Christo, Wrapped Floors, 1971 (collage)
|MUSEUMS HAUS LANGE AND HAUS ESTERS
The two villas that make up Haus Lange and Haus Esters are one of the architectural highlights of New Building in Germany, and even today they give a truly impressive sense of the Bauhaus idea: the unity of space and subject, together with the interaction between spirit and craftsmanship.
In 1927, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) presented his clients Hermann Lange (1874-1942) and Josef Esters (1884-1966) with an initial ground plan. Mies van der Rohe had just completed his work at the Deutscher Werkbund exhibition "The Appartment" in Stuttgart (Weissenhof Estate); in 1929 he was to be responsible for the so-called Barcelona Pavilion, an exhibition space for Germany at the World Exposition in Barcelona. Haus Lange and Haus Esters assume an interim position between the rational, geometrical approach to space that Mies took with his apartment block in Stuttgart and the open space concept behind the Barcelona Pavilion.
The fabric of the brick villas is supported by countless steel carriers, most of which are set vertically in the floors on the first storey. These are not, however, autonomous steel frames, even if the brick skin does not in itself have any support function. Individual cubic units seem to be fitted together like boxes, with individual segments of space interlocking inside. Viewed from the street, the buildings seem fairly self-contained and compact. But from the rear the cubic elements can be seen to be stepped, consisting of ever-increasing volumes going from the narrowest side in the west to the widest in the east. Beneath the likewise geometrically arranged terrace is a garden in which large stretches of lawn and an old tree population create a natural, park-like impression. Large window fronts, which were made possible by the steel carriers, open up the brick constructions to their outdoor surroundings and allow the light to flood into the rooms from the south and west.
In his first draft in 1927, Mies van der Rohe had far more radical ideas for the two houses and intended to have a more open ground plan than was finally the case. In a letter from Hermann John, one of Mies van der Rohe's assistants, we read: "I was with Herr Esters and Herr Langner yesterday in Guben (Haus Wolf in Guben, built by Mies van der Rohe in 1927). Both men were full of enthusiasm, but cannot be stirred from their resolve that the individual rooms must be separated by doors."
In accordance with his clients' wishes, Mies van der Rohe provided Haus Lange and Haus Esters in part with closed-off rooms - but without sacrificing any of the modern impetus in his designs.
Over and beyond the actual building, Mies van der Rohe and his partner at that time, the designer and decorator Lilly Reich (1885-1947) also saw to the interior design. The floors are made of walnut or oak and the window embrasures and radiator covers - likewise made of walnut or oak - are still preserved. Glass display cabinets and dressers (nowadays concealed) were set flush with or two-thirds of the way into the walls. A flexible wooden wall in Haus Lange allowed the dining area to be separated from the hall. The details extended to the overhead lights, the door handles and the cupboard knobs. The picture rails all along the walls demonstrate even today that the former owners, Lange and Esters, were themselves contemporary art collectors and hanged paintings in their rooms. Both Hermann Lange and Dr. Josef Esters were directors of Verseidag, a combine comprising several textile companies from Krefeld. Hermann Lange was also a member of the Deutscher Werkbund and actively supported the efforts of Friedrich Deneken (1857-1927), the museum director at that time, to bring together art, craft and commerce. It was through the Berlin gallerist Carl Nierendorf that Hermann Lange got to know Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1927. Three years later, in 1930, the two buildings were complete.
In 1955 Haus Lange - followed in 1981 by Haus Esters - started to be used by the Kunstmuseen Krefeld as a contemporary art space. In 1966 Ulrich Lange (1905-1972), the son of the original client, generously donated his house to the City of Krefeld, allowing it to became a permanent location for contemporary art in Krefeld.
Following a private initiative by a number of residents in Krefeld and backed by the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, the two houses underwent extensive refurbishment in 1998 and 2000. Two years later the gardens were by and large returned to their original state, as conceived by Mies van der Rohe, under the aegis of the "Euroga 2002+" project. Today works by Ludger Gerdes ("Ichs", 1989), Richard Long ("Turf Circle", 1969/70), Ulrich Rückriem ("Granite", 1985) and Richard Serra ("Elevations for Mies", 1985) brighten up the small park. Also located in the lawned areas in front of the houses are works by Claes Oldenburg ("Cross-Section of a Toothbrush with Paste", 1981-1983) and David Rabinowitch ("Metrical (Romanesque) Constructions in 5 Masses and 2 Scales VI", 1977/78). The utility yard at Haus Esters also contains the bronze "Woman” (2000) by Thomas Schütte, and Lawrence Weiner's text "SPANNUNG GENUG / EINEN STEIN ZU HALTEN / ÜBER DEM RHEIN" (ENOUG TENSION / TO KEEP A STONE / ABOVE THE RHINE) (1985) over the entrance to the same house.
The museums Haus Lange and Haus Esters are open for temporary exhibitions. Both houses remain closed between exhibitions.