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Lemke House

Berlin, Germany
1 of 11

This is the last building designed by Mies in Germany before he fled from the Nazis. In 1933, the Bauhaus was disbanded and the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the school's last director emigrated to the United States. The Lemke House, a residential building for Karl Lemke and his wife was his last commission before he left the country. The single-storey L-shaped complex' two wings surround a terrace plastered with sandstone. The building has a brick-layered facade, a flat roof and large windows which allow a view on the lake. The composition appears light, bright, simple and relatively modest. The couple requested a cost-effective design. The construction costs later amounted to 16,000 marks, which is equivalent to 61,000 euros today. Despite the tight budget, the architect succeeded in creating a timelessly beautiful building that picked up on the key features of modern Bauhaus architecture. Lemke House ranks as one of his important contributions to Berlin Modernist architecture, alongside the Neue Nationalgalerie, which emerged more than 30 years later.

The Lemkes only lived a short while in the house. They bought the house in 1933 and lived there for only about twelve years, as they had to surrender it to the Red Army in 1945. What followed was a period of misuse as both a garage and storage area. In 1962 the house came into the possession of the GDR Ministry for State Security, first as a residential building, later as a farm building. Despite its inclusion in the monument register in 1977, the building's structure deteriorated and funds were lacking for professional repairs.

Berlin Modernist Architecture

The overall appearance of the house is understated yet elegant. With its flat roof and clear forms, it stands out clearly from the neighboring residential buildings. Mies van der Rohe used contrast in his choice of materials: large glass surfaces were followed by reddish brown clinker brick walls. Transparency alternates with opaque, solid brickwork and creates exciting tension. In his architecture he followed the guiding principle of "less is more". For Mies van der Rohe, reduction and simplicity were the means to let the forms and materials speak for themselves.

Mies van der Rohe designed not only the house, but also a great deal of the furniture for the couple. Together with his spouse and work partner at the time, the designer Lilly Reich, the architect made cupboards, chairs, armchairs and beds - with each room featuring furniture made out of a different type of wood. Today the furniture can be found in the collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts at the Kulturforum.

The courtyard of the house serves as an extended living space, a transition from the inside to the outside. There are no steps, just as in Mies van der Rohe's design for the Villa Tugendhat in Brno. The architect also incorporated the surrounding environment to a greater extent. Mies van der Rohe's garden concept perfectly complements the residential idyll with a view over the park landscape around Obersee.

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krazin, March 9th, 2019
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