Mies van der Rohe’s Restored Tugendhat Villa, A Bauhaus Icon and One-Time Nazi Outpost, Reopens to the Public
After a Nazi occupation, a stint as a stable for the Russian Army's horses, and a two-year, $9 million renovation, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Bauhaus masterpiece, the Villa Tugendhat in Brno, Czech Republic, has been restored to its original shining, minimalist glory, and is now ready for the public.
The minimalist gem has had a long and tumultuous history, having served almost as a model, in miniature, of the events that shaped the Czech Republic. Van der Rohe built the house in 1930 for Jewish industrialists Fritz and Grete Tugendhat. The wealthy couple gave van der Rohe the freedom to exercise his “less is more” aesthetic: a simple and clean white exterior, and a flat roof supported by an iron framework rather than walls, which allowed him to wrap the exterior in glass. The vast, 2,691-square-foot interior, is interrupted by very few wass and filled instead with natural light streaming in from the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out towards Brno castle. It's filled with furniture designed by van der Rohe, and features a beautiful honey-coloured onyx wall that changes from orange to dark red as the setting sun moves across it.
Unfortunately the Tugendhats were only able to live in that Bauhaus paradise for eight years before having to flee the country during World War II. The Tugendhats never returned to their home, which passed through the hands of the Nazis, who used it as Gestapo headquarters, and then later the Red Army, which used it as a horse stable. It later served as a dance school, a rehabilitation center, and the venue for 1992 negotiations between Vaclav Klaus and Vladimir Meciar, the Czech and Slovak prime ministers, respectively, before UNESCO added the buildng to its list of World Heritage sites in 2001.
The resulting disrepair has been corrected over a two-year process involving $9 million and a few strokes of good luck. An original bathtub that had gone missing in the 1940s was found in a home nearby, while the original German company that provided the floor's white linoleum in the '3os was tapped for the project once again. An estimated 80 percent of van der Rohe's original villa remains, making it one of his most authentic remaining works in Europe. Villa Tugendhat opens to the public on March 6.