Hellbahnhof Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe

Hi there, folks. Back to blogging after a hiatus during which I traipsed through Germany with a friend, spending a few days at Documenta 13, er, dOCUMENTA (13). Traveling to Kassel means stopping at the Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe train station. For some boring reason having to do with train scheduling or something, you have to stop at this station on the outkirts of the city and then take a train into the central station.

The main feature of the Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe Bahnhof (g) as it's called, is that IT SUCKS. More to the point, there are no elevators or escalators in the station. To reach the main station from the train tracks, you have to drag your luggage up a gradual, seemingly endless ramp. There are also stairs available, but these are cleverly hidden behind the ramps. But either way, you're going to have to schlep yourself, your screaming kids, and your heavy luggage. In this era of wheeled luggage, I can only imagine how many Eisenstein-esque scenes have played out on those giant ramps, with giant luggage, wheelchairs, or baby strollers barreling down the ramp, taking out hapless passengers right and left.

Another wonderful feature of the giant ramps is that they block out most of the central part of the platform, so that the only way to find out where your train car is positioned on the train is to walk all the way to one fucking end of the platform, inspect the train-car diagram, and then walk all the way back to where your car will be. During every Documenta, hundreds of thousands of foreign guests arrive at this train station and curse the stupidity and self-indulgence of the architect, while snorting at the storied 'efficiency' of Germans.

When I got home, I vowed to find out what pretentious little twit had designed those giant ramps, so as to publicly execrate him. The Wikipedia entry for the train station informs me that one 'Büro Dietrich, Waning, Guggenberger' was responsible for the ramp design. But, it turns out, they had no choice. Apparently the Deutsche Bundesbahn, back in the 1980s, ordered the creation of these giant ramps to make it possible to drive cars and trucks to the trains. Why they required this feature in a train station that would mainly be used by humans is beyond me. Don't they have fucking freight yards for that?!

In any event, the Bundesbahn's design has created what has to be the ugliest, most inconvenient train station in Western Europe. If I were a killin' man, I would tie the faceless bureaucrat who ordered those ramps to a brakeless wheelchair and push him down them again and again and again, while cackling gleefully. 

There, now I feel better.

14 thoughts on “Hellbahnhof Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe

  1. There are elevators at some of the platforms, you just haven’t found them. They are right at the opposite end of the ramps in direction to the parking decks.
    So if you want to us them, you first walk in the opposite direction of the main exit, use the elevators and then walk the 300 meters or so back to the exit. Easy, isn’t it?

    Like

  2. There are elevators at some of the platforms, you just haven’t found them. They are right at the opposite end of the ramps in direction to the parking decks.
    So if you want to us them, you first walk in the opposite direction of the main exit, use the elevators and then walk the 300 meters or so back to the exit. Easy, isn’t it?

    Like

  3. Hi Andrew, I’ve been to Kassel Wilhelmshöhe a couple of times during the recent years, and there were definitely elevators to the upper level on every platform (I think more than one on each platform, even). They are on the opposite side of where the ramps start. Pretty big elevators made of glass and steel.
    The station was built especially for the ICE because the Kassel Hauptbahnhof is a “cul de sac” station, and therefore it would take too much time to change the train’s direction to leave it.
    Kassel is a small city in a derelict area of Germany. Before the unification, Kassel received all kinds of funding so it could survive in its unattractive location next to the inner-German border, but since that went away, the Documenta has become its only way to make a little money through tourism.
    I like the idea that all those pretentious idiots from the art business have to go to this crappy town in the middle of nowhere quite a bit, actually. I think Arnold Bode did a good job by putting it there.

    Like

  4. Hi Andrew, I’ve been to Kassel Wilhelmshöhe a couple of times during the recent years, and there were definitely elevators to the upper level on every platform (I think more than one on each platform, even). They are on the opposite side of where the ramps start. Pretty big elevators made of glass and steel.
    The station was built especially for the ICE because the Kassel Hauptbahnhof is a “cul de sac” station, and therefore it would take too much time to change the train’s direction to leave it.
    Kassel is a small city in a derelict area of Germany. Before the unification, Kassel received all kinds of funding so it could survive in its unattractive location next to the inner-German border, but since that went away, the Documenta has become its only way to make a little money through tourism.
    I like the idea that all those pretentious idiots from the art business have to go to this crappy town in the middle of nowhere quite a bit, actually. I think Arnold Bode did a good job by putting it there.

    Like

  5. What I ‘love’ about Kassel Wilhelmshoehe is that it is so dark, because the station and car park above don’t let any sun down to the traks…

    Like

  6. What I ‘love’ about Kassel Wilhelmshoehe is that it is so dark, because the station and car park above don’t let any sun down to the traks…

    Like

  7. Haha! I like your comparison between train station Wilhelmshöhe and the Odessa Steps! I was involved in drywall ceiling works back in the 1990s,and still remember some of those n00bs of architects! Several times we build the ceiling again and again,only to show them how it looks like,because they had no imagination! Not to mention the concrete workers who have done the same……And then at the opening ceremony they noticed that they forgot the restrooms and had no plan how to clean the big glass panels outside! (Now the hire rope access technicans)
    Did you know that the locals call the big roof outside of the station Palast der Winde? Because it´s that high,that the wind blows the raindrops straight through waiting area of the bus and rail station!
    Two years ago I got a visitor from Canada and I recommended him to take the Interregio instead of ICE,because the Interregio is headed into the Hauptbahnhof in downtown which is much nicer! (If we can speak about a nice city……Kassel was nearly destroyed in WW2,and now you can see lots of ugly 1950s buildings in the city)
    Hope you´ve enjoyed your stay at the dOCUMENA after all!

    Like

  8. Haha! I like your comparison between train station Wilhelmshöhe and the Odessa Steps! I was involved in drywall ceiling works back in the 1990s,and still remember some of those n00bs of architects! Several times we build the ceiling again and again,only to show them how it looks like,because they had no imagination! Not to mention the concrete workers who have done the same……And then at the opening ceremony they noticed that they forgot the restrooms and had no plan how to clean the big glass panels outside! (Now the hire rope access technicans)
    Did you know that the locals call the big roof outside of the station Palast der Winde? Because it´s that high,that the wind blows the raindrops straight through waiting area of the bus and rail station!
    Two years ago I got a visitor from Canada and I recommended him to take the Interregio instead of ICE,because the Interregio is headed into the Hauptbahnhof in downtown which is much nicer! (If we can speak about a nice city……Kassel was nearly destroyed in WW2,and now you can see lots of ugly 1950s buildings in the city)
    Hope you´ve enjoyed your stay at the dOCUMENA after all!

    Like

  9. Sounds like a fair entry for a documenta.
    It an experience, not primary convenience or enjoyment.
    And its as beautiful as the rest of Kassel.

    Like

  10. Sounds like a fair entry for a documenta.
    It an experience, not primary convenience or enjoyment.
    And its as beautiful as the rest of Kassel.

    Like

  11. I actually studied in Darmstadt, where Andreas Brandt, the original architect of Kassel-Wilhelmshoehe, was professor in the early 90s. He told us at the time that the client Deutsche Bahn took the contract away from them midway through the planning stage and handed it to other architects, presumably Dietrich, Waning, Guggenberger. The big glazed hall to the entrance area was a Brandt-design, the spacing of the columns was pretty new back then and certainly a cool feature for a town like Kassel. It’s always been windy, though, I can confirm that.
    Brandt’s defense against the multitude of deficiencies of the architecture was precisely that they were never allowed to complete the design. You can see a slew of inconsistencies in the building even now, which are not down to later modifications but are “original”. In fact, the change of architect seems to have been accompanied by a change of brief, which is a sure-fire way to disaster. I think, Brandt’s office was later contracted again to iron out some of the cock-ups, pretty much one of the most dissatisfiying events in anyone’s professional life, I could imagine.
    Upshot is, you don’t just need a good architect, you need an equally good client to produce a good building. Deutsche Bahn didn’t exactly improve their reputation with this one.

    Like

  12. I actually studied in Darmstadt, where Andreas Brandt, the original architect of Kassel-Wilhelmshoehe, was professor in the early 90s. He told us at the time that the client Deutsche Bahn took the contract away from them midway through the planning stage and handed it to other architects, presumably Dietrich, Waning, Guggenberger. The big glazed hall to the entrance area was a Brandt-design, the spacing of the columns was pretty new back then and certainly a cool feature for a town like Kassel. It’s always been windy, though, I can confirm that.
    Brandt’s defense against the multitude of deficiencies of the architecture was precisely that they were never allowed to complete the design. You can see a slew of inconsistencies in the building even now, which are not down to later modifications but are “original”. In fact, the change of architect seems to have been accompanied by a change of brief, which is a sure-fire way to disaster. I think, Brandt’s office was later contracted again to iron out some of the cock-ups, pretty much one of the most dissatisfiying events in anyone’s professional life, I could imagine.
    Upshot is, you don’t just need a good architect, you need an equally good client to produce a good building. Deutsche Bahn didn’t exactly improve their reputation with this one.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s