The History of the Flora Köln
The story of the Flora Köln is a reflection of the eventful history of the last 150 years. The original building was officially opened on 14th August 1864, with a grand ball, concert and firework display: a palatial conservatory made of cast iron and glass, designed by the Cologne architects Max Nohl and Joseph Felten. The architectural design was inspired by the Crystal Palace in London and by the Jardin d'Hiver in Paris, with Arabian and Moorish style elements as well as Romanesque round arches and hints of the renaissance. The project was financed by patrons from the upper levels of the city’s bourgeoisie, among them the well-known Cologne banker Eduard Baron von Oppenheim. In 1862 a company was founded under the name “Actien-Gesellschaft zur Anlage eines Botanischen Zier- und Lustgartens”. Six months later the Flora KG was set up with the approval of the Prussian King Wilhelm I, and his wife, Queen Augusta, assumed the protectorate of the Flora.
The building is located in the heart of the actual Flora, an extensive, symmetrically-arranged garden, laid out by Peter Joseph Lenné in the so-called "mixed German garden style", and includes elements of the French and the Dutch baroque, the Italian renaissance and the English landscape style. In the 19th century, the park and building were frequently used as exhibition grounds: in 1875 and 1888 horticultural exhibitions were held, in 1889 an industry exhibition and in 1906 the "German Art Exhibition". The park was enlarged between 1912 and 1914 to become the Botanical Gardens, with greenhouses for tropical and subtropical plants and orchids. Both sections were combined in 1920 to form a park covering 28 acres.
The entire gardens - and also the Flora – suffered extensive damage during the 2nd World War. The financial resources required for reconstruction in the former style were lacking and, therefore, a decision was made in favour of a more pragmatic solution: a tiled hip roof replaced the former barrel roof made of glass and the outer towers were provided with small spires. The façade remained largely unchanged.
In 1978-79, the building was completely restored and thus became an attractive banqueting house. Parts of the old constructions were thereby revealed once again – for example, the cast-iron columns in the historic large hall – and as a result, the Flora was given back a reminder of the good old days. As the entire Flora represents an important legacy of the social and horticultural history of Cologne, in July 1980 it was added to the city’s list of protected monuments.
At the beginning of 1988, a start was made on the "restoration" of the gardens which were reopened to the public with a grand festive event in March 1988 - their 125th anniversary – in the new "old" style. In 1995 the ancillary rooms of the Flora were renovated and the catering areas extended to include the Park Salon as well as the Bistro.
In June 2006 the Council of the City of Cologne decided to transfer the operation of the Flora to the municipal subsidiary company KölnKongress. Following initial renovation and redevelopment measures, the "Flora Köln“ presented itself with a new logo and the familiar quality service of KölnKongress.
Since May 2009, no further events have been held in the Flora. As a result of considerable structural defects in the historic building, the Council of the City of Cologne decided on the temporary closure of the Flora and in June 2011 on the general renovation of the Grade II listed building based on the historical plans. The total budget was 36 million Euros. The work of the individual trades was opened to tender throughout Europe, the actual renovation began in November 2011. K + H Architekten from Stuttgart were commissioned with the planning and supervision of construction, project management and control were handled by the Real Estate Management Department of the City Cologne.
In June 2014, the Flora Cologne was officially re-opened according to plan. 2014 is a year which, with two anniversaries, is a simply natural time for a celebration: on 14 August 1864, in other words, 150 years ago, the Flora was opened, in 2014, the Botanical Garden is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
As part of the restoration - based on the original plans - the Flora Köln has once again been given its crossed barrel roof, whose highlight is the newly-created elegant rooftop lounge with its inviting roof terrace. In addition, the historical dimensions of the stylish Festsaal (800 sq.m.) have been restored through the uncovering of the existing cast elements. In the new glazed annex, the Bistro, the Orangerie and the Parksalon - all with views of the grounds of the Botanical Gardens - offer space for individual event formats. Among the most important changes include the creation of a spacious main entrance with an attractive foyer for outstanding receptions. Special attention was paid in the renovation to environmental and social standards. The desire for a "healthy" feel-good atmosphere was satisfied with plenty of daylight and dimmable LED lighting. In addition, there are excellent acoustics, an air-conditioning system which is adjustable for the individual rooms and high-quality event technology which satisfied the latest requirements. In addition, the highest standards of barrier-free construction were perfectly implemented in the Flora.
Following its renovation, the Flora Köln is the perfect location for meetings, concerts and social events in Cologne. Whether gala event with 650 guests, meeting and conference events or wedding parties with family and good friends - the Flora Köln offers the ideal setting for any Event.