Das Mies van der Rohe Haus (Landhaus Lemke, 1932/33) ist ein Kleinod der klassischen Moderne. Mit wandgroßen Terrassenfenstern öffnet sich das Haus zur Parklandschaft am Obersee. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe hat mit dem Haus für den Druckereibesitzer Karl Lemke einen Ort geschaffen, der eine besondere Atmosphäre hat: Die klare und auf das Wesentliche konzentrierte Architektur verbindet Mensch und Natur in einer geistig-ästhetischen Art und Weise. Hier wird der Besucher angeregt, alles bewusster wahrzunehmen, sowohl das Detail in der Nähe als auch die Landschaft und den Himmel in der Ferne. In der Einheit von Architektur, Natur und Kunst liegt die Stärke der heutigen Bestimmung des Hauses als Raum für die Kunst. Künstler und Künstlerinnen werden eingeladen, in ihren jeweiligen Ausstellungen auf das Besondere des Ortes einzugehen. So vermag die Kunst die Architektur zu beleben und an ihr immer neue Saiten zum Klingen zu bringen. Das Mies van der Rohe Haus ist ein Kunstraum an dem man Bildung, Erholung und Kontemplation erleben kann.
The Mies van der Rohe Haus (Landhaus Lemke, 1932/33) is a gem of classical modernism. With this house, built for printing works owner Karl Lemke, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe created a place emanating extraordinary atmosphere. Ceiling-to-floor terrace windows open the space to the Obersee park landscape. The clear architecture – reduced to the essential – unites man and nature both aesthetically and spiritually. Visitors find themselves drawn both to the details of the immediate surroundings as well as to the distant landscape and sky. The building’s strength lies in its harmonious fusion of architecture, nature, and art and finds appropriate expression in its current use as an exhibition space. The uniqueness of Mies van der Rohe’s creation inspires artists to integrate it into the design of their exhibitions. In this way, art animates the architecture, resonates with it and brings ever new aspects of it to the fore. The Mies van der Rohe Haus is a not only a space for art, but also a place for learning and contemplation.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), along with Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Gropius, is one of the most important architects of the 20th century. He was the director of the Bauhaus at the time the Lemke House was designed and built. This private home for Lemke and his wife was Mies’s last project before emigrating to America in 1938. Mies professes his love of brick here, choosing a very simple, shaded red brick to create a refined surface that is both beautiful and lively. The house demonstrates Mies’s genius for using a minimum of material to produce maximum quality in order to satisfy the needs of modern living. To quote Mies, “It is important not to confuse simple with simplistic”. Haus Lemke was an important step in Mies’s quest for “truth” in architecture.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed the Landhaus Lemke in 1932. Various preliminary designs, some of them for two stories, finally evolved into an L-shaped floor plan, in part due to financial considerations. An application for a building permit was submitted to authorities in Weißensee in 1932 and construction began in August of that year. By the following March, the house was certified for occupancy and Karl and Martha Lemke lived there until 1945. In October of that year the home was seized by the Red Army and converted into a garage. From the 1960’s until the fall of the Berlin Wall, the East German secret police used the home for various purposes such as a laundry storage area, a kitchen, and as janitor’s living quarters, all of which necessitated a number of renovations and modifications to the house and garden. In 1977 the house was declared a protected landmark by the East Berlin Magistrate. During the time of political upheaval and reunification in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, a local citizens’ initiative in the former GDR succeeded in placing the house under the jurisdiction of the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen district (today Berlin-Lichtenberg). The house was later opened to the public and its use was tailored to contemporary needs. From 2000 to 2002, a complete and landmark-worthy restoration of the house and garden was carried out according to historic plans.
Karl and Martha Lemke, a married couple without children, asked Mies to build them a “small and modest home” that, “on nice days, could extend out to the garden.” Karl Lemke owned a graphic arts firm and a printing company in Mühlenstraße in the Berlin Friedrichshain district. Karl Lemke’s companies often worked for museums, art institutions, and artists. The quality of “Lemke printing plates” had a good reputation. As a businessman, Karl Lemke knew how to put his home to good effect – he loved modern architecture and used it to cut a good figure socially. He held receptions for business customers on the house terrace, using the painterly scenery of the Obersee lake as a backdrop. Karl Lemke was also an art enthusiast and his estate included a small collection of fine paintings as well as a collection of watches. The furniture from the Lemke House estate was acquired almost in its entirety by Berlin’s public museums.
Mies’s architectural studio conceived the Lemke Haus’s original furnishings. Mies van der Rohe designed the pieces together with Lilly Reich, his colleague and companion at the time. The study and the bedroom were exclusively furnished with their designs. The living room, however, included older pieces the Lemke’s had brought with them. Mies and Reich outfitted the house entirely with wooden furniture and not with the Mies designed steel tube furniture as suggested in historical photographs by the Thonet company from 1933. A single type of wood was used in each room: satinwood was chosen for the wall-sized closet and double bed in the bedroom while the writing desk ensemble, the book shelves, and a square table in the study were made of Macassar ebony. Additionally, some of the furnishings were upholstered with yellow pigskin parchment, including the double bed, the desk chair, the men’s arm chair, and a sitting stool. The furniture from the Lemke estate is on view at the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) in Berlin.
The planning of the garden was overseen by the office of horticulturalist Karl Foerster in Potsdam-Bornim. Foerster’s business partner Herta Hammerbacher incorporated existing structural elements and vegetation from the previous garden into the new design. The principal arrangement, however, was based on a concept drafted by Mies. The Lemke garden functions as a transition zone that connects the house to the Obersee lake and park landscape beyond. The garden’s design stands in dialogue with the shape of the home, gradually joining the house grounds with the surrounding landscape. The transition from the ground floor interior to the garden leads first to an adjoining level terrace and out to the surrounding, informally landscaped lawn. This effect draws the interior of the house even closer to the landscape than in Mies’s earlier projects. The house and garden complement each other with special accents intentionally added to underline the play of interior and exterior space. This strategy includes the walnut tree on the terrace which marks the center of the complex and also the hardwood Hornbeam trees that serve to extend the exterior house wall into the garden, tying together the interior and exterior space.