Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in Villa Tugendhat in February 1931, photograph: Fritz Tugendhat
Nestled into a hilltop on the outskirts of the medieval Czech market town of Brno, is Mies van der Rohe’s 1929 Villa Tugendhat, an icon of modernist architecture. The streamlined, glass-fronted house is one of the earliest and most important the architect designed.
On the 1st of January 2010 Villa Tugendhat closed to the public. The Villa is undergoing thorough restoration work with the aim of preserving and conserving the original building. Scheduled to reoopen in March of 2012, there is much to celebrate. The process of renewal will include not only repairs to the building, but also all of the interiors and the gardens. ”Tugendhat Villa, the house that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe built for Grete and Fritz Tugendhat on a hill in Brno, Czechoslovakia, in 1930, is famous for its open, flowing plan, its retractable window wall and its plush modern materials.” Fortunately, this historic home will now live on for years to come, preserving history, and providing opportunity to experience the work of this modern master in all of its original glory.
Given the history of this structure, it is incredible that it still stands. “History and also historic preservation have nearly destroyed the building. In 1930 the Tugendhats, a Jewish family with woolen factories in Brno, moved into the house. Eight years later, they moved out, fleeing the Nazis. The Gestapo confiscated the house in 1939, and various Nazi functionaries took up residence there. In April 1945 the house was looted for its furniture and for its famous interior fittings. (Mies designed everything from the hardware on the doors to the plumbing fixtures and the floor vents, part of his radical air-conditioning system.)”
Main living area, 1930s
This finish work in this home is being painstakingly restored. The simplicity of the space is balanced by luxe finishes, and exquisite detailing. “The main floor has an open plan, broken up only with free-floating screen-like walls of ebony and onyx and eight free-standing chromium-clad columns. One wall is a sliding sheet of plate glass that descends to the basement the way an automobile window does. When it is retracted, nothing stands between the house and the open air. Travertine steps lead to a garden in the back, which plunges down a hill.” “The most prominent feature of the ‘flowing’ living area was the grand seating arrangement in front of the onyx wall and the dining room demarcated by the half-cylinder from Makassar ebony. The interior could be connected up with the garden through suspension of the two large window panes. The office with the library and the adjoining winter garden was behind the onyx wall. Behind the ebony curved wall was a seating area next to a wall from milk glass which could be lit up. ” Every moment of experience was considered in the design, and carefully executed. Everything was custom. From the doorknobs, to the light fixtures, and of course the iconic Mies furniture, visiting Villa Tugendhat restored, will provide a most unique opportunity to take a step back in time. What a privilege.
To learn more about this important restoration, and see images of each step of this historic project visit http://www.tugendhat.eu/en/villa-tugendhat.html