The Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus was designed by the architect Bernhard Pfau and opened to the public in 1970. The ground plans show a wealth of curved lines, and the sculptured body of the building, which is graduated upwards, is divided into a Main Theatre with at that time about 900 (today about 760) seats and a Chamber Theatre with up to 300 seats. Behind the sweeping white tin exterior of the facade lies the fly tower, which is the tallest part of the structure, the main stage and several side stages. The building’s wave-like, organic yet abstract form is redolent of metamorphosis, of processes of natural transformation, while at the same time resembling an over-sized (theatre) curtain. It creates an exciting contrast with the nearby Drei Scheiben Hochhaus (Three Section Tower) by architect Fritz Eller, in whose glass exterior the Schauspielhaus is reflected.
Bernhard Pfau was born on 1st June 1902 in Mainz. In 1916 he began a course at the Grand Duke of Hessen School of Art and Design in Mainz, which he was able to complete after his father’s death and his family’s resulting financial difficulties thanks to the aid of a major industrialist. After his studies he embarked on a series of travels, which took him first to Berlin at the invitation of Prof. Dr. Bruno Paul, and then to Italy, Switzerland and ultimately to Vienna, where he worked together with Otto Wagner and Joseph Hoffmann.
Back in Germany, Emil Fahrenkamp brought Pfau to Düsseldorf at the end of the Twenties. In this city, where he was to spend the greater part of the rest of his life, Pfau set up his own architectural practice in 1930, focusing in his early work on converting shops and constructing apartment and commercial buildings. After 1933 Pfau, as a member of the Reich’s Council for Visual Arts and Reich’s Cultural Council, received individual commissions for residential architecture and a number of large commissions for the armaments industry and the National Socialist air force.
Between 1938 and 1940 Pfau planned the designs for the administration block of the Turkish sugar factories in Ankara and Eskişehir. Drafted into the Luftwaffe as a private architect in 1941, Bernhard Pfau was arrested and interned in France after the war ended. His return to Düsseldorf was followed by the foundation of the ‘Düsseldorf Architects’ Circle’, which campaigned for the rebuilding of the city in opposition to the projected plans of the city administration. The post-war years are the most productive phase of his architectural activities, when his best-known works such as the Haus der Glasindustrie, the Jugendhaus and the VHS Studienhaus were built. Bernhard Pfau continued working as an architect until the mid-1980s. He died on 30th July 1989 in Düsseldorf.