Tautes Heim – Living in a UNESCO World Heritage Building

February 12, 2019

The rentable museum apartment ‘Tautes Heim’ is a project started by landscaping architect Katrin Lesser and graphic designer Ben Buschfeld. Planned by Bruno Taut it is located in the Unesco World Heritage ‘Hufeisensiedlung’ and won the EU-Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa-Nostra-Award in 2013. Katrin Lesser and Ben Buschfeld bought the 65 sqm house in 2010 and renovated it with monument conservation guidelines over a period of only two years. Visitors and architecture fans can rent ‘Tautes Heim’ for an authentic living experience.

Miriam has met the two for an interview:

MB: How does your day start?

BB: We are both freelancers and early birds, therefore – fortunately –  we need no alarm clock. Our day starts with a relaxed breakfast, shower and a fruit salad but shortly after we start working.

MB: Where is the ‘Tautes Heim’ located and how did the idea of it come up? 

KL: For almost 20 years we have lived in the Hufeisen settlement, just 100 meters away from ‘Tautes Heim’.  We feel very comfortable here and are both committed to historic preservation, have repeatedly published on the settlement and also offer guided tours ourselves. From my point of view, a guided tour includes visiting the interior. The reason is simple: the high quality of living behind colorful facades can only be experienced from within the building. Back then „light, air and sunshine“ was the slogan of the planners. The new housing should become a contrast to the dark tenement blocks of that time.

Tautes Heim, Außenansicht, (www.tautes-heim.de)

MB: How did you manage to let a house with world heritage status privately on a daily basis?

KL: It has a lot to do with the transformation to individual property in this area, in contrast to other settlements of the “Berliner Moderne”. It makes it more difficult ensuring a homogeniously monument preservation. From this situation we have initiated several projects that pursue a knowledge transfer relating to monuments and at the same time address neighbors, politics and externals. Thankfully we are well connected locally and know many houses of the settlement from the inside. One day we accompanied friends of neighbors during the inspection of an end-terrace house up for sale. The house – formerly inhabited by an old lady – was quite run down and in extreme need of renovation. The friends quickly rejected but we were immediately excited and have been looking for a possibility to make it accessible to third parties since.

After having tried to achieve funds unvailingly we came up with the idea of a temporary furnished living space according to museums standard. We took the risk jumping into work and now hope to refinance our private investment through renting. It is fun but also a long idealistic process which was only possible by the experience we bring along.

Hufeisen Settlement, (www.tautes-heim.de)

Hufeisen Settlement, aerial view, (www.tautes-heim.de)

MB: Your are a couple, do you split the responsibilities for this project? I know for example that you Katrin, are a landscaping architect and have caused the Hufeinsen settlement to become a garden monument. And Ben, what role do you play?

BB: I am a communication designer with focus on architecture and contemporary history, and so far consider myself to some degree a professional. The whole planning and restoration work is a real ‘couples-project’. Over a period of two years we’ve been working together almost every weekend designing and making choices. Only later we split the work. Katrin has much more competence in garden issues and is also a great site manager. I myself on the other hand was able to demonstrate my PR-skills and took care of the photos, website, networking, etc.

Tautes Heim, Living Room, (www.tautes-heim.de)

MB: Temporary residents and architecture fans can stay overnight and also work at ‘Tautes Heim’. There is a desk and a wifi connection. What about cooking, can I rent the house and invite guests for dinner?

KL: Theoretically, yes. Even though the house is full with originals of the Bauhaus era, simultaneously the kitchen is functionally fully equipped. Modern comfort in the form of a fridge and a dish washer has been achieved by hiding the devices conveniently behind the kitchen front. Also the charming „backofix“ stove does its duty. However, it is no high-end equipment and the 65 sqm house is relatively small. Insofar it is not a place for extensive culinary events. Up to four people can be comfortably catered though. Besides, in spring and summer you can enjoy sitting outside on the terrace in front of the house.

 

Tautes Heim, Kitchen, (www.tautes-heim.de)

Tautes Heim, Bedroom, (www.tautes-heim.de)

MB: How does your day end, do you enjoy cooking?

BB: Yes, I love cooking – more than Katrin actually. But we eat and cook regularly, consciously and healthy – not only for us, but also for our friends and guests. This however takes time of which we lack a bit of these days.

MB: Recipe idea?

BB: This weekend, we are invited to a birthday of a friend and are supposed to contribute something to the buffet. I think we will prepare a mousse auch chocolat and an exotic asian salat – both not typical meals of the 1920ies though.

Tautes Heim, Chamber, (www.tautes-heim.de)

Sigrid Neubert – Modern Architecture in Photography

March 28, 2018

Sigrid Neubert (*1927) is one of Germany’s most renowned architectural photographers. In the past six decades, she has produced aesthetic images of modern buildings and urban landscapes. Later, Neubert was also interested in nature photography while creating poetic, partly mystical imagery. A selection of works by Sigrid Neubert is currently on display in the Museum für Fotografie (Museum of Photography) of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin . The exhibition runs until June 3rd, 2018.

Miriam Bers talked to the two curators of the exhibition – the head of the photography collection of the Kunstbibliothek (Art Library) Dr. Ludger Derenthal, and the architect and art historian Dr. Frank Seehausen.

MB: Mr. Derenthal, according to which criteria do you create your program?

LD: In the Museum of Photography we present the whole history of this important visual medium from its beginning in the middle of the 19th century to the present day, often in thematic exhibitions and with works from our collection.

MB: How did the current cooperation with you and Frank Seehausen come about?

LD: We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to compile a representative selection from the comprehensive archive of Sigrid Neubert and incorporate the works into our collection. Therefore it was our aspiration to create an exhibition that involves her complete oeuvre – landscape and architectural photography. We curated the exhibition together: I was responsible for the nature part and Frank Seehausen, who also wrote the book about Sigrid Neubert’s architectural photography that will soon be published by Hirmer, took care of the architecture section.

MB: The current exhibition with works by Sigrid Neubert summarized in four keywords?

FS: The architectural photography is presented in four thematic chapters as the core of Neubert’s lifework with manifold references to her free work. We aim to encourage visitors to search for points of view, motives, similarities and differences. Archival material and, above all, architectural drawings make the dialogue between the photographer and the architects comprehensible.

LD: Talking about the landscape photography, two aspects are important to me: Sigrid Neubert has used photography both as a medium of expressing emotions as well as a medium for the development of a unique design vocabulary which together form a very instructive contrast.

MB: What do you think about the relationship between Sigrid Neubert’s architectural photography and the New Vision (Neues Sehen)? The press release also refers to 1950s American photography…

FS: In her architectural photography, Neubert has increasingly distanced herself from the US influences of the 1950s and gradually developed her own formal and content-related approach by carefully working out not only the plasticity of the buildings, but also the interaction of the buildings with the environment and its residents. In comparison, we also show works by Julius Shulman, who influenced Neubert in the 1950s.

MB: Architectural photography can be very elaborate. Which techniques did Sigrid Neubert apply? Did she work in a team?

FS: Neubert mostly worked on her own utilizing only a few facilities. For more than 30 years, she used a field camera and preferred to shoot in black and white on 9×12 glass negatives until the 1970s. This generated particularly high-contrast images in perfect technical quality. However, these harsh contrasts – that were characteristics of her work – were not only stylistic device but should also compensate the poor print quality of many architecture magazines. For Neubert it was important to enter an intensive dialogue with the buildings, which in a sense, she regarded as the representative of the architect’s personality.

MB: The current exhibition also includes landscape photography – atmospheric interpretations of the same – that the artist has focused on over the last few decades. How do you explain her dedication to nature?

LD: After many years of producing commission works for architects and magazines, Sigrid Neubert has created her own field of artistic impact. She has always worked in thematic categories, working on some topics for decades. This shows how intensively she has thought about the medium of photography and its possibilities.

MB: Last but not least a question to you, as the two curators of the exhibition: What kind of photography can be found in your living room?

LD: A lightbox with a black-and-white photograph of Reiner Leist showing the skyline of New York.

FS: An architectural photograph by Franz Lazi from Stuttgart produced in 1950.

Photos: © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek / Sigrid Neubert

Exhibition Info

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