholic Rhineland. The
community life began in 1860, when Emil Langen offered his own rooms to hold services
and teach Protestant students. The result was an official Protestant school in Friedrich-
Wilhelms-Hütte, but neither a room for prayers nor a church existed yet. For years,
people met in the living room of the Schulte family, in the Kölner Straße 126, to pray. In
1896, the vicar Walter Neumann was ordained, but there was still no room to pray. The
more important problem was the need for a school though, because the majority of the
children that went to school in Friedrich-Wilhelms-Hütte came from Troisdorf. In 1900, a
new school was built for them in the Viktoriastraße. Then finally, in 1903, the Protestant
church was constructed, a new-Roman building designed by the architect Friedrich Adolf
Cornehls from Elberfeld.
Since the first priest was wealthy, he built himself a private house in the Viktoriastraße at
the end of the 19th century, also made of red bricks. This house is still magnificent today
and stands out with its writings under the ridge: “Fromm und Klug, Sonder Trug”. In 1903,
the Johannes Church was finally inaugurated.
For the lawn on the left side of the town hall, a large sculpture was made by Victor
Bonato in 2002. It’s a place to remember the fate of forced laborers, such as Tonino
Guerra and his “departure in Troisdorf”. Tonino Guerra was born in 1920 and had
distributed pamphlets against the German occupation in Italy. He came to Troisdorf as a
forced laborer in 1944. Here, he began to write poems of consolation for his fellow
sufferers. After the war, he started a career as a screenwriter and became very famous.
Guerra wrote screenplays for 70 movies, among them “ Amarcord” for which he won an
Oscar. For Federico Fellini, he also wrote “Blow Up”. The “Voyage to Cythera” was
written for Theo Angelopoulos. For this screenplay, he won the Palm d’Or in Cannes in
In 1994 the city of Troisdorf invited Guerra and he suggested some ideas for poetic
places and a suitable location for this monument. The relationship with Tonino Guerra
was established by professor Roland Günter, the “father of the worker colonies” in the
Ruhr. The city of Troisdorf had also asked his advice for the Mannstaedt colonies in the
1980ies. Roland Günter wrote the book “Tonino Guerra: Departure in Troisdorf”. In 1992
for the days of culture in Troisdorf, it was published by the office of cultural activities of
the city with the publishing company Klartext from Essen.
Now, the town hall is in front of us, located in the Kölner Straße 176. On the first of
August in 1969, the new city of Troisdorf was declared through a municipal reform, as a
union of the community of Sieglar, the small town of Troisdorf, Friedrich-Wilhelmshütte
which had belonged to Menden before, and Altenrath which had been part of Lohmar.
The contract stated that a new building in Sieglar was going to be the new town hall.
Soon, this proved to be too small though. Over the next years the city council worked in
eight different buildings. It was an unbearable situation. So the city decided to buy this
building in front of us in 1994 for 35 million German mark. It was previously owned by the
pension fund of the Dynamit Nobel enterprise and had been the company’s headquarter.
The city council moved in just a year later, in 1995.
Surprisingly for many people from Troisdorf, this building stands on the former ground of
Sieglar. It was designed using the principal of the short ways, composed of two trident
star-shaped buildings. The administrator for its construction in 1978 was the Friedrich
Flick industry administration. The main department for technology of Dynamit Nobel
planned and realized it. The building where the company’s headquarter had been before
is just on the other side of the street. This had been the first high-rise building in the
former district of Sieg and was built in 1956 by Paul Schaeffer-Heyrothsberge.
The first houses in the Carl-Diem-Straße weren’t built until 1949. The house number 17
has a very special history. When a big exhibition called “Troisdorf in the mirror of time”
opened in 1950, this house was raffeled off. The batch cost only two German marks. The
city council called this price way too high, but still continued with the raffle and published
the winning number in August. Nobody responded. The news made the headlines in the
national newspapers. Then an electrician from Stommeln responded. He had decided
that he didn’t want to live in Troisdorf, because his customers lived elsewhere. In the last
minute, just before the council was about to draw a new number, he arrived. They asked
him why he hadn’t come before. He answered that he had just completely forgotten about
it. But why had he even bought a raffle ticket to win a house if he lived so far away from
Troisdorf in the first place? His answer was this: “It didn’t make a difference if I buy a
drink for a mark or if I buy a batch.” Now he suddenly had become the proud owner of a
single-family home. Jupp Mimzeck, a famous personality of Troisdorf, prince of the
carnival and involved in various other activities such as St. Martin, heard about this and
convinced the electrician to sell the house to him. He would never tell for how much, but it
must have been really really cheap.
The hospital of St. Josef is the oldest building in the Schlossstrasse. It was built in 1902.
In the end of the 19th century, Troisdorf had grown to a town with 3000 inhabitants, but
still without a health service. Pastor Clemens Meier from St. Hippolytus sent a letter to
the poor Franciscans in Olpe to ask for nuns to help with the health care service. On
June 14th 1899, hundreds of Troisdorfers were standing at the train station and
welcomed the four nuns with exaltation. They accompanied them to the house in which
they were about to work in the Hofgartenstraße 1, which would later become the
restaurant “Zum Treppchen”.
The four women worked as nurses, taught young women how to run their households
and lead a kindergarten. After only a few weeks, their room proved to be too small and
they moved into a house in the Frankfurter Straße 10. But even that larger room was
again too small after a short while and they moved once more into the new building in the
Schlossstraße in 1902, the oldest part of today’s hospital. The foundation stone for the
hospital we are seeing in front of us, was laid in 1975 and the house was ready to be
used in 1979. Today, St. Josef hospital is still run be the Franciscans of Olpe, but now
employs 5000 workers. It is still lead by an abbess.
We’re standing on the corner of the little forest of the princes and Parkstraße. The
house in the Parkstraße no.1 was built in 1919 by professor Heinrich Müller Erkelenz.
He was a major architect of his time who also was responsible for the Hotel Excelsior
Ernst in Cologne, several villas in the wealthy district of Cologne-Marienburg and last
but not least, the famous hotel on the Petersberg near Bonn. This house in Troisdorf
was built for Gustav Leysieffer, who was a chemist at the Rheinisch-Westfälische
factory for explosives, which was later renamed into the Dynamit Nobel corporation.
Leysieffer was one of the most important colleagues of Paul Müller. In 1919, both of
them faced an almost insurmountable problem. The First World War was over, the
Treaty of Versailles had determined that Germany was not allowed to produce any
more explosives, and from one day to the next, the Rheinisch-Westfälische factory for
explosives had to stop its production altogether. They had to change their products
completely in order to continue their existence. Luckily, in 1905, they had already
started to fabricate plastic. They extended their plastic plants which prospered rapidly,
also because Leysieffer invented the base material “Trolit”. Several thousands of
employees worked in the plastic production and finally Paul Müller initiated a merger
with Dynamit Nobel. The new company opened its headquarters in Troisdorf in 1931.
Paul Müller continued to lead the company.
On the opposite side of the street, we can see six houses that were apparently built in
a different time, in the 1950ies to be exact. They cover the entire left side of the little
forest of the princes.
The most important inhabitant of this row of houses used to live in no. 6: director
general Biedenkopf, father of the late Prime Minister of Saxony, Kurt Biedenkopf and
father of another son, who used to work in senior positions at Dynamit Nobel.
One can assume that the name “little forest of the princes” played an important role in
ensuring that these gentlemen chose this place to live. This was how it happened:
After the Second World War, senior executives of Dynamit Nobel met with
representatives of the city of Troisdorf on a regular basis. One day a city councilor
asked, why none of them were living in Troisdorf, but in Bad Godesberg or in Cologne
instead. The answer came promptly: “Because you can not offer us any properties."
The city reacted quickly and offered them the parcels of land next to the little forest of
Originally, the way from the upper part of town to heathen of Troisdorf was called
“cattle alley”, because it was where the cattle was led through to reach the heath for
summer grazing. During the First World War, the church planted trees here and
named it the little forest of the prince, in honor of Prince Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe,
the son in law of Emperor Wilhelm II., who had died during the war in 1916. The
prince also had had close relationships with the regiment of the Rhenish Hussars in
Bonn, which had practiced regularly on the heathen of Troisdorf.
The name change must have seemed like a blessing in the 1950ies, because who
knows if the senior executives of Dynamit Nobel would have been built their houses
into a “cattle alley" after all.
Our way is leading us gently uphill into a left turn, then the street is bending softly to
the right and we can see a quite unmotivated stone structure. When we look at it
more closely, we can tell that it is the right door post of a larger gate. This was the
entrance gate to the park of Louis Mannstaedt. It is indeed a huge park, that expands
all the way up to the café in the forest named House Ravensberg.
Who was Louis Mannstaedt?
He was a factory owner, who had worked in Troisdorf before opening his own
business and eventually became the owner of a large rolling mill in Cologne. It was a
growing business and he would have liked to expand his mill, but the space of
grounds around it was limited. In 1910, Mannstaedt remembered his former business
partners in Troisdorf and learned that the Sieg-Rheinische ironworks company wasn`t
doing too well. It had suffered from the large flood in the previous year, another one
had already hit the company in 1899. Business was bad and the water had damaged
the factory so severely, that it could no longer be used for the production of iron. So
Louis Mannstaedt took advantage of the opportunity to buy the Sieg-Rheinische
ironworks company in 1911.
Then he started the most gigantic company project in the history of Troisdorf. Not only
did he build a new rolling mill, but several housing estates for the workers, a
settlement for his office workers, and new homes for himself and his two sons.
The housing estates for the workers and their superiors were called red and black
colonies, named after the colour of their roof tiles, and another one was built in the
Elisabethstraße in Oberlar.
Behind this door post in the Mannstaedt Park is where he constructed his own, most
humble home and those for his sons. Today, Mannstaedt’s own house can only be
seen from the Altenrather Straße and doesn’t look much like it used to back then. His
sons chose the location up on the hill for their buildings. The architect Camillo
Friedrich from Cologne was responsible for the largest villa of Carl Mannstaedt. His
brother Ludwig’s smaller house was built by Carl Doflein, who had previously
constructed many Protestant churches.
So we can see, Louis Mannstaedt really built his own small world, something like a
little state, which is unlike how companies normally do it nowadays, many of them
outsourcing as much as they possibly can.
For their employees, Mannstaedts also constructed shops and kindergardens. Louis
himself founded the factory’s own all male choir. He built a gym and a sports court.
On the premises was a bathhouse for the company employees. It was setting an
example as a social institution and the role model for the housing estates for workers
in Margarethenhoehe in Essen and Hellerau in Dresden. Both of them were built after
the ideas of Raymond Unwin and Ebenezer Howard from Great Britain and their
garden city in Letchworth.
Their idea of homes for factory workers in a green environment had grown out of the
unbearable misery in the first decades of the industrialization during the 19th century,
when people had lived in slums. Unwin and Howard argued that a good health
condition also worked towards more years in which the employees could work.
In 1913, the majority of the buildings was finished and the production in the
Mannstaedt factories began. Only one year later, Louis Mannstaedt died at the age of
The Troisdorf architect Karl Heise had the ideas how to build this park in the forest in
the 1930ies. Right in the beginning, there are a few aviaries, which are especially
interesting for small children who might hear the cluck of a chicken or the crow of a
cock for the first time in their life.
A little further on, we will see a pond. It was built in the 1920ies, when Troisdorf was
looking for a new place for a cemetery because the churchyard of St. Hippolytus was
already full. It wasn’t an easy search though because the community only had limited
space. One of the possibilities could have been this forest park, but quicksand was
found here and made it an impossible location for a cemetery. Nevertheless, the
ditches that had been dug for the drainage created the small pond which then
became the center of the forest park. Karl Heise came up with the questionable idea
to create a large open space behind the pond to place a 30 meter column on it that
he wanted to carry a huge swastika. Thankfully, the beginning of World War II
prevented this project.
On the right of the the two main paths in the forest park, almost at the far end, in a
very idyllic scenery on a hill, surrounded by trees and shrubs, the Beekeepers
Association of Troisdorf has put up their teaching apiary. The association is almost
110 years old already and one of the oldest clubs in the city. Founding chairman was
Kaplan Joeres. The teaching apiary however has not been built until the late 1970ies.
It is open for visitors from 10am until 1pm every first and third Sunday from May to
September. Especially teachers with their students enjoy to pay the beekeepers a
House Ravensberg is a restaurant and the last house on the Altenrather Straße on
the way to the heath.
In 1928, the architect and innkeeper Alois Remmel wanted more families to come to
the well-known café in the forest House Ravensberg. His idea was to let the children
play on a large playground, while their moms could enjoy a cup of coffee and their
dads a beer.
After World War II, the British Royal Air Force seized the house until 1955. In the
following years it grew into a popular location for dancing couples of all age groups.
This ended when watching television in the evening became more and more
common. Remmels descendants run the adjacent hotel in the forest today. House
Ravensberg is now a Chinese restaurant.
Alois Remmel, who was also a member of the city council for many years, built the
restaurant Sanderhof close to the Ursulaplatz after the Second World War.
Interestingly, Sanderhof had already been the location of a restaurant as early as the
beginning of the 14th century.
Walking from the café in the forest, House Ravensberg, towards the forest cemetery,
we reach the place that at least the older inhabitants of Troisdorf regard as the most
beautiful place of the city. Nevertheless the forest cemetery caused problems for
To understand why, we have to go far back in time until 1900. Troisdorf had then only
been an independent municipality for half a year and had grown into a small town with
more than 3000 inhabitants. The cemetery around the Hippolytus Church was running
out of space.
Only ten years later, in 1910, the population of Troisdorf had doubled and for 6000
people, a new graveyard needed to be planned. The search for the best location was
incredibly difficult because Troisdorf was small and had little free space to offer.
A place next to the heath was considered, where the sport and tennis courts are
located today, another one was found where the forest park is now and the third
possibility taken into account was in between the Hermitage and the telegraph.
However, none of them could be realized as the new location for the cemetery and so
the city bought a district on the Sonnenberg, which was part of the military training
area in 1926. A competition was organized and a landscape architect from
Duesseldorf won the first prize. Another architect from Aachen, Heukemes, who
designed the forest cemetery there, was asked to revise his draft again. So finally, on
January 1, 1928, after eighteen years, which had been interrupted by the First World
War, the first dead person was buried here.
The creative workshop of Troisdorf is an important part of the museum Burg Wissem.
Everyone can create visual art here. The field of sensual experience surrounding
Burg Wissem was initiated by the creative workshop. It was built by the city in 2002
and is a great activity for families with children.
If we look around the courtyard of the Burg Wissem, we see buildings from four
The oldest building is the one made of quarry stone. It was built in 1550. The baroque
entrance gate, which is preserved only in part, originated in 1741 as we can see it
being written down above the archway. It was renewed at the same time as the
museum not many years ago. Baron Franz von Cortenbach was the builder of the
The castle Burg Wissem itself is from 1845. Twelve years before, in 1833, the family
of Loe had bought the entire property. Clemens von Loe was the first lord of the castle
Wissem who was named “Loe”. He had been born at Schloss Wissen in Weeze on
the Lower Rhine, the ancestral home of the extended family of Loe.
Since 1939, the city is the owner of this property. The Picture Book Museum opened
in 1982 inside Burg Wissem and exhibits original illustrations that have later been
used in children’s books. A foundation started the museum when a former factory
owner from Troisdorf named Wilhelm Alsleben, gave his entire property of illustrations
to the city, but only under the condition that they would be displayed.
The fourth, most modern building, has been built over another. After the Second
World War, Burg Wissem had become the town hall of Troisdorf, because the
previous one in the Poststraße, not far from the train station, had been destroyed. But
in the course of the 1950ies, it proved to be too small to fit the whole administration.
So an extension was built in 1960, which is still here today.
This entire property demonstrates Troisdorf’s industrial history and portrays its urban
development. In addition, people can also get married here and do like this beautiful
setting for their special day. In the newly built house of the Burg Wissem you can not
only find the Museum of Urban Development and Industry and the gateway to the
Wahner Heide, but also the tourist information of Troisdorf, that offers all the important
information for those visiting the city for the first time.
Right next to the Burg Wissem, you can see a group of figures from the famous fairy
tale “Hans in Luck”. Troisdorf artist Michael Sönksen created them in collaboration
with the apprentice workshop of Dynamit Nobel out of steel plates. “Hans in Luck” is
here, because it was the favorite fairy tale of Wilhelm von Alsleben, who was
responsible for founding the museum. Since the end of World War II, von Alsleben
had collected many picture book illustrations and originals that he wanted everybody
to see. So he decided to give the pictures to the city, asking those responsible to build
a museum for them and put them on display. This is why the Picture Book Museum
was opened in 1982 and also, just a few years later, this group of figures from “Hans
in Luck” came here.
This is a very important historical site in Troisdorf, because the center of the village
and the school were here. Today, it is the location of the forum that was built in the
late 1960ies as a department store by Hertie. The original buildings on the opposite
side, Kölner Straße no. 1, no longer exist. Since the 18th century, this was where the
house of the Muelhens family used to stand. Wilhelm Muelhens was born there in
1762, who would some thirty years later establish the company 4711 Eau de Cologne
in Cologne. Wilhelm had eleven brothers and sisters, and many of them became
wealthy like him. Three brothers were bankers in Cologne, Koblenz and Frankfurt.
The large gate that you can see here today was built as an extension of the
pedestrian precinct. Since the late 1970ies, Troisdorf had wanted a pedestrian zone.
But the problem was the national highway B8, that had been an ancient trade route a
long time ago and ran right through the city. So the Theodor-Heuss-Ring was built as
a bypass which passed the train station and didn’t reach the old road until north of the
city center. This left enough room for a new pedestrian area.
The construction started in 1979, at the lower part of the Hippolytusstraße. Then, the
Tchorz brothers from Cologne won an architectural competition and they invented and
built the pedestrian zone as it exists today. Originally, for the two entrances to the
pedestrian zone the brothers had planned Mero constructions, which were metal
tubes joined together in various ways and which were very popular back then.
Nowadays, Mero constructions can still be found in the Cologne city center for
example. The city of Troisdorf didn’t like the idea of these constructions because they
could be seen in many other buildings at the time, like the community center and the
So an art competition was held. The artists, Joachim Bandau, from Aachen, and
Victor Bonato from Niederkassel, won it. They had the idea to work with steel and
glass, the materials Troisdorf is known for. To be exact, it is not glass that the city is
known for, but rather a plastic safety layer for glass, which protects people in car
accidents from being hit by bits of broken glass.
Bandau and Bonato created the semicircle we are facing now, and a quarter arc for
the upper part of the Kölner Straße. They positioned them with their open sides facing
the city centre. The idea was to open up the city for visitors, unlike the potential
closure at any time the medieval gates used to stand for. All of the national
newspapers wrote about those new types of gates in 1982 and praised the artist’s
courage to build these pieces of art.
A bronze plate on the house in Kirchstraße no. 39 tells us that Wilhelm Hamacher
used to live here.
He was born in 1886 and received his PhD in 1911 at the University of Bonn in the
field of philosophy, in the department of history. Hamacher became a teacher and at
the end of the war the managing director of the Rhenish center. In this position he
was also a member of the Reichsrat in Berlin from 1926 to 1933. Then, in 1933, he
came back to teach again. Immediately after the war, he refounded the Rhenish
center and was its first chairman. For a few weeks he even held the position of
education minister of the newly founded North Rhine-Westphalia. Hamacher led a
heated argument with the first Chancellor of Germany, Konrad Adenauer, because
Adenauer was determined to found a new party to unite all Christians. At this time,
however, the Zentrum was traditionally a Catholic party. Wilhelm Hamacher was so
closely associated with his Catholic belief that he could not imagine it to be separated
from the Catholic party. They led a mainly written argument, the letters are today
displayed in the archives of NRW in Duesseldorf.
Hamacher became the headmaster of the high school in Siegburg and in 1949 a
member of the first Federal Parliament and Mayor of Troisdorf. One of his goals as a
mayor was to turn Troisdorf intoa city. Unfortunately, Wilhelm Hamacher didn’t live to
see his goal achieved. He died in 1951, and Troisdorf wasn’t established as a city
until March of 1952.
We are now in the Hippolytusstraße in front of the Catholic Church of St. Hippolytus.
The patronage of St. Hippolytus indicates that the church is very old and its first
construction took place in the Middle Ages. However, this is not the case. This church
was in fact not built until 1966. The tower of the original church is just underneath the
one we can see here.
The predecessor of this church was built in the sixties of the 19th century and the one
before that originated in the seventies of the 18th century. More information on elder
churches that were here before could not be found.
Because the archdiocese already had plenty of churches in the 1960ies, it would not
subsidize any new buildings, but pay for renewals only. So the Catholics of Troisdorf
decided how to achieve their goal of a larger church that could fit at least five hundred
believers: They demolished the church, leaving out only the tower and the central part
of the choir and then built a larger building around them.
It will most likely remain a secret why back in the days, this church was built on the
western end of the village, when all the churches were standing in the middle of the
village. The center of the village back then was right at the other end of the
Kirchstraße in the direction of the Ursulaplatz, around the area where the
Hofgartenstraße takes a turn from the Kirchstraße. It was the highest point of the
village, and we may suppose that the very first church in Troisdorf was built perhaps
900 years ago. Maybe even earlier, because Troisdorf is first mentioned in 1064 as
“Truhtesdorp”, when the abbey on the Michaelsberg was founded.
We are standing on the Fischerplatz. A stone of Giovanni Vetere was placed here
during the first meeting of sculptors from Troisdorf. Also, the now legendary big man
is here, who at the time we prepared this walk, was covered in plastic to be protected
from construction work.
In 1987, three galleries in Troisdorf were selling fine art: The galleries of Inge Donath,
of Siggi Theisen and of Brigitte and Giovanni Vetere. In cooperation with the city,
these galleries featured a display of art works from various artists throughout the city,
which could be seen in almost the entire pedestrian zone. One of these pieces of art
is the big man.
To some, he looks terrible, pathetic to others and some simply find him to be a terrific
art work, so from the day he was first shown, he caused lively debates and
arguments. Giovanni Vetere asked the city to buy the figure that caused so much
attention and Troisdorf would have liked to do so, but it was too expensive. The
gallerist set an example and donated 5 000 marks. Hans-Henning Seemann from
Stuttgart, who had created the figure, wanted 60,000 marks for it though. So while the
people kept arguing whether the big man was worth all the many, the city started all
kinds of fundraising activities. City manager Heinz Bernward Gerhardus, the head of
the Culture and Education Office Georg Kern, Ulrich Grossmann and members of the
Cultural Committee participated in raising the money and managed to collect 55 000
marks in the end and Seeman agreed to sell the big man to them.
When he was first displayed in the exhibition, the big man was placed in the water of
the fountain. But Seeman didn’t like him there. The artist preferred to see him
standing among the people passing by. He argued that the figure represented a
simple man, whom he created in the early seventies after a then 35-year-old worker
from the VW plants in Wolfsburg.
A fountain can be seen behind the big man that consists of two round plates forming a
semicircle, which is interrupted in the middle. It was created when the city asked all
citizens to participate in an art competition to design this fountain. Wilhelm Valder
from Troisdorf won this contest. He had already received the Max Ernst art
scholarship from the city of Brühl.
Originally, Valder had planned a design with round plates made out of mirrors instead
of stones. But those responsible for the fountain decided that stones would be a more
suitable material for such a public piece of art.
The road of the pedestrian zone widens to make room for a large art work that was
created in 1984 for the sculptors’ meeting, but it has a more historical meaning.
This sculpture was designed by Hans-Joachim Breuste, who already had been in
touch with professor Gustav Stein since the 1970ies. Stein was the managing director
of the federal association of the German Industry and the most important art sponsor
of his time in Germany. Breuste had the idea of an artwork combining social criticism
with the industrial history of Troisdorf, and the company Dynamit Nobel in particular.
When he learned of the sculptors’ meeting, Breuste applied to participate and was
approved, although his work was way beyond the scope of a four-week symposium.
We can now see a door frame out of stainless steel, about three meters high and one
and a half meters wide. The steel would shine, had it not been painted irregularly with
a grayish-brown color and thus been made to look ugly. The frame is filled by a thick
plastic sheet, which has been pierced by bullets and is boarded by two cross beams
also made of steel. Two steel sarcophagi have been placed underneath. One displays
the number of war casualties since 1903, when Henri Dunant was awarded the first
Nobel Peace Prize. On the other sarcophagus, Henri Dunant and his successors are
listed. It truly is an anti-Arc de Triomphe, a memorial of those who died, which
deliberately has been placed in middle of the city.