The Multihalle was built from 1974 to 1975 for the National Garden Show in Mannheim. It was predominantly planned and conceptualised by architect and posthumous Pritzker Prize winner Frei Otto, after a competition design draft by Carlfried Mutschler and his business partner Joachim Langner.

The purpose of this competition is to continue the story of the Multihalle after its many years of obscurity. The Multihalle Mannheim e.V. Association, the Association of German Architects in Baden-Württemberg (BDA) and the International Building Exhibition Heidelberg are inviting submissions of ideas for the sustainable development of the Multihalle and, in close cooperation with the Baden-Württemberg Chamber of Architects and the City of Mannheim, hosting the “Multihalle – Democratic Umbrella” competition dedicated to this task.

Initially, the Multihalle was designed only as a temporary construction for the duration of the 1975 National Garden Show, yet it is still standing. Although the function hall has been closed for several years due to structural and building law reasons, the restaurant, in a separate part of the complex, is still in operation. In 1998, the Multihalle was declared a cultural monument and granted listed building status.

Its future now depends on the ability to raise funds for its structural maintenance and find long-term prospects for use.

One of the major activities in the process so far was a utilisation workshop initiated by the Baden-Württemberg Chamber of Architects and held at the Multihalle in April 2017. The workshop aimed at generating ideas and proposals for possible uses, and attracted participants from many different backgrounds and disciplines. The Multihalle was also the focus of the Urban Thinkers Campus 2017, which was held in Mannheim for the second time last October. The Urban Thinkers Campus is an initiative of the World Urban Campaign by UN Habitat, a United Nations programme for human settlements that promotes sustainable urban development. UTC conferences offer a platform for urban players to exchange ideas and provide input for social progress. At an “urban thinkers camp” in the run-up to the last UTC, representatives from various regional universities examined the Multihalle from a social perspective and how it is embedded in the city’s social topography. The aim was to redirect the debate that formerly focused on technical and structural issues, and to newly interpret the Multihalle as an architectural cultural platform for an “open society”, in honour of Frei Otto’s original intentions.

Innovative cultural events are being staged throughout the project in a kind of “test run” for future uses.

This design ideas competition and the entry criteria are based on insights gained at dedicated workshops and expert talks as well as draft designs submitted by several universities and colleges.

A key aim of the awarding authority is to inspire a demographic shift of social responsibility by explicitly opening the competition to Master’s students, graduates and young architects.