The high, orangey-red rows of windows hit you straight between the eyes. They stand like reflective columns in the towering clinker façades which range in shade from vitreous burgundy and deep brownish blue right through to light buff. A slim tower overlooks the neighbouring Amtsteich pond, flanked by arcades with pointed gables. What lies concealed behind this ornate structure, situated on the Mühleninsel (mill island) in the middle of Cottbus, surrounded by the river Spree and enclosed in parkland? An opera house? Ballrooms? An abbey? Nothing of the sort. In fact, a power station was in active service here from the late nineteen-twenties. A 1,450 hp diesel engine hummed away in the former power house, the larger of the two wings of the building, whilst the tower housed the high-voltage sealing ends and instrument transformer of a distribution station. Today, this outstanding piece of industrial architecture, which has been long neglected and only in recent years fully restored, is on the brink of a new career as the “Cottbus Diesel Power Station Art Museum”.
The stunning outward appearance of the complex of buildings bears the signature of the Berlin architect Werner Issel. He constructed the power station from 1927 to 1928 in the New Objectivity style, which was still quite fresh at the time. The new structure, erected very close to an existing steam power plant, was primarily intended to provide lighting for the town and fill any temporary gaps in the power supply. Bottlenecks were increasingly occurring, especially during peak load times, even though Cottbus obtained additional electricity from outside. The new power station also took care of that, with high-voltage transmission lines flowing into the tower of the wing on the Amtsteich pond and being transformed in that building’s distribution station. Cottbus diesel power station was in service for just over 30 years. Since 2008 it is the showcase for an interesting exhibition on Brandenburg’s collection of modern art. Classical industrial architecture forms the backdrop against which contemporary art finds its voice.