Flora can look back upon an eventful history. The original building was designed by Cologne architects Max Nohl and Joseph Felten. Their work was a palatial conservatory in cast iron and glass and offered an architectural reminiscence of the Crystal Palace in London and by the Jardin d’Hiver in Paris. The construction project was financed by patrons from the upper levels of the bourgeoisie of Cologne. In 1862, a company was founded: ‘Actien-Gesellschaft zur Anlage eines Botanischen Zier- und Lustgartens’. Shortly thereafter, Flora KG was set up with the approval of the Prussian King Wilhelm I. His wife, Queen Augusta, assumed the protectorate of the Flora.
Magnificent opening and further development
14 August 1864 marked the official opening of the Flora, accompanied by a large ball and a concert that included fireworks. The building is situated in the heart of extensive, symmetrically-arranged botanical gardens that were laid out by Peter Joseph Lenné in what is known as the ‘mixed German garden style’ and features elements of the Baroque, the Renaissance and the English landscape style. During the years that followed, the park and building were used as exhibition grounds: Horticultural exhibitions were held there in 1875 and 1888, along with an industry exhibition in 1889 and the ‘German Art Exhibition’ in 1906.
The park grounds were enlarged between 1912 and 1914 to become the Botanical Gardens, featuring greenhouses for tropical and subtropical plants and orchids. Both sections were joined in 1920 to create a park spanning 28 acres.
The entire garden grounds – along with the building – were extensively damaged during the Second World War. With the financial resources required for a faithful reconstruction lacking after the war, a tiled hip roof was installed to replace the former barrel roof made of glass, and the outer towers were topped with spires. The façade, however, remained largely unchanged.
In 1978-79, the building was completely restored and became an attractive banquet facility. Portions of the old structures were brought back to light, such as the cast-iron columns in the historic large hall. This brought a touch of the good old days back to Flora once again. As an important part of the heritage of the social and horticultural history of Cologne, in July 1980 Flora was added to the city’s list of protected monuments.
This was followed by restoration of the gardens. To mark their 125th anniversary, with a grand festive event in March 1988 the gardens were reopened to the public in their ‘old’ style.
In 1995, the ancillary rooms of the Flora were renovated, and the catering areas were extended to include the Park Salon as well as the Bistro. In June 2006, the City of Cologne transferred operation of the Flora to the municipal subsidiary company KölnKongress, which organised events there through May 2009. Due to structural defects, Flora had to be closed temporarily. In June 2011, the Council of the City of Cologne voted for the general renovation of the listed building based on the historical plans. The total budget for the project was 36 million euros..
Reopening in original splendour
In June 2014 – which was exactly 150 years after the opening in 1864 – Flora Köln was officially reopened; the Botanical Gardens also celebrated its centenary at the same time.
As part of the general restoration, Flora Köln has regained its crossed barrel roof, a highlight of which is the newly-created elegant rooftop lounge with its inviting roof terrace. The historical dimensions of the stylish festival hall (800 sqm) were restored by uncovering the existing cast-iron elements. In the new glazed annex, the Bistro, the Orangerie and the Parksalon offer space for individual event formats.
During renovations, special attention was paid to environmental standards, and to social standards such as barrier-free construction. Plenty of daylight and dimmable LED lights create a feel-good atmosphere, and the air conditioning throughout the building ensures the right feel-good temperature. The high-quality event technology meets state-of-the-art requirements, with acoustics that are perfect in every room.
Not just since its renovation, the Flora Köln is considered a fine location for meetings, concerts and social events in Cologne. Whether a gala event with up to 650 guests, a meeting and conference event or a wedding party with family and friends – Flora Köln offers the ideal setting for any event.