Lange House | Esters House
Bauhaus on the Lower Rhine: The Lange and Esters Houses in Krefeld combine the rather conventional spatial programme of an industrialist’s residence with the style of the New Architecture. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe built the two private houses in 1930 using the architectural language of the Bauhaus, where he became director in the same year.
Even in the early years of the art school, Bauhaus students came to Krefeld to learn the technical basics of weaving and dyeing at the specialised textile schools there. A circle of reform-oriented industrialists knew how to use the contacts to their advantage. Josef Esters and Hermann Lange, two progressive textile manufacturers, commissioned Mies van der Rohe to build their private homes on two neighbouring properties. Each of the two houses, whose siting is perfectly attuned, comprises a set of unadorned boxes that are offset and interlocking. Large windows, some of which can be lowered to disappear beneath the floor, pierce the masonry façades of red brick. While the buildings are closed off to the street, stepped terraces at the rear open the living space out into the park-like gardens.
The interiors designed in collaboration with Lilly Reich were only partially realised. Much like the exterior forms, the box-like interior spaces also interlock. Mies integrated display cabinets and sideboards into the wall, but otherwise the rooms remained sparsely furnished. The houses nevertheless both have the conventional layout of a home for the upper middle class, with lockable doors and separate living areas. For Mies van der Rohe, this was a compromise that he made only reluctantly – he had advocated an open spatial concept and wanted to liberate the interior from a traditional spatial arrangement.
The two houses were not the only buildings Mies van der Rohe would design for the Krefeld textile manufacturers. Hermann Lange, in particular, was an influential backer of his architecture, having recommended or directly commissioned Mies for a total of eight projects, including the factory building for the Vereinigten Seidenwebereien (United Silk-Weaving Mills) and a flat in Berlin for his daughter. Lange House and Esters House are now used by the Kunstmuseen Krefeld as exhibition venues for contemporary art. [DB/DK]