Steinberg, Herrmann & Co. Hat Factory
The former Steinberg, Herrmann & Co. hat factory, an expressionist industrial building, is one of Erich Mendelsohn’s most important designs. The plant began operations in 1923, making it one of the pioneering works of the New Architecture movement. It became the symbol of Luckenwalde thanks to the distinctive roof structure of the dyeworks, which is reminiscent of a stylised hat.
Luckenwalde, a town about 50 kilometres south of Berlin, had been one of the most important centres of German hat manufacturing since the mid-19th century. As part of the merger of two family businesses, a new industrial complex was built here, consisting of four production halls, a boiler and turbine house, two gatehouses and the dyeing hall. With it, Mendelsohn proved that even a purely functional building is entitled to beauty. With rigorous symmetry, he created a unity between the functional production process and a built organism that was thoroughly composed in every detail.
The elongated structure of the dyeworks, which is also known as the “Mendelsohn hall”, has an almost sacred presence. The hall of roughly 10,000 m2 is divided into four bays that are spanned by peaked roofs with skylights. The shaft-like roof structure contained a modern ventilation system that exhausted the fumes from the dyeing process to the outside. In between, the space spreads out to its full extent without interruption by walls or additional supports. The materials used – reinforced concrete, glass and wood – were unusual and innovative for the time, and the factory was also state of the art in terms of production technology.
In the mid-1930s, the National Socialists appropriated the buildings to produce ammunition here. To avoid becoming the target of air raids, the eye-catching hat of the dyeworks was demolished. After the war, the former hat factory first served as a repair hall, then as a factory for rolling bearings. After the demise of the GDR, the complex lay idle and increasingly fell into ruin. Between 2006 and 2011, the plant was finally rebuilt and its characteristic roof cap was restored. Today, the industrial plant is listed as a historic monument and is known as the Mendelsohn hall. [DB/DK]