Formal Analysis: Hermann Lange House
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Dr. Josef Esters and Hermann Lange, both directors of the Union of Silk Weaving and close friends, commissioned Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to construct two neighboring private houses and gardens between 1928 and 1930 in Krefeld, Germany. Hermann Lange was an established collector of modern art and had many connections within Berlin. It is likely that he gained the contact of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at the Bauhaus where Lange would have learned basic technical skills such as weaving and dyeing at the specialized textile school. As a result, the director of the Bauhaus at the time, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, was commissioned to employ his architectural language to combine the conventional space of an industrialist’s residence with a new architecture. As of now, both these homes are owned by the German city of Krefeld where they have been repurposed to act as exhibits and local art museums for contemporary art (and only open to the public during such events).
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The Hermann Lange house, which sits adjacent to the Ester property, consists of unadorned red-brick boxes that are offset and interlock with one another. Large windows stand throughout the home enabling views of the landscaped garden. Although not identical, the Ester and Lange homes balanced each other with their geometric designs and building material of backed brick. Within this building and especially in the open-plan interior, Mies creates a new and innovative approach to designing an interior and exterior space that brings harmony to each other.
While the exterior of the Hermann Lange house consists of red brick, this structure is actually one of the first modern buildings where the use of brick was no longer essential to the construction of the building. Instead, the baked-brick stucco exterior walls and façade creates a monolithic effect. Even though the entire interior structure was never fully realized, the inside is similar to the interlocking exterior. Within the modern upper middle-class home, Mies was still able to design with a conventional layout plan included detached living areas, lockable doors, display cabinets, and sideboards. While Mies van der Rohe typically designed single floor residential buildings, he incorporates various floors and levels to the Lange House. Mies accomplished this by planning low supporting walls, where part of the garden was aligned with the terrace level. Another remarkable feature of the Hermann Lange house was its park-like garden. Since the plans for the garden itself have been destroyed, only art historians have been responsible for deducing a theory of its layout. Nonetheless, when analyzing the layout of the property it becomes clear that though the building is sectioned off from the public by strategically placed plants and groups of trees, there are stepped terraces to allow for access from the living space to the gardens and onto the street. Mies designed the garden, from its paths and flower patterns, to resemble the continuity of interior and exterior spaces. When entering the property, the long driveway bordered by mirroring shrubs on both sides directs the viewer’s sight towards the terrace before focusing on the uniformity between the and home and grand lawn. The trees and shrubbery also act similar to a backdrop working to frame the landscape. Even nearly 100 years after its creation, the Hermann Lange house is a paradigm of architectural modernism as a result of Mies’ ability to capture a bright interior that is both spacious and transparent.
The structure is supported by a steel frame, thus allowing for the minimal decorative stucco like brick façade and large holes cut in to allow for large windows. The hidden steel framed cantilevered balconies and canopies support the heavy looking brickwork. Mies was intrigued by the aesthetic aspects of the building, as evidenced by these large open windows. However, there was some pushback to this design, especially from Mies’ friend and static load expert, Ernst Walter. Walter argued that these early uses of steels must be carefully calculated and rely on precise configuration as opposed to stylistic choices. Ironically, though it is not noticeable to the viewer, there is a clash between the structural components and the aesthetic exterior. At the time of its construction, it was believed that to allow for sufficient air and light the building should be only detached or semi-detached. Perhaps Mies was influenced by the work of De Stijl in terms of transitioning away from the emphasis of a structurally engineered style and towards a more fluid and open work. Some traditional architectural design was incorporated in Lange’s house by Mies van der Rohe but appears that his intention was to inject the modern Bauhaus style as evidenced by the clear geometrical form. Similar to the landscape, the large stretches of grass, straight paths and flower beds follow simple architectural concepts, reflecting the unity of the outer and inner spaces.
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While Mies van der Rohe specialized in various types of building projects, I believe that he was successful in this residential home as he fused the architectural rhythm of the building with its surrounding spaces including nature. With the use of large picture windows, and the seclusion from the streets provided by the woods, there is a powerful connection between the interior space and the outdoors. Although there are various separated rooms, Mies creates a sense of fluidity inside the home which is reflected by the free and open garden. The entrance leads to the largest and most significant room of the building, the circular flowing living hall space that acts as the nucleus of the home. In addition, the repetitious large windows, terraces, and shrubbery covered paths guide the viewer’s perspective to two scenes: one view of the geometric landscape and the other of the well-proportioned Hermann Lange building leaving the client with a sense of tranquility.
- Davies, Colin. “Key Houses of the Twentieth Century.” Google Books, Google, 17 Oct. 2006, books.google.com/books?id=GdIbk8X4HTEC&pg=RA1-PR9&lpg=RA1-PR9&dq=hermann%2Blange%2Bhouse&source=bl&ots=-Zsw-4MD0v&sig=ACfU3U1KbRuDUa7sayAwnEa4Z6YoWVsNng&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjujMKO2sDnAhViUN8KHac4D2AQ6AEwFHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=hermann%20lange%20house&f=false.
- Dyck, Schloss. “EUROPEAN GARDEN HERITAGE NETWORK.” EGHN, 2018, wp.eghn.org/en/haus-ester-haus-lange/.
- “H. Lange House by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe at GreatBuildings.” GreatBuildings, 2013, www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/H._Lange_House.html.
- “Lange House: Esters House.” Grand Tour of Modernism, www.grandtourofmodernism.com/sites/details/94/.
- “Lange & Esters House - Data, Photos & Plans.” WikiArquitectura, en.wikiarquitectura.com/building/lange-esters-house/.
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