Campus Essen-Werden

Old abbey – main building (Alte Abtei)

Studying at the Folkwang University of the Arts means studying in a special place: in heritage-listed buildings, centuries or millennia old, in the heart of the Ruhr region. This is especially true at the Essen-Werden campus. The University’s central offices are located in the baroque Benedictine Abbey building, whose foundation walls date back to 799 A.D. Here, in the idyllically situated Ruhr valley in the south of Essen, the courses in Instrumental Training, Composition, Church Music, Voice, Conducting, Music Pedagogy, Musicology, School Music, Dance, Choreography, Labanotation, Theatre, Theatre Directing and Physical Theatre (formerly Pantomime) are taught. Doctoral programs are also offered.

The other buildings in Werden are also heritage listed – such as the White Mill (Weiße Mühle), where Musicals are housed. The musicians of the Jazz department and the Institute of Computer Music and Electronic Media (icem) are housed at Wesselswerth– five minutes from the historic abbey. State-of-the-art recording studios can also be found here; no other German music conservatory can yet boast anything comparable.

The newest building project is an exclusive new library building, begun at the end of 2008, opened september, 2012. Based on the generous funding by the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen and Halbach Foundation, our new musicology library which has the most substantial holdings of musicology titles nationwide, was constructed on the Essen-Werdener campus of Folkwang University of the Arts,

The University is a favourite film location too (for example, “Kleine Haie”). It can be reached in ten minutes from the Essen city centre by S-Bahn.

The living history of the Benedictine Abbey

The Folkwang University’s baroque main building is a historic building, marked by many visible signs from different times and eras. The history of the walls is as alive as the school itself. And a little more is added to this exciting story every day.The famous view of our main building dates back to the baroque. But its actual history began much earlier:

Saint Ludger founded the settlement of Werden in 799. The Benedictine Abbey was the focal point from the beginning, and Ludger’s bones still lie in the crypt. The foundation stone of the Abbey church must have been laid at that time too.

It burnt down twice and was twice rebuilt – larger and more beautiful than before. There is still speculation over whether this was fate or a modern “torch job”. Most importantly, traces of very different building styles remain: Carolingian elements in the crypt, Romanesque arch windows and the restored medieval cloister in clear late Gothic style from c. 1100.

Then between 1750 and 1800 the baroque palace – our main building – came into being. The prince-abbot sent a clear message in absolutist style: as an expression of lordly power he built himself a residence that was as tall as the church. Clearly he had no further desire to subordinate himself!

But even his days were numbered. Soon after completion of the gatehouse – in rococo style, with a faun mask over the main gate (Bild ) sticking out its tongue at the world – something dramatic occurred: secularisation.
That was the end of the abbey. By order of Napoleon, all of the monks had to leave the cloister in 1803.

From abbey to prison

Fortunately the French already had new plans. While abbey buildings were completely demolished elsewhere, ours was spared – to be rebuilt as a prison.
When the Prussians succeeded the French in Werden – Napoleon was defeated – a jail like this one suited them well. They kept it and added to it. The Prussian wing (Preußenflügel), a functional building from the 19th century, came into existence. The former farm administration buildings were leased to three textile factories. That’s how the first Werden textile manufacturing came about –  in what is now our refectory (Mensa) and the Theatre and Physical Theatre rooms. The new auditorium (Neue Aula) served as a warehouse.

From 1811 to 1928 the factory that had been closed (there were originally two Prussian wings) was used as a prison,” for both sexes” until 1839. Up to 700 prisoners had to do carving, tailoring, cobbling and metalwork here.
During the Second World War the now empty and badly worn premises served the navy as a naval trade school. The building sustained severe bomb damage. Then it passed into our hands.

Folkwang moves in within the venerable walls

In 1946 the Folkwangschule moved into the abbey. Classes had been held in Friedrichstrasse until that point.

The students brought new life within the old walls, studying “Music, dance und speech” here. The “Folkwang Werkkunstschule” followed from 1948. The entire design section – from photography, sculpture and stage design to industrial design, graphic art and many other disciplines – now had their studios and rooms together under one roof with the other Folkwang arts. (Foto mit Jooss; Kurt Jooss with his dance company in the 1950s; Folkwang Hochchschule Dance Archive; Photographs from the studios) Gradually renovations were carried out. In the 1980s in particular, the old substance of the building would be reconstructed with alterations. (Fotos)
Only the prison chapel still remains from the time when the building was a jail – now our Pina Bausch Theatre (formerly known as Alte Aula).

Since 2003 the entire Folkwang Abbey building complex has been undergoing an ongoing construction and renovation process, which is expected to continue until 2012. At the same time, an exclusive new library building is being built on the Werden campus, which will provide space for the Ruhr Region Music Library.  Expected completion: 2010.

Maiken-Ilke Groß / September 2008


Wesselswerth 23
(Jazz, sound studio, studio for audiovisual media)

5 minutes away from the Folkwang University of the Arts’ main building you will find this ultra-modern sound recording studio (opened in 2002) along with the studio for audiovisual media and the rehearsal rooms for the Jazz programme. State-of-the-art technology and an unusually large recording space (90m) provide students with optimal production possibilities for jazz and new music ensembles, traditional chamber music, big band and chamber orchestra music.
From the main entrance of the Folkwang University of the Arts, Klemensborn, turn right into Bungertstrasse, then left into Wesselswerth. No. 23 is a few metres along on the left-hand side.

White Mill (Weisse Mühle)

(Hardenbergufer 59) Right on the Ruhr – and only a few minutes away from the Folkwang University of the Arts’ main building – is the White Mill, officially opened in 2003. After extensive restoration of this historic building, the tuition spaces for the Musical Theater course are now to be found in this former corn mill.

You can reach the White Mill from the Folkwang University of the Arts by crossing Brückstrasse, turning into Heckstrasse, then continuing straight ahead to Hardenbergufer.