VerSeidAG Dyeworks and Warehouse
The company buildings for the United Silk-Weaving Mills Corp. (VerSeidAG) in Krefeld (1931) were the last of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s projects to be built in Germany before he emigrated to the USA. With its white rectangular block form and elongated window bays, the so-called HE building (warehouse for menswear lining materials) still epitomises functional industrial architecture in the spirit of modernism.
Mies van der Rohe had already designed the private homes of the two textile manufacturers Hermann Lange and Josef Esters in Krefeld. They also commissioned him to design the new production and administration building – with dyeworks, storage spaces and offices. It remained the only factory building by Mies van der Rohe that was ever built.
Mies took a new approach for the industrial project: he turned away from traditional brick construction and designed a simple steel-framed structure with white rendered exterior walls, uniform, nearly floor-to-ceiling window bands, and a continuous brick base all around. The flush façade with no projections or recesses underscores the straightforward rectilinear character of the building.
The warehouse was built as a two-storey building with a basement, and the adjoining dyeworks had a sawtooth roof with four roof lights. In the stairwell, hard-fired bricks of different shades that vary from dark red and brown to blue and black echo the motif of the exterior base. On the upper floor, Mies established an open spatial concept with variable subdivisions and no fixed supporting walls.
In 1935, Mies van der Rohe was commissioned to expand the company premises. But due to sanctions imposed by the Nazis, he was forced to hand over the planning of all further buildings to his student Erich Holthoff, who nevertheless kept close to the original prototype for their basic geometric forms and flat roofs.
The property was severely damaged during the Second World War and not listed as a historical monument until 1999. The grounds are now the site of the Mies van der Rohe Business Park, where a private investor is giving the listed historic buildings new life by turning them into a home for pioneering companies while preserving the special character of the place. [DB/DK]