The palm house in the Botanical Gardens documents an eventful part of Cologne's history. It was built in the 1860s as a magnificent glass palace and destroyed by a hail of bombs in the Second World War, before being rebuilt in the 1950s in a much more simplified form.
Although very little still recalled the erstwhile glass palace, the building was added to Cologne's monument register in 1980.
From the very beginning, the Flora was more than 'just' a palm house. It also always served as a magnificent setting for various events, from classy receptions to grand parties in the historical ballroom.
And shortly after the end of the War, enthusiastic citizens restored it to the extent that the Carnival Society's ceremonial sessions could at least take place there.
Various conversions and extensions followed, yet over the years the building grew less and less suitable for the demanding guests.
An assessment of the fabric of the building in view of its future use as a multifunctional event location finally led to the decision to completely gut the construction, add an additional load-bearing structure and reconstruct the existing building it in its original cubature with the historic barrel roof.
The "new Flora" still stands on the original foundation walls. One of the key spatial modifications was the development of a new main entrance in the basement, which is easily accessible from the car park.
The spacious foyer behind it stretches over the entire building height.
Visitors ascend from there to the upper floors in a glazed panoramic lift to see the historic ballroom, the park salon and the new roof salon underneath the restored barrel roof.
By contrast, the heterogeneous extensions were ripped out and replaced by a glazed newbuild.
The building's large panes are printed with a floral pattern, thus reinstating the design elements of the Flora in a contemporary architectural language.
With its consciously simple design, the newbuild complements the historical palm house and its pronounced façades without upstaging it.
The historic façades were traced using photographs taken when the building was opened in 1864, and the surrounding large-format windows were faithfully reconstructed with thermally-insulated steel profiles.
In contrast, the approach was much more pragmatic when it came to the restored roof salon.
Where the rosette windows were previously fabricated as many individual panes with cast-iron sash bars, the ornamentation of the original windows was now simply printed onto contemporary thermal insulation glass.
The reconstruction of the historic barrel roof highlights the fine balance between retaining the historic appearance on the one hand and implementing modern structural requirements on the other.
Here, the former construction of cast-iron glazing bars and several hundred small glass panes has now been built as one massive roof shell that is covered in sheet zinc.
Whether its elegance is reproduced as a steel/glass construction is arguably up to the following generations.