The residential buildings in the north of the city of Krefeld named after the Lange and Esters families were built between 1927 and 1930 for the two founders of the Vereinigte Seidenwebereien AG [United Silk Weaving Mills Ltd.]. The idea of commissioning Mies van der Rohe with the planning and construction of the homes was probably an initiative of Hermann Lange. The art-interested industrialist probably met the architect in conjunction with avant-garde art and the German Werkbund.
Mies van der Rohe occupied himself since the mid nineteen twenties with the “flowing spatial continuum” that is encompassed and structured by freestanding wall slabs. On the basis of this concept, he created his first masterpiece, the German Pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. At the same time as the Krefeld villas, he built Haus Tugendhat in Brno (now Czech Republic) between 1929 and 1930 in which he attempted to radically realize the ideal of modern living.
In the sense of “flowing space,” Mies van der Rohe likewise formed the interiors with wall slabs in his first plans for the Krefeld houses from the summer of 1927. He referenced a residence Mies built in 1927 for the family of the textile industrialist Erich Wolf in Gubin (now Poland), which Hermann Lange and Josef Esters visited during the beginning phase of the project. This open ground plan composition, however, did not correspond to the needs of Mies’s two Krefeld clients, so that the architect ultimately planed a more conventional means of defining the spaces. He retained the theme of the domineering and clearly visible interior wall slabs in numerous places on the ground floors of the two houses.
As opposed to the present image of the two houses together forming a closely tied ensemble of museums, a strict separation of the properties existed from the outset in the function of residential structures. This was not only formed through offset access doors with additional wire fence on the perimeter wall at Haus Esters but also through a two-meter high boundary wall extending out only a few meters towards the street and underlined a dense row of tall poplar trees on the side of Haus Esters. Today, the wall can only be traced between the outbuildings of Haus Lange and Haus Esters.
Nobert Hanenberg, Daniel Lohmann