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Munich’s main cultural center offers a program for diverse interests

Towering imposingly above the Isar, its red brick facade casts an almost intimidating glare over the city below. Although Gasteig may not be the prettiest piece in town, whatever it lacks aesthetically, it makes up for in its role as Munich’s cultural pulse—pumping artistry throughout the veins of the city.

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For a relatively large chunk of its short existence, Gasteig has been concerned with revamping itself to combat its somewhat uninviting image. Covering an area of 23,000 sq. m, the building and its architectural style have been a topic of discussion since its grand opening on November 10, 1985. For some, the venue’s emergence as a hub for artistic expression wasn’t enough to counteract its cold outward appearance. The warm, expressive spirit within its walls and the fortress-like exterior seemed to be irreconcilable

Not entirely taken by the building’s design, the public made it clear in a survey carried out in 1999 that they wanted a friendlier, more welcoming environment.Thus, to cater to its visitors and compete with Germany’s other cultural centers, plans to give Gasteig a makeover were implemented in 2002. A couple of remodelings and renovations later, Gasteig had lighter foyers, wider hallways and a warmer atmosphere.
Catering facilities were brought into the 21st century, with the introduction of slick bars offering funky canapés and mini desserts during intervals, and the stale staff cafeteria was transformed into gast, a chic, sleek canteen-style restaurant open to the public.

But it’s not just with its looks that Gasteig aims to be universally appealing. Home to some of Munich’s most precious gems—Munich Philharmonic, the city library (Stadtbibliothek) and the Adult Education Center (Volkshochschule)—the venue does not discriminate. With close to 6,000 visitors daily, it welcomes all in the name of creativity and enrichment, be it lovers of classical music relishing the sweet sounds of a concert, movie buffs enjoying the offerings of the annual Munich Film Fest, students learning how to sew or speak French, or those just looking to curl up with a good book. Aside from concerts, there are the more alternative offerings in the Black Box Theater, events for children and a series celebrating contemporary music, Klang Aktionen.

Gasteig’s history:
1955—planning starts on a cultural center to replace the Odeon and Tonhalle, destroyed in WWII.
April, 1978—construction begins on Gasteig
May, 1984—The Stadtbibliothek becomes the first institution to make its home in Gasteig.
November 10, 1985—official opening is broadcast live on television.
1999—Brigitte v. Welser becomes Managing Director, marking a new era for Gasteig; public survey sparks face-lift of venue.
2004—New culinary concepts launched.
2005—Gasteig celebrates its 20th anniversary.

For a full schedule of events at Gasteig, check out or go to

© MF Sheeran/Nov 05

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