A residential block, houses with barns, garages - and in the middle of it all the old town council building and the dilapidated restaurant Löwen. The centre of Mels was more reminiscent of a backyard than a village centre. The municipality therefore decided about 10 years ago that a new village centre should be built. The vision of the mayor of the municipality, Guido Fischer, was to strengthen Mels step by step from the inside out: "The living room of Mels should become attractive and worth living in again for the inhabitants of Mels and the visitors". The desire for a place for meetings, culture and social exchange was huge. At the same time, a building was to be created that would do justice to the strongly developed club life. Both the Konkordia music society and the Mels gymnastics club regularly achieve top results in competitions.
Instead of a patchwork of measures, the municipality opted for an overall solution: the old buildings were demolished and a new town hall with a large forecourt was built. The centrepiece is a new Culture and Congress Centre, which bears the name of the Melser stone Verrucano. It is an imposing building made of certified Swiss wood, reddish Verrucano stone and brass. "The wood and warm colours radiate homeliness despite the modern architecture. Thanks to the durable materials, a timeless building has been created for future generations," says Fischer. The building was designed by Raumfindung architects from Rapperswil. Around three quarters of the work was carried out by companies from the Sarganserland-Werdenberg area.
The Verrucano has four rooms of different sizes and two dressing rooms for artists. The centrepiece is the “Löwensaal”, which can be used as a concert or theatre stage, but also for company anniversaries or local exhibitions. According to the planning, the programme includes a performance by the comedian Kaya Yanar, the New Year's Concert of the St. Gallen Symphony Orchestra and the Night of the Musicals. The almost square "Ragnatsch" hall is the fixed rehearsal room of the music society Konkordia Mels. The "Runggalina" hall is suitable for smaller seminars, lectures and banquets thanks to its fixed screen and beamer. The hall can also be used as a backstage room to complement the large Lion Hall or as a preparation room for a gala banquet. The smallest hall, named Gafarra, has a magnificent view of the village centre and is therefore particularly suitable for dance and choir rehearsals or yoga and Pilates classes. The hall is also an official wedding venue.
The trapezoidal concert hall offers unique room acoustics due to its geometry, room proportions and materialisation. The rear walls were equipped with specially developed wooden strips for good sound distribution. The surfaces increase the sound level in the back of the hall without generating disturbing echoes. So-called diffusers, composed of wooden elements with different depths, spread the sound evenly. The side walls are additionally equipped with rotating wall fronts with different acoustic effects. In the closed position they are sound reflecting, rotated sound absorbing. In all halls there are acoustic windows, special curtains and acoustic ceilings with holes. "Nowhere else in Switzerland is there a stage that is so acoustically equipped as the Verrucano," says managing director Eva Maron. The halls could be used not only multifunctionally, but also in parallel, thanks to the good noise insulation. In addition to the acoustics, the individually controllable lighting ensures a pleasant feeling of space at every occasion.
The Verrucano managing director Eva Maron became aware of the planned Verrucano Culture and Congress Centre by chance. The Swiss actress, known among others from the German action series "Die Wache" or "Cobra 11", originally found her way from the big city to Sarganserland because of the project "Uptown Mels". The project involves the conversion of the former spinning mill on the mountainside of Mels into an exclusive residential development with a glass inclined lift into the village. Eva Maron enthusiastically praises the unconventional living space: "It is very inspiring to live in such a quarter steeped in history. I also really like the idea of conversion.
Mels is strategically well situated for Eva Maron with the motorway connection to Chur, St. Gallen and Zurich. But even more important to the actress is the wide range of cultural activities on offer in the village. The St. Gallen-born actress quickly made the connection to the old Mels cinema, which eventually brought her to the attention of the planned Verrucano and the vacant position as manager. "This is exactly the kind of job I was looking for! I began to get to know the project and was immediately hooked. Eva Maron immediately recognised the potential of the Culture and Congress Centre and contributed ideas as to how the cultural centre could make money with commercial events and gastronomy in addition to club events: "Culture costs, we have to be aware of that", emphasises Eva Maron. The building has an immense charisma and can send cultural impulses far beyond the Sarganserland. The municipal president of Mels nods approvingly: "With her passion, her acting background and her entrepreneurial thinking, Eva is the perfect person to fill the position.
The Corona pandemic prevented a big opening ceremony of the Verrucano. The premises were blessed in the smallest circle. During the "Melser Gwundertage" from 21 to 31 October, the inhabitants have the opportunity to get to know their new cultural site with a special protection concept. "Of course we would have preferred to open this unique building with kettledrums and trumpets, but this way we can at least open our doors", explains Eva Maron. The first concerts, weddings and meetings have already taken place in Verrucano. Eva Maron personally works out a suitable corona protection concept for each one: "Thanks to the halls of different sizes and their separation by corridors and separate entrances, protection concepts can be optimally implemented and there is no need to do without culture even in these extraordinary times".
The local mayor of Melsen, Guido Fischer, is very satisfied with the development of the new village centre. "The business in Verrucano has started and the town hall square is attracting more and more people". On the mild summer evenings, the tables of the Traube restaurant were always fully occupied. "That reminded me of holidays in Italy", smiles Guido Fischer. But the renewal of the centre of the village of Mels is far from complete. In addition to the Traube restaurant, Verrucano is soon to open a public bistro. Something is also happening under the town hall square: the Mels Wine Growers' Co-operative has moved its production to the town hall cellar. In addition to the new production facility, sales outlets for wine and other Mels products and a further bistro are to be built. At the same time, the meeting zone in the village centre is to be extended. On the inner ring road, a speed limit of 30 km/h and priority for pedestrians is to be introduced. "When the inhabitants see the new village centre as their new living room and Verrucano is perceived as the new lighthouse in the Sarganserland-Werdenberg region, then my goal will be fulfilled".