On my recent visit to Düsseldorf, Germany, I could not stop my nerdy lawyer self from visiting the Administrative Court of Düsseldorf (Verwaltungsgericht Düsseldorf). The Administrative Court in Düsseldorf is the court of first instance in administrative matters and handles all kinds of non-constitutional public law matters. Examples include disputes over building permits, access to public institutions and public welfare, education, municipal ordinances and fees, protection of the environment, civil service matters, nuisance caused by public facilities, project planning, and similar matters.
The Administrative Court in Düsseldorf is the biggest administrative court in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and one of the biggest administrative courts in Germany. Currently, the court employs around 100 judges as well as 83 other employees and civil servants. In addition, there are around 300 honorary judges that participate in court decisions.
The Administrative Court of Düsseldorf is housed in the “Stahlhof” building (steel building). The “Stahlhof” was built from 1906 until 1908 and is listed on the Register of Landmarks of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia according to the Landmark Protection Act of North Rhine-Westphalia. It was built by the German architect Johannes Radke who also designed the German pavilions for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and for the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900.
In 1904, the “Steel Works Union Stock Corporation” (Stahlwerksverband), a syndicate of German and Luxembourg iron and steel firms, selected Düsseldorf as their administrative seat. At the time, the Steel Works Union controlled almost the entire steel production in the German Empire and Luxembourg. The impressive “Stahlhof” building was perceived as a monument to the power of the steel industry. The floor plan forms a rectangle that measures 80 x 60 meters (263 x 197 feet). The building incorporates both Art Nouveau and Gothic elements. It was constructed with fireproof material and only precious materials like red sandstone were chosen for the front facade.
During World War I, the building served as a coordination center of the “German Steel Syndiate” (Deutscher Stahlverband) for iron and steel shipments for the German military. In January 1923, French and Belgian troops entered the German Ruhr region and French troops seized the “Stahlhof”. The general staff of the French army was housed there until August 1925. After the end of World War II, it served as a command center for the American and British Occupation Forces. The British Occupation Forces remained there until 1958. The British Regional Commissioner for the North Rhine province, William Asbury, took his seat in the “Stahlhof”. The deliberations culminating in the passage of Ordinance No. 46 on August 23, 1946, which created the autonomous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, were held in the “Stahlhof”.
In 1971, the Administrative Court of Düsseldorf moved into the “Stahlhof” building.