The architect and designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886 – 1969) realized Haus Lange and Haus Esters in the New Building style of the 1920s. Still a unique ensemble of structures based on the cube, they were constructed on a cleared area between 1927 and 1930. Mies van der Rohe’s artistic handwriting is unmistakable here. It is evident in the large window openings that enable a dialogue between the architecture and nature as well as in the well-balanced materiality encompassing such different types of wood as oak, walnut and Makassar ebony or the use of stones like brick and travertine that lend a warm personal character to the villas. The richly detailed technical and design aspects underscore the modernity of these two total works of art. The villas with their gardens have been protected historical sites since 1984; the garden house of the Esters family was additionally listed in 2007.
Typical building materials of the 1920s, for example the insulation material Torfoleum and numerous individual details and custom-made elements ranging from cabinet knobs to window hinges make the maintenance and preservation of this unique ensemble a continual challenge. Thanks to a private initiative of Krefeld citizens and the financial support of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, an extensive renovation of the two houses could be carried out for the first time between 1998 and 2000. In conjunction with the “Euroga 2002 plus” garden show two years later, it was possible to restore the gardens to a state closer to the way they were originally conceived by Mies van der Rohe.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was the last director of the Bauhaus, which opened in Weimar in 1919 as a new interdisciplinary educational facility. He assumed the directorship of the Dessau Bauhaus in 1930, the same year that the construction work on Haus Lange and Haus Esters was completed. These were increasingly difficult times for the Bauhaus. The school moved to Berlin in 1932 and was forced to close down a year later due to political pressure from the Nazis and a lack of funds.
The centennial anniversary of the Bauhaus in 2019 occasioned a renewed comprehensive renovation of Haus Lange and Haus Esters as well as the gardens and the garden house. The refurbishment work began in 2016 with the renewal of the heating system in the two buildings and the laying of a new water pipe to Haus Esters. The renovation measures had to be carried out in keeping with their status as protected historical sites. This required an extensive study of the available original source material and an examination of the building substance that was accompanied by the Rhineland Regional Association (LVR). The restoration was required to respect the original building substance. Aside from the municipal building management of the city of Krefeld, the overall measure was largely overseen by the firm of Wrede Architekten BDA, in Düsseldorf/Goch.
The general renovation of the garden house at Haus Esters took place in 2017 while the ongoing examination of the building substance was in progress. The wooden frame construction structure is an early example of a prefabricated house and was produced by the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau in Dresden. Josef Esters had it erected on the cleared area in 1923 and was still standing when Mies van der Rohe planned the villa and incorporated it into his concept for the garden.
The work largely involved the outfitting of the slate roof with new shingles and the modernization of the rainwater drainage system. The windows and doors as well as the original built-in cabinets, drawers and shutters were likewise refurbished. A pottery kiln set up in later years was removed in order to restore the original spatial impression. Along with the restoration of sections of the supporting structures and frameworks, the garden house was completely cleansed, treated against wood pests and lacquered with linseed oil paint.
The primary renovation measures began in early 2018 with the closing of the municipal museums in Haus Lange and Haus Esters. Work on the outer shells of the two villas proceeded for the most part as follows: The main roofs were waterproofed in part and the canopies at the entrances. The copper rainwater pipes, one of Mies van der Rohe’s central design elements, were replaced in the same material. In conjunction with the work on the façade, the shutters, windows and doors were serviced, repaired and lacquered in the original color as determined in the examination of the building substance. The banisters and trim molding covers were freshly recoated. Sections of the clinker façade were sparingly cleaned, the terrace and balcony more thoroughly and damaged stonework joints were refilled. As far as the interiors of the two villas are concerned, focus was placed on the public areas. The toilets, including the handicapped accessible facility in Haus Lange were modernized, bringing them in line with present-day standards. The walls and ceilings received a fresh coat of paint and the wood surfaces of the doors and the built-in units were treated with lacquer.
The parquet flooring is of central important for the overall impression made by the spaces and its original substance was to be preserved. However, there was a risk that polishing would damage the veneered surfaces. For this reason an alternative treatment was sought that would be gentler to the substance. After various attempts, a suitable solvent was found with which the surface lacquer could be removed so that the floor could be refurbished. The restored parquet was subsequently freshly oiled and waxed.
Along with the renovation of the villas themselves, the gardens were likewise overhauled. The outdoor lighting was renewed, overgrown foliage was removed from the paths, which were then rebordered and graveled. Trees that had been lost over time on account of storms or disease were reforested and the pavement was mended. The costs for the realization of the renovation measures were estimated at around 1,040,000 Euros. The financing was supported by the 2015 ZIP Future Investment Program under the auspices of the German National Urban Development Projects, making a subsidy of 66,67% for the renovation possible.