This is what the Gerda Henkel Foundation intends to do in the Malkastenpark

Construction project in Düsseldorf
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This is what the Gerda Henkel Foundation intends to do in Malkasten Park

The Henkel family gives one million euros to the artists’ association Malkasten. And the Gerda Henkel Foundation is investing a high six-figure sum in the Herz’sche Haus – if necessary, the renovation should only start here for the time being.

The upcoming construction work in the park of the Malkastens is causing a stir in the artists’ association. There are many supporters, but also some opponents. In addition to the demolition of the extensions and their replacement, the Gerda Henkel Foundation is also building in the park. Without them the new exhibition rooms for the association would not be possible. The question arises: Why is the Foundation so generously involved?

The Gerda-Henkel-Stiftung and the Malkasten not only stand for Düsseldorf, they are also neighbors with a longstanding partnership in terms of content. If you enter the Malkasten-Park to the left of the Jacobihaus, you will immediately see the more than 60 meters wide extensions, the so-called annex buildings. Except for one part, the multi-storey car park used for exhibitions, there are run-down wings, formerly a bowling alley, now warehouse and toilets.

If you walk along the buildings, you will also see the back of the houses on Malkastenstrasse. Gerda Henkel and her daughter Lisa Maskell lived in the first house that was once built there. The latter set up the foundation 45 years ago in memory of her mother, who is now in the house at number 15.

The foundation’s grants apply to the historical humanities, current and future-related topics play a role in special programs, for example under the topic of “Security, Society and State”. Several projects by the artists’ association were also funded, such as the processing of the extensive archive. In total, a double-digit million sum is paid out every year.

According to Michael Hanssler, the foundation’s chairman, three years ago discussions with Robert Hartmann, chairman of the artists’ association, focused on the condition of the annex buildings and how the situation could be improved. At the end of the deliberations, a model emerged from which both sides want to benefit.

Initially, it was considered that the foundation would donate one million euros for the demolition of the extensions and a new building. This was refrained from due to legal concerns. Now this sum comes from the circle of the Henkel family. It is being doubled by city and country and other donors. However, the foundation also pays and in return receives event rooms, for example for seminars and conferences. She is renovating the Herz’sche Haus, which adjoins the annex buildings, for a high six-figure sum and is allowed to use it for 50 years. 35,000 euros per year are paid for this, according to the contract that has already been concluded this July is to be paid. It is a long lease, so the object remains the property of the artists’ association.

The Herz’sche Haus has been unused since 1943 and is in a correspondingly miserable condition. Instead of tearing down the rotten structure completely, the facade is retained. Julia Schulz-Dornburg, Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees of the Gerda Henkel Foundation, attached great importance to this. She is also a member of the Henkel family, an architect based in Barcelona, ​​and insisted that the new building should blend in well with the listed park and give an impression of the existing structure. Even if a one-to-one preservation was not possible, the new building was designed to the satisfaction of the city and the monument office.

The foundation has 22 employees, and the building on Malkastenstrasse, including two meeting rooms, has around 450 square meters of floor space. Once the Herz’sche Haus has been renovated, employees and guests can get there through the garden – an elegant solution for the foundation. The conference and library room will be around 100 square meters and, due to the rising roof, will have a ceiling height of 3.20 to 4.50 meters. The smaller meeting room is around 20 square meters. There is also a tea kitchen of around 48 square meters, the room height here is 2.50 meters.

The Herz’sche Haus is to become a science-promoting unit in which many small events take place. The foundation wants to bring many people together, invite experts from abroad, open up to Düsseldorf and North Rhine-Westphalia, and also cooperate with the artists’ association. Around 30 people can sit in the large room, and there can be between 50 and 100 guests at receptions.

So the foundation receives something, but it and the Henkel family give a lot again. The disputes in the artists’ association, on the other hand, revolve primarily around the annex buildings, which some would like to keep. Behind this is the question of the costs of later use and possible third-party leases, commercialization is feared. The artists’ association has to clarify this internally. In any case, there is one advantage here as well: For the first time, the association will have proper exhibition space.

Michael Hanssler, chairman of the foundation’s board of directors, would think it would be good if the construction work for the annex buildings could start in parallel. You want to do a lot together, like removing the rubble to keep the burden on the neighborhood low. The paint box is still waiting for the approval of the Rhineland Regional Association for the demolition of the extensions. In the worst case, the foundation would start the work on its own, because it already pays the rent.

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