There is still a special ambience that reigns within the walls of the old historic rooms of bath "Luitpoldbad" in the German spa town in the Bavarian region of Lower Franconia "Bad Kissingen". It is a unique place where once kings and emperors took their bath. Even after decades of vacancy and extensive repairs, many historical areas of the building complex have retained their special atmosphere. The measures went hand in hand with the Office for the Preservation of Monuments and protected the building ensemble from deterioration. Today, the bathhouse serves as a workplace for public authorities.
- Gerhard Grellmann / Rainer Kriebel / Christian Teichmann
- Free State of Bavaria - Zentrum Staatbäder Bayern, Bad Steben
- Gerhard Hagen Fotografie
One of the largest in Europe
The bath Luitpoldbad is one of the historic spa buildings of Bad Kissingen in Lower Franconia. A bourgeois joint-stock company had it built between 1868 and 1871 as a single-storey, U-shaped three-wing complex open to the north with corner and central pavilions according to plans by the architect Albert Geul in the architectural style of the Neo-Renaissance. Heinrich Hügel added a two-storey Kursaal to the complex between 1878 and 1880, which today houses the Bavarian Casino Bad Kissingen. At the end of the 19th century, the Bavarian royal house acquired the building complex. At that time, the demand from bathing guests was so great that Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria had a second storey added and extended to the two side wings from 1902 to 1906. With a length of 140 metres and a width of 80 metres, the bath was one of the largest facilities of its kind in Europe.
But over time the demand for a bathhouse diminished, the Luitpoldbad was closed at the end of the 1980s and stood empty for about 25 years.
Expertise in heritage desired
It was a long way before the authorities could move in, because time had left its mark. At the beginning of 2013, the Würzburg architectural firm Grellmann, Kriebel, Teichmann was awarded the contract for the conversion planning after a Europe-wide call for tenders.
Reconstructed, restored and awarded
The two historic cast steel staircases by Joly Wittenberg of the Vestibüle presented a special challenge: The entire cast-iron stair construction was restored and partially reconstructed. Firlus remembers: "We noticed that a great period cast-iron construction was to be found under a plaster facing and decided to have the cut-off balusters recast on the basis of a 1905 catalogue. This allowed us to restore the original impression of the room." For this achievement, the Luitpoldbad was awarded the silver medal of the Bavarian Monument Prize 2018.
Today, the staircases also impress with their stained glass skylights and create a very special atmosphere. The historic stained glass skylights also underwent cleaning and restoration before being reinstalled under an aluminium protective glass roof. The Art Nouveau stained glass of the southern corner pavilions in the form of twelve leaded glass round arch windows is now restored behind heat protection and safety glazing. Furthermore, it was possible to preserve terrazzo floors from the period of construction, satin-finished wooden-glass doors, rabbets and vaulted ceilings, some of which were secured with stainless steel suspensions.
Crumbling plaster and repainting
The plaster surfaces in the interior had suffered over the decades and showed cracks and flaws. The first step was to remove old emulsion and oil paints. In the two large and representative staircases, for example, there was a beige paint. Here, the monument conservation insisted on preserving the historic plaster from 1870.
"But because some areas of the plaster did not have sufficient adhesion to the masonry and were in danger of coming loose, we injected a restorative strengthening agent here," explains restorer Harald Straßburger from the executing company Fuchs + Girke, a specialist company for monument conservation from Saxony. Then larger defects were plastered and the surface as a whole primed with KEIM Soliprim. "This was followed by a thin layer of KEIM Dolomitspachtel, into which we inserted a fleece for reinforcement, and finally applied the paint," explains the expert. Beforehand, restorer Stefan Lochner carried out a colour survey and found small parts of the original 1905 paint. The colours were then produced according to a sample axis and the walls and ceilings of the staircases were colour-coordinated with KEIM Biosil. In accordance with the historical findings, the two staircases are now dominated by different shades of green. "All in all, this complex work took over a year," recalls the restorer.
Some of the plaster on the sandstone facade was also in a bad condition. Christian Firlus explains the procedure: "We were able to hold some of the softened plaster, which had been applied in several layers, by covering it with a reinforcing fabric. Unfortunately, there were also areas of plaster that we could not hold at all, because the plaster had become so detached from the masonry that we had to remove it completely. In some places, three to four square metres of plaster were missing. The craftsmen then finished the repaired and reworked plaster surfaces with KEIM Granital.
We chose KEIM Granital as an emulsion silicate paint for the facade because the old paint also contained parts of an emulsion. It was mainly used where we found facade areas in partial areas that still had load-bearing plaster layers - only with flaws and cracks - and could be repaired with the product in various colour shades. In total, we treated about 6,000 square metres of facade area with KEIM Universalputz and finished it with KEIM Unikristalat as well as KEIM Granital."