dancing with architecture: The Bruder Klaus Field Chapel (Germany)

When I put together the itinary for our European vacay, I looked for a stop every hour during drive times. Needing a stop between a Mies van der Rohe and a (forthcoming) Gropius, we ventured off the Autobahn for this nifty little sanctuary just outside of Antweiller west of Bonn. The Bruder Klaus Feldkapelle (The Brother Klaus Field Chapel) was built by a local farmer using 120 tree trunks to create an inner void around which concrete was poured. Once the concrete dried, the farmer slowly burned out the interior logs over three weeks, creating the final chapel. 

The chapel is dedicated to the Swiss Saint Nicholas von der Flue, also known as Brother Klaus. Appropriately, the farmer hired the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor to develop the design.

photo from wikiarquitectura

This was a lovely stop in the quiet German countryside to see an amazing and somber piece of contemporary eclesiastic architecture. 

if you go

The chapel is located here. You can drive up to the chapel's path, although you'll see people walking out of town to the chapel (we assumed these were folks taking buses to visit the quaint town. 



dancing with architecture: Mies van der Rohe's Lang and Esters houses, Krefeld, Germany

"That looks like the school I went to for 1st grade!" yelped a friend when she saw a photo of this house. More correctly, her school looks like this house!

In the late 1920s, Josef Esters and Hermann Lange, friends and executives at a textile factory in Krefeld, Germany, commissioned Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to design and build houses for them on adjacent lots on the then outskirts of town. Built between 1927 and 1930, the two houses capture the Bauhaus style through the eyes and hands of Mies. Having worked as a bricklayer, Mies developed a deep appreciation for brick and expertly employed it with these houses.

The houses evoke his iconic concept for a brick country house (1924) as well as the Wolfe House (1925-7; destroyed during WWII). However, unlike the concept, these houses, as with the Wolfe House, Mies was not able to realize floor to ceiling glass: "I wanted to make [these houses] much more in glass, but the client[s] did not like that." Nonetheless, the windows are still enormous, affording ambitous views of ample gardens. In addition, both houses sported switches that, when activated, lowered certain windows completely into the underlying wall, an anxious detail that was more famously noticed on the Tungenhaut House (1928-30). Mies also promoted a design with no doors: an open floorplan with cascading rooms. But that was also too avante garde for the executives.

Although visually similar, the houses are different to meet the varied needs of each owner. Lilli Reich worked with Mies to design the interior and the furniture.

Mies' 1924 concept for a brick country house.

Mies' 1924 concept for a brick country house.

The town of Krefeld has used Haus Lange since 1955 and Haus Esters since 1981 as art museums, deeply appropriate since the original owners were art collectors. Sadly, we were there during a change of art displays; therefore, we were not allowed to see the interiors beyond forlorn gapes inside from the lawns. Nonetheless, this was a good stop to stretch our legs and enjoy an early Mies van der Rohe.

If you go:

Krefeld Museum

The grounds are open to the public (at least, we were not shoo'd away!). There did not appear to be a time requirement.

Haus Esters

Haus Lange

An additional house on the property: Pre-existing caretakers house? Superintendant's house?

I found the following photos of the interior on Pinterest:

Lilli Reich designed the oak radiator covers in seen here in front of the windows.



Starlight Village

An article popped up in last Sunday's Austin American-Statesman about this nifty little development northwest of Austin in Leander, Texas. Starlight Village, consisting of 29 houses of Mid-Century Modern design, is being developed by a retired air force navigator and his wife (blessed are the airplane people who love Modern). Construction has just started.

It's a sweet development. The designs encompass the best of Modernism: big windows, clean lines, open living areas, honest materials. It's an interesting development in that it seems to be pitched to winter Texans: the home-owners association takes care fo the grounds and outside of your house while you are away for months at a time.

One interesting glitch in the article is reference to this being the first all-MCM development since back in the day, interesting in that there are two developments like this in Austin: Sol and Agave (not to mention others across the country). Nonetheless, this is a cool development for developments. I hope they are a rip-riaring success!