The Singing Drain Pipes of Kunsthofpassage – Dresden’s Best Kept Secret

    The Singing Drain Pipes of Kunsthofpassage – Dresden’s Best Kept Secret
    Last updated: August, 2019

    Have you ever heard of the Kunsthofpassage in Dresden? If you haven’t, don’t feel bad. It’s probably one of the best kept secrets of Dresden. A few years ago, as I was making plans for our trip to Germany, I stumbled upon a picture of it on Google. It was a very funny building with a big giraffe on the façade. All I could find out was that the building was from the Kunsthofpassage in Dresden. The picture looked very intriguing and seemed like a good photographic opportunity, so I decided to find out more. Unfortunately there was very little other information about it on the internet, so it took some work to discover this place.

    street in the student district in Dresden
    The Student District

    Where in the world is Kunsthofpassage?

    To find this place you have to know exactly where it is, since it’s not likely that you’ll stumble upon it. Kunsthofpassage is in Dresden Neustadt in an area that is known as the “student district.” More exactly, it’s between the Alaun and Görlitzer streets.

    Getting to the Kunsthofpassage from the city center is relatively difficult, so you should get a cab. The place itself is also hard to find because you can’t see it from the street. We almost missed it because we didn’t know what to look for or what to expect.

    Banner on Kunsthofpassage
    Banner of Kunsthopassage

    What to Expect at the Kunsthofpassage

    Kunsthofpassage is undoubtedly Dresden’s best kept secret. The passageway is actually a series of five small courtyards –not visible from the street– that were turned into an art experiment, called the Ginkgo project.

    A group of artists – sculptors and designers – took a bunch of old buildings and redesigned their façades, giving each building and courtyard specific motif and a theme of its own. They completed the project in 2001. 

    The “Courtyards” of Kunsthofpassage

    The Courtyard of the Elements

    The most bizarre and probably the most photographed of these buildings is The Courtyard of the Elements. The sketches for this building are the creation of artists Annette Paul, Christoph Rossner and André Tempel.

    The design is absolutely amazing: funnels and gutters cover the entire façade of this building, zigzagging around the windows and balconies. When the rain starts to fall, this colorful drain and gutter system turns into a charming musical instrument. Try to imagine these sounds during a heavy rainfall. Probably nobody in the building can sleep … 

    Courtyard of the Elements in Dresden's Student District
    Courtyard of the Elements

    The Courtyard of the Animals

    Another fascinating building at the Kunsthofpassage is in The Courtyard of the Animals. Here the green building façade is a huge display of wild creatures. You can see a herd of monkeys jumping over the head of a giant giraffe, from window to window. The giraffe is pulling a big cloth that seems to be covering the wall. The color of the wall is deep green, contrasting very nicely with the brown balconies made ​​of wicker.

    Courtyard of the Animals in Kunsthofpassage
    Courtyard of the Animals

    The Courtyard of the Light

    The one that I personally liked the most is the Couryard of the Light. A national designer competition for the building took place in 1998 and the winners were chosen by vote.

    The building façade displays some weirdly shaped metal mirrors that produce a variety of reflections, depending on the sun’s position. At certain times of the day, the metal mirrors cast a beautiful light. As a result, the otherwise shadowy courtyard gets some pretty good light during certain hours. 

    Courtyard of the Light in Kunsthofpassage
    Courtyard of the Light

    The Courtyard of the Mythical Creature

    The most colorful building of the Kunsthofpassage is The Courtyard of the Mythical Creature. Artist Viola Schöpe created here a very unique design, symbolizing the flow of life. The colorful figures on the façade are a combination of mosaic and sgraffito, made with ornamental tiles from Italy, Portugal and Meissen. 

    Courtyard of the Mythical Creature in Kunsthofpassage
    Courtyard of the Mythical Creature

    The Courtyard of the Metamorphoses

     The least eye-catching building of the Kunsthofpassage is The Courtyard of Metamorphoses, created by artist Arend Zwicker. Two 15 meter high metal pillars adorn the building façade, touching the wall at a single point. In the curved surface of the pillars there is some optical fiber that lights at night. Attached from the pillars there is a rope for the climbing plants.  On the wall to the right of the pillars, there are 24 different kinds of paper dipped in flex seed oil and framed in metal, hanging on the building façade. 

    The Court of Metamorphoses in Kunsthofpassage
    The Court of Metamorphosis

    What Else to Do at the Kunsthofpassage Besides Walking

    The “courtyards” are home to a number of small shops and cafes with a very relaxed atmosphere. You can stop here for a cup of coffee and a snack, after walking around.

    Kunsthofpassage is actually a residential area, so there is not much to do here, other than walking and taking photos. The rest of the student district area is also very picturesque, with lots of street art, many shops, sidewalk cafés, bars and restaurants. 

    I absolutely loved visiting the Kunsthofpassage! If you are in Dresden, you should take the time to visit this unique place. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

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