View from the garden
|Location||Brno, Czech Republic|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Ludwig Mies van der Rohe|
|UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|Criteria||Cultural: (ii), (iv) |
|Inscription||2001 (25th Session)|
Villa Tugendhat is a historical building in the wealthy neighbourhood of Černá Pole in Brno, Czech Republic. It is one of the pioneering prototypes of modern architecture in Europe, and was designed by the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Built of reinforced concrete between 1928 and 1930 for Fritz Tugendhat and his wife Greta, the villa soon became an icon of modernism.
The free-standing three-story villa is on a slope and faces the south-west. The second story (the ground floor) consists of the main living and social areas with the conservatory and the terrace, and the kitchen and servants' rooms. The third story (the first floor) has the main entrance from the street with a passage to the terrace, the entrance hall, and rooms for the parents, children and the nanny with appropriate facilities. The chauffeur's flat with the garages and the terrace are accessed separately.
Mies' design principle of "less is more" and emphasis on functional amenities created a fine example of early functionalism architecture, a groundbreaking new vision in building design at the time. Mies used a revolutionary iron framework, which enabled him to dispense with supporting walls and arrange the interior in order to achieve a feeling of space and light. One wall is a sliding sheet of plate glass that descends to the basement the way an automobile window does. Mies specified all the furnishings, in collaboration with interior designer Lilly Reich (two armchairs designed for the building, the Tugendhat chair and the Brno chair, are still in production). There were no paintings or decorative items in the villa, but the interior was by no means austere due to the use of naturally patterned materials such as the captivating onyx wall and rare tropical woods. The onyx wall is partially translucent and changes appearance when the evening sun is low. The architect managed to make the magnificent view from the villa an integral part of the interior.
The cost was very high due to the unusual construction method, luxurious materials, and the use of modern technology for heating and ventilation. The lower-ground level was used as a service area. An ultra-modern air-conditioning system was here and a glass façade that opens completely assisted by a mechanism built into the wall. The floor area was unusually large and open compared to the average family home of the period, which, in addition to the various storage rooms, made the structure unique if not confusing to visitors not used to such minimalism.
The villa was commissioned by the Jewish German Fritz and Greta Tugendhat. The construction company of Artur and Mořic Eisler began construction in the summer of 1929 and completed it in 14 months. Fritz and Greta Tugendhat enjoyed just eight years in the villa before fleeing Czechoslovakia with their children in 1938 (including philosopher Ernst Tugendhat), shortly before the country was dismembered following the Munich Agreement. They lived in Switzerland, and they never lived in the villa again. It was confiscated by the Gestapo in 1939 and used as an apartment and office; its interior was modified and many pieces disappeared. It suffered considerable damage during combat at the end of World War II and later, when it served as quarters and stables for the Soviet military. It was partially repaired and used for various purposes (for example as a children's physiotherapy center) for several decades after World War II.
Greta Tugendhat returned to the villa in 1967 with a senior architect from Mies's Chicago studio and explained the original design to him, and a group of Czech architects set out to repair it. It was inscribed on the National List of Cultural Heritage in 1969 and restored after 1980. On 26 August 1992, Václav Klaus and Vladimír Mečiar, the political leaders of Czechoslovakia, met there to sign the document that divided the country into the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. Since 1994 the villa has been open to the public as a museum administered by the city of Brno.
In 1993 the Villa Tugendhat Fund and Friends of Tugendhat were formed to preserve the villa. In 1995 Brno received a $15,000 grant to pay for preliminary research from the Samuel H. Kress European Preservation Program, part of the World Monuments Fund. The International Music and Art Foundation, based in Lichtenstein, pledged $100,000, because a trustee, Nicholas Thaw, was also a trustee of the World Monuments Fund. The Robert Wilson Foundation matched the $100,000. The villa was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001.
In 2007 the Tugenhadts' heirs applied for the restitution of the villa, citing a law covering works of art confiscated during the Holocaust. The reason for this application appears to be frustration over the failure of the municipality of Brno to carry out vital restoration work due to the deterioration of the concrete used in construction. Entire sections of the interior were missing. Later, parts of the original wood panelling were found at Masaryk University, a building used by the Gestapo as their Brno headquarters.
The villa was a principal location in the 2007 film Hannibal Rising, serving as the villa of the villain, Vladis Gutas. Simon Mawer's 2009 Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, The Glass Room, is a fictional account of a house inspired by the villa.
Reconstruction and restoration started in February 2010 with estimated costs of 150 million CZK (approximately EUR 5,769,000; US$7,895,000). This reconstruction finished in February 2012 and the villa was reopened to the public in March. To celebrate the villa's restoration, the Royal Institute of British Architects launched 'Villa Tugendhat in Context', an exhibition in London giving a visual history and a record of the recent renovation through the testimony of three generations of photographers.
There is Art Nouveau Greta's family Löw-Beer Villa (now a branch of the Museum of the Brno Region) in the neighbourhood, which will present an exhibition The World of the Brno Bourgeoisie around the Löw-Beers and Tugendhat.
- Courland, Robert. Concrete Planet. Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY. (2012) page 326.
- The Structure Villa Tugendhat.
- THE COMMISSIONERS, http://www.tugendhat.eu/en/the-commissioners-.html
- Alice Rawsthorn: "Reopening a Mies Modernist Landmark", in The New York Times, 24 February 2012
- Sarah Boxer (21 August 2004), Mies Villa, Jostled by History, Is in a Race Against Time New York Times.
- "Před 20 lety Klaus s Mečiarem dohodli rozdělení Československa" [20 years ago Klaus and Mečiar agreed the division of Czechoslovakia]. Czech Radio. 26 August 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
- Vaughan, David (5 July 2010). "Simon Mawer talks about The Glass Room". radio.cz. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
- TS Brno (2 February 2010). "Ve vystěhované vile Tugendhat začne rekonstrukce". ČT24 official website (in Czech).
- Dieter Reifarth, Haus Tugendhat, 116 minutes, 2013
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