Konrad Wachsmann House
Konrad Wachsmann wanted to bring about nothing less than a “turning point in construction” with industrially prefabricated building components. As chief architect of the construction firm Christoph & Unmack, Wachsmann dedicated himself to improving the production of wooden houses, both technically and aesthetically – which he achieved in exemplary manner with the house in Niesky.
The director’s residence was part of the company-owned housing estate. Built of solid timber walling, the cubic building stands out due to its modern formal language inspired by the Bauhaus. Each of its sides is designed differently. Wachsmann played skilfully with contrasts between symmetry and asymmetry, and between open and closed surfaces. Large windows interrupt and articulate the rigorous, blackish-brown façades. In contrast to the simple exteriors, the surprisingly bright interiors convey a sense of liveliness. Strong, coordinated colours emphasise the zoning and the diversity of the rooms.
The heart of the house is an airy hallway, with its distinctive blue and red stair that leads to an open gallery on the upper floor. This gallery, in turn, gives direct access to the bedrooms for the parents and the children. The ground floor has the more public spaces, including a study, a music room and a dining room; all three have sliding doors that enable them to be opened variously to one another. The chimney occupies the middle of the space like a pillar. Facing the garden, the façade opens out and generously sized windows mark the transition onto the terrace.
Because of his Jewish ancestry, Wachsmann had to leave Germany during the Nazi era. In 1941 he emigrated to the USA, where, with Walter Gropius, he established a company for prefabricating wood houses. The significance of Wachsmann’s House in Niesky as an outstanding example of industrialised timber construction was not rediscovered until much later. The city bought the building in 2005 and restored it from 2011 to 2014. Reflecting its status as a historic monument, the intense colours of the interiors were also brought back to life. Today, as the “Konrad-Wachsmann-Haus” Forum, the building is used as an exhibition space and research centre for timber construction. [DB/DK]