Garden City Hellerau
Hellerau, located in the northern part of Dresden, was Germany’s first garden city. It was created, beginning in 1909, based on the English model. The furniture manufacturer and Werkbund co-founder Karl Schmidt planned to create a housing estate alongside his new “Dresdner Werkstätten für Handwerkskunst” (Dresden Workshops for Crafts). Influenced by the idea of social reform, he wanted to unite living with work, culture and education. The architects and Werkbund members Richard Riemerschmid, Hermann Muthesius and Heinrich Tessenow were just some of those whose designs were built.
Endowed with ample space and greenery, the new housing development was to provide an alternative to crowded living in the city. With his plans, Karl Schmidt was following the idea of the British reformer Ebenezer Howard, who, in 1898, had developed the garden city model as a way to counteract the poor conditions in England’s rapidly growing big cities.
As an experimental testing ground for modern urban planning, Hellerau featured different types of residential typologies and styles. Richard Riemerschmid designed the master plan, with its clearly structured neighbourhoods and generously dimensioned curving streets. He also designed the workshop buildings, the shopping centre on the market square and the terraced houses with standardised small dwelling units. They were rural in character, with mullioned windows, coloured shutters and half-timbering. More small dwellings, a school, various ancillary buildings and a villa district with about 20 country houses followed, built according to plans by Muthesius, Tessenow and other architects.
In 1934, a group of houses along the street Am Sonnenhang was presented to the public as a showground whose name, “Die neue Zeit”, proclaimed “the new age”. Wilhelm Kreis, Oswin Hempel and Eugen Schwemmle designed the wooden houses, whose appointments were manufactured in the workshops, in accordance with Wilhelm Jost’s overall plan for the model development.
In 1911, Heinrich Tessenow built the Hellerau Festival Theatre and adjoining teachers’ houses and student dormitories in the German reform architecture style. The educational establishment based there, the Bildungsanstalt für Rhythmische Gymnastik – an academy of eurhythmics – became a magnet for reform enthusiasts from all over Europe.
Hellerau was not a company housing estate, but a small town in the countryside where workers, businessmen and commoners lived together on a communal basis. Just a few years after its foundation stone was laid, the garden city already had nearly 2,000 residents. Once an independent suburb, Hellerau became a district of Dresden in 1950. As an important built testament to urban planning and design, it is protected as a historic monument. [KS/DK]
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Moritzburger Weg 69