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Restoring Mies's Villa Tugendhat

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Most home renovations don’t require trips to New York’s MoMA to look at original construction plans. But when you are working on one of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s best preserved buildings no stone is left unturned. In March, his Tugendhat Villa in Brno, Czech Republic, reopened after an $8.8 million, two-year reconstruction. Using family photographs, archival material, visiting Mies’ other buildings in the U.S. and Europe, the Tugendhat redesign team focused on, as Villa Director Iveta Cerna said “identifying authenticity.”

The Villa, built in 1930, was the family home of the Tugendhats only until 1938 when they fled the country due to World War II. Fritz and Greta Tugendhat worked closely with Mies, who designed the site-specific building to make excellent use of steel, glass and concrete, and flowing spatial srrangement. The building was not well maintained under communism. Many of the original furnishings and other elements went missing and structural work needed to be done. Work included removing things added in the years after the Tugendhats had left, as well as hunting down original furniture, and when those couldn’t be found painstakingly making exact copies. The result is a renewed near-perfect example of one of Mies’s “space must be felt” creations.

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    Photo by: David Židlický

    Photo by: David Židlický

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  Mies designed the house to fit the land on which it was sited. Here, the living spaces face southwest to take full advantage of the extensive garden and sunlight. Two of the three large windows drop down to open the living and dining rooms to the outdoors.  Photo by: David Židlický
    Mies designed the house to fit the land on which it was sited. Here, the living spaces face southwest to take full advantage of the extensive garden and sunlight. Two of the three large windows drop down to open the living and dining rooms to the outdoors.

    Photo by: David Židlický

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  Grete’s bedroom, like most of the other rooms in the Villa, now holds a mix of original and exact replica furnishings. Cerna says it was often difficult to find craftspeople that still have the knowledge necessary to work with the materials and style from the early part of the 20th century.  The room, along with daughter Hana’s room, has access to the terrace.  Photo by: David Židlický
    Grete’s bedroom, like most of the other rooms in the Villa, now holds a mix of original and exact replica furnishings. Cerna says it was often difficult to find craftspeople that still have the knowledge necessary to work with the materials and style from the early part of the 20th century. The room, along with daughter Hana’s room, has access to the terrace.

    Photo by: David Židlický

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  Fritz Tugendahat’s desk boasts a rosewood veneer. The Moroccan onyx wall is one of the house’s best elements. When sun shines in, the honey-colored hues glow. The other side of the wall is the main living area and to the right is the library.  Photo by: David Židlický
    Fritz Tugendahat’s desk boasts a rosewood veneer. The Moroccan onyx wall is one of the house’s best elements. When sun shines in, the honey-colored hues glow. The other side of the wall is the main living area and to the right is the library.

    Photo by: David Židlický

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  The building’s wraparound terrace is now filled with the same kinds of plants as when the family lived there in the 1930s. Cerna says they hunted down the original carpet manufacturer and bought vintage pieces from them.  Photo by: David Židlický
    The building’s wraparound terrace is now filled with the same kinds of plants as when the family lived there in the 1930s. Cerna says they hunted down the original carpet manufacturer and bought vintage pieces from them.

    Photo by: David Židlický

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  Fritz’s bedroom, located on the entrance floor, was spaced between his wife’s room and their shared bathroom. The rooms are startlingly stark; no art or other decorative elements, which is keeping with Mies’s restrained design philosophy.  Photo by: David Židlický
    Fritz’s bedroom, located on the entrance floor, was spaced between his wife’s room and their shared bathroom. The rooms are startlingly stark; no art or other decorative elements, which is keeping with Mies’s restrained design philosophy.

    Photo by: David Židlický

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  The furnishings used here were made from a lighter, brighter zebrano veneer compared to the darker rosewood  found in the parents’ rooms. The furniture in both children’s rooms was designed child-sized, with one “grown-up” chair for the governess.  Photo by: David Židlický
    The furnishings used here were made from a lighter, brighter zebrano veneer compared to the darker rosewood found in the parents’ rooms. The furniture in both children’s rooms was designed child-sized, with one “grown-up” chair for the governess.

    Photo by: David Židlický

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  The Tugendhats’ living room flows into the dining room. The curved macassar wall in the background partitions off the family dining room. This wall is one of the reconstruction’s biggest success stories. During World War II it was moved to the Gestapo’s local headquarters and thought to be gone forever. One member of the local design team discovered it in a nearby university cafeteria; it was then painstakingly restored and placed back into the home.  Photo by: David Židlický
    The Tugendhats’ living room flows into the dining room. The curved macassar wall in the background partitions off the family dining room. This wall is one of the reconstruction’s biggest success stories. During World War II it was moved to the Gestapo’s local headquarters and thought to be gone forever. One member of the local design team discovered it in a nearby university cafeteria; it was then painstakingly restored and placed back into the home.

    Photo by: David Židlický

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  The furniture pieces are exact copies of the prototypes originally made by Mies. The green chairs are the famed “Barcelona” ones while the silver are called “Tugendhat.” Here you can also Mies design unified the interior furnishings with the exterior detailing of the home.  Photo by: David Židlický
    The furniture pieces are exact copies of the prototypes originally made by Mies. The green chairs are the famed “Barcelona” ones while the silver are called “Tugendhat.” Here you can also Mies design unified the interior furnishings with the exterior detailing of the home.

    Photo by: David Židlický

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  Here’s the upper terrace with doors leading from Grete and Hana’s bedrooms. Even Mies’s deck furniture is austere, although steel and concrete are more fitting in the outdoors. Villa Tugendhat was the last house Mies built in Europe and is also a showcase for many of his original furniture designs.  Photo by: David Židlický
    Here’s the upper terrace with doors leading from Grete and Hana’s bedrooms. Even Mies’s deck furniture is austere, although steel and concrete are more fitting in the outdoors. Villa Tugendhat was the last house Mies built in Europe and is also a showcase for many of his original furniture designs.

    Photo by: David Židlický

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