Following the building of structures on Altmarkt that reflected »Socialist construction in the national tradition,« in terms of the reconstruction of the totally destroyed downtown area in Dresden in the GDR era, the Kulturpalast marked a turnaround to »Eastern-style Modernism.« Opened in 1969, the downtown building was designed by Leopold Wiel and Wolfgang Hänsch.
Designed for various events including classical music concerts, German folk music and dance festivals, the »Brückenmännchen« for children, and congresses (and, as such, with compromises having had to be made as regards acoustics) the multi-purpose hall had over the course of time become more and more of a hindrance, on top of which the technical equipment was outdated. As of 2007 the Kulturpalast had to be closed at times for the most urgent refurbishment work.
An international competition for the modernisation and refurbishment of the building was held in 2009. The design subsequently realised was submitted by the Hamburg firm gmp Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner. Following controversial – including legal – disputes, the multi-purpose hall was replaced by a state-of-the-art concert hall with terraced »vineyard« seating. It is home to the Dresdner Philharmonie orchestra. On the first and second floors the central municipal library surrounds the concert hall. The basement accommodates the theatre for the traditional cabaret »Die Herkuleskeule.« The building also boasts the Centre for Building Culture in Saxony and a restaurant.
The refurbishment of the structure in line with heritage stipulations – with the »Weg der roten Fahne« (way of the red flag) mural – and the glass foyer overlooking Wilsdruffer Strasse / Altmarkt are of particular significance. With the relocation of the municipal library, the building is now busy throughout the day, with the foyer and its staircases being the main meeting point for all those using it.