Old post office in Pirmasens: a new look - in time-honoured fashion

Pirmasens 2012. The former premises of the postal bus service, which had stood empty for decades, are now being transformed into the 'Forum Alte Post'. The interior of the building, set to host cultural events in future, is currently being gutted and renovated. As part of the renovation work, the façade is to be restored to its former glory. The focus will be on the elaborate frieze dating back to 1893, which was designed and produced especially for the building by Villeroy & Boch's ceramics experts in the same year.

As part of the façade’s restoration, the 50-cm high frieze is to be reconstructed directly below the eaves as a filigree highlight of the building. A total of 33.40 running metres and 16.70 square metres have to be restored and supplemented. Large sections of missing mosaics will need to be renewed due to the extensive damage caused to the building during the war. Thankfully, the original artwork from the order book is still held in the Artefactur archive, thus providing a perfect solution for the task.

Back in 1893, Villeroy & Boch was entrusted with extraordinary commissions, as documented in the original order-book entry for a façade frieze bearing a post horn, lion and telegraph. In addition to this handy document for restoring the 16.70 square metres mosaic, the original colours may also still be found in the archive, meticulously documented according to the colour numbers, which remained unchanged until production ended.

Prior to the first assembly stage in August 2012, Artefactur specialists went on site to assess the state of the mosaic and the background’s quality. They concluded that the areas affected by rear leakages, dirt and fissures had to be attended to, and most importantly, the entire floating had to be removed and replaced with a new version which had a greater load-bearing capacity. This would be the only way of creating a high-quality foundation for the mosaic’s subsequent restoration.

Most of the old mosaic tiles were made in the 1 x 1-cm format commonly used in 1893. In subsequent years, the standard format dimensions increased to 2 x 2 cm. As a result, the restorers now have to reproduce the tiles one by one and then cut each of them to their original format by hand. And this is no mean feat, because each square metre of the 50 cm x 33.3 m façade is made up of over 15,000 tiles, meaning that a total of over 250,000 tiles are required for the purpose!

Furthermore, to be able to affix the individual motifs, fine clay cones have to be made. These serve to define the outlines of the individual mosaic patterns and highlight the individual elements. Finally, the tiles made of unglazed porcelain stoneware, combined with Italian glass mosaic tiles, will make it possible to recreate the historical motifs in a delicate floral design.

An enormous amount of logistical preparation is needed to be able to faithfully reproduce the frieze on site. To help the laying process, batches of 250,000 mosaic tiles will be arranged into 40 x 50 cm panels and stuck together with adhesive film. These panels will be numbered consecutively and delivered gradually on the construction site, together with a precise layout plan. This practical and convenient service will really ease the task for the partners in Pirmasens.

The façade of the “Alte Post” Pirmasens cultural centre is given a facelift to mark the 250th anniversary of the city. The carefully restored façade adds a renewed splendour to the historical work of art.

Contracting entity
A City of Pirmasens project, mostly funded by a special bequest from a private individual.