Imagine an internationally renowned symphony orchestra being homeless and forced to ask for a place to play.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But for the “Bochumer Symphoniker” this was everyday reality from their foundation in 1918 until 2016. Although it was planned to build an own concert hall since the early 1960s, it never really happened due to a lack of ways of funding. So the “Bochumer Symphoniker” or BoSy always had to look for guest performances in the concert halls of Essen, Cologne or Dortmund or use buildings in Bochum that were not exactly planned as concert locations like the theater, the university’s “Audimax” and since 1990 the “Jahrhunderthalle”. The need for flexibility and a quick adaption to the challenges of each new location, the close contact with orchestras during tours in the USA, Israel and Estonia and cross-over projects like cooperations with “Jethro Tull” or “Sting” might have contributed to their sense for innovation, modernity and open-mindedness on the one hand. On the other hand, the fact that an orchestra which was decorated twice with the prestigious German Music Publishers’ Association Prize for “Best Concert Program of the Year” didn’t own a real residence seemed to have been a thorn in the cultural pride of the citizens and city officials of Bochum. With the strong support of the American conductor Steven Sloane, who has been the musical director of the “Bochumer Symphoniker” since 1994, and the assurance for a very generous donation from the private “Anneliese Brost Foundation”, plans for a new concert hall were finally resumed in 2011. It is due to the commitment of over 20,000 private donors, supporters and beneficial events, a work that has been going on for 15 years, that it was possible to gather the necessary funds for the project. The integration of a public music school into the new building eventually ensured the state grant. The architectural competition was won by the planning office “Bez + Kock” and the ambitious plan to include the desacralized church of St. Mary into the building soon evoked critical voices. With other German public building projects in mind the concerns about exploding costs and a never-ending construction site might seem understandable. In retrospect even the harshest critics have to admit that they were proven wrong. From the groundbreaking ceremony in 2013 until the great opening in October 2016 the building was erected within the estimated 3 years and the calculated costs have been exceeded by only 10%. We think the outcome is quite astonishing. The main entrance is situated in the former choir, what was once the nave of St. Mary’s now functions as a beautiful foyer and one of the former church bells is now used as an interval bell. It is a good example of altering the function of an old building into a new one without covering up the origins. Maybe the new additions, which house a big concert hall with 1026 seats, a small room for chamber music with about 250 seats and several rehearsal rooms, still seem a bit outlandish in the neighborhood. In contrast to the rather grey and plain appearance of the surrounding buildings, the rosy-tinted, organic and somehow fragile facade of the “Anneliese Brost Musikforum Ruhr” certainly stands out, but with a little bit of flexibility everyone will soon get used to it.