Some people may find north Germany bleak, but its beauty is undeniable. Few exhibition spaces express its unique atmosphere so eloquently as the Carlshütte, a former iron foundry operated by the first manufacturing company in the dukedoms of Schleswig and Holstein. Opened in 1827 and closed in 1997, this site in the town of Büdelsdorf is an impressive industrial monument. With its historical buildings, the colossal foundry halls, the extensive park with its old trees and an exhibition café, the Kunstwerk Carlshütte has developed over the years into a very special place for exhibitions, concerts, readings, theatre performances and film screenings.
Since 1999 the NordArt has established itself as one of the largest exhibitions of contemporary art in Europe which takes place anually in the summer months. The NordArt is an overall work of art in its own right and is designed as such each year. More than 200 international artists, selected by a jury, present a comprehensive panorama of contemporary art. Each individual work not only speaks for itself but also creates new perspectives when seen juxtaposed against the unique backdrop offered by the Carlshütte and the adjacent historical sculpture park.
Enter the virtual tour to explore the sculpture park and the halls of the Carlshütte.
Principal curator of NordArt: Wolfgang Gramm
Senior Curator of NordArt: Inga Aru
Hosts of Kunstwerk Carlshütte: Hans-Julius Ahlmann and Johanna Ahlmann
The Kunstwerk Carlshütte is a nonprofit cultural initiative of the internationally active ACO Group and the towns of Büdelsdorf and Rendsburg (Kunst in der Carlshütte gGmbH).
Venue: Kunstwerk Carlshütte, Vorwerksallee, 24782 Büdelsdorf, Germany
Exhibition area: the former Carlshütte foundry (22,000 sqm), the ACO Wagenremise (400 sqm) as well as the park (80,000 sqm) and public places of the town of Büdelsdorf.
Since 2011, also the Orchestra Academy of the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival (SHMF) is at home at Kunstwerk Carlshütte - in the specially converted rehearsal and concert space “ACO Thormann Hall” that can accommodate audiences of up to 1,200. NordArt and the Festival are not only good partners, who both foster the worldwide network of artists, they also forward the crossover between fine arts and music. Since 2015 the concerts take place also in the Carlshütte in the middle of NordArt.
The large estate in Rendsburg/Büdelsdorf in Schleswig-Holstein supplied Rendsburg Castle with agricultural products from the 14th century onwards. The first industrial development in the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein took place here in 1827 with the establishment of the Carlshütte iron foundry. When this industrial operation finally closed in 1997, Hans-Julius Ahlmann, Managing Partner of the internationally active ACO Group, took over the grounds with its enormous foundry halls and the historic housing and commercial properties.
The Carlshütte Foundry established in 1827 by the merchant Marcus Hartwig Holler (1796 – 1858) was the first industrial operation in Schleswig and Holstein, and the first foundry in the State of Denmark to which the two duchies belonged at the time. By 1835, the Carlshütte Foundry was producing items including stoves, steam engines and agricultural machinery. A reminder of this time is the white bridge with the cast iron railings which still crosses the pond on the Blutbuche within today’s sculpture park. The bridge was cast in the Carlshütte in 1834. The Ahlmann family became increasingly involved starting in 1883, initially under the management of Johannes Ahlmann (1851 – 1939), who built up the workforce to a total of 1100 employees in 1909. The Carlshütte was the largest foundry in northern Germany at the time.
Josef-Severin Ahlmann (1924 – 2006) launched his company Ahlmann & Co. in 1946 for the production of concrete construction elements and windows: on the left, the listed university church in Kiel, for which ACO produced the honeycomb-shaped window elements. The first drainage channels were produced in the 1960s. ACO’s activities extended beyond the borders of Germany for the first time in the 1970s with the innovative ACO DRAIN polymer concrete line drainage system. ACO today is one of the world market leaders in drainage technology.
After the death of Julius Ahlmann in 1931, his widow Käte (1890 – 1963) took over as managing director. Käte Ahlmann expanded the business so that there were up to 2500 employees at times (1957) who enjoyed huge success with the production of stoves and enamelled cast iron bath tubs in particular. She founded the “Association of German Business Women” in 1954 (Verband deutscher Unternehmerinnen, VdU) where she acted as president for many years, and was also an executive board member of the European association “Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises Mondiales”. In this function, she met political celebrities of the time including Ludwig Erhard and Theodor Heuss. To celebrate her 70th birthday, she set up a foundation to support the Decorative Cast Iron Museum in Büdelsdorf in 1960.
The ACO Academy which opened in 2007 represents the modern face of the ACO Group. With a showroom and a wide-ranging programme of events for employees, clients and users, the ACO Academy stands for the technical and personal exchange of ideas and further education. ACO today is present in over 40 countries, and has production sites on four continents. The company employs 4,800 people world-wide. The Carlshütte Business Park was developed by ACO on the site of the former Carlshütte foundry, and boasts a total area of 60 hectares for industry, logistics, trade and commerce. The former foundry halls of the Carlshütte have now become the “Kunstwerk Carlshütte” – an art and culture centre which attracts more than 100,000 visitors every year.