Hellerau, Germany, Europe
Year1908latitude: 51° 6'
longitude: 13° 45'
Planning organizationNone
Nationality initiator(s)None
Designer(s) / Architect(s)Richard Riemerschmid
Design organizationNone
Target population
Town website
Town related linkswww.hellerau.de
http://www.dresden.de/eng/04/002/01/c_05_hellerau.html?part=c&background=bg _inhalt_dwt_00.gif&dwt=1
Literature- Deutsches Historisches Museum, exhibition catalogue
- Durth, Werner, Hellerau. Stand Ort Bestimmung, Stuttgart 1996.
- Michelis, Marco de, Heinrich Tessenow 1876-1950. Das architektonische Gesamtwerk, Stuttgart 1991.

type of New Town: > scale of autonomy
New Town
Company Town
> client
Private Corporation
Public Corporation
> policy
Hellerau is located 6,5 kilometres to the northern city edge of Dresden, in the Klotzsche and Rähnitz am Heller region. The settlement is enclosed by the highway to the west, the Bolenhagenerstrasse to the north, the Hendrichstrasse to the east and the Moritsburgerweg to the south. It includes an area of about 150 hectares in the region of Klotzsche and Rähnitz am Heller. Hellerau was planned from 1907 onwards as one of the first German Garden Cities according to Ebenezer Howards planning ideas. The commission to build a Garden City (or town) to the northern city edge of Dresden came from the German industrialist Karl Schmidt (1873-1948). Schmidt played an important role in the Deutsche Werkbund (DWB) in Munich, where artists, craftsmen and industrialists cooperated to ensure quality. With these initiatives he wanted to prevent the depravation of the skilled arts and handcrafts. In 1898 he founded the Dresden-Laubegast Company with a factory for the production of furniture. The company was such a success that the amount of employers increased rapidly in the following years and Schmidt started looking for another production location. Instead of only opening a new factory he planned a whole new settlement for the workers families nearby the production location. Schmidt therefore founded the Gartenstadt Hellerau GmbH to acquire the land and handed it over to the building company of Hellerau.

Urban plan and design
It was Schmidt's ideal to realize in Hellerau a better living situation than in the expanding German industrialised cities like Dresden. With a beautiful and healthy living environment the mental situation of the inhabitants, which was worsened in the big cities, would improve. Schmidt asked the German painter, upholsterer and architect Richard Riemerschmid (1868-1957) to make this vision reality with an urban plan and architectural design for the 150 hectare large area of Hellerau. The urban plan was strongly influenced by the English Garden City Movement and ideals of social reformation. In July 1908 the Garden city Association of Hellerau was founded under the leadership of Wolf Dohrn. It took care of the incorporation of Ebenezer Howard's principles in the aesthetic and the social-cultural qualities of the city. Just like Howard's Garden City Model, the design of Hellerau was a comment on the large industrial cities that extended so rapidly in the nineteenth century that living conditions of the people were deteriorated. The Garden City Hellerau was built on a certain distant of the big city of Dresden, surrounded by a beautiful rural landscape, so that it could benefit from the healthy conditions in the country on the one hand, and from the positive features of a city, such as employment, on the other. The land became communal property by giving the houses in semi-ownership. With this, land speculation was avoided. Hellerau was designed as an idyllic village with a marketplace in the centre, surrounded by shops and workshops. The adjustment of the street plan to the rural structure of the landscape by making curved streets and avenues with trees, made Hellerau look like Letchworth and Hampstead, the first English Garden Cities. The town was divided into five districts: two residential districts, one with small worker-residences and one with villa's and single-family homes, located nearby the facility centre and the district with workshops, ateliers and factories. The fifth district was already laid out for future developments. The residential districts were designed by several architects. To ensure the architectural quality, the designs had to meet the planning ideas of the art-commission that included famous architects like Fritz Schumacher and Adolf von Hildebrand. Another commission was assigned to do interviews with the future inhabitants to inquire about their needs.

The first residential quarter the 'Grünen Zipfel' was designed by Richard Riemerschmidt and built in 1909 with 34 types of houses of 51 to 112 square meters. The designs of these workers apartments, furnished with industrial produced furniture of Riemerschmidt's 'Machinemöbelprgramm', were exhibited in München. Riemerschmidt was one of several architects that designed the Hellerau houses. They all used typical picturesque elements with a variety of forms, decorated windows and entrees and winter gardens.

The most striking architect of Hellerau was Heinrich Tessenow (1876-1950). He was taken on during the designing process, because of his specific ideas on housing. Besides a few terraced houses that, with their modern design, were clearly different from the village-like dwellings of the other architects, he also designed a theatre in the centre of the city. The theatre housed the 'Educational Institute for Rhythmic Gymnastics' founded by the Swiss music pedagogue Emile Jacques-Delacroze (1865-1950). The Delacroze Institute was not only the spatial centre but it also played a central part in the lives of the inhabitants. Delacroze had developed a revolutionary method for teaching music through movement and dance. He believed that rhythmic music and gymnastic exercises would improve the balance of body and mind that was lost by many inhabitants of big cities. By doing these exercises and listening to the rhythm of music, one could find the coherence of thoughts and control over physical movements. He called his method 'eurhythmics'. Seeking the full integration of mind and body (note the yin-yang symbol above the theatre entrance), Delacroze used the approach to train musicians as well as actors and dancers. These exercises were trained and performed in the theatre of Tessenow.

Tessenow designed the theatre totally according to Delacroze's ideas of performance. The theatre made a grand impression with its plain cubical volumes, a block, a prism and a beam. In the centre of the horizontal beam, the façade leaped forward to make place for a Greek-like temple front with elongated columns, roofed over by a tympanum. The geometric volumes and formalized classical forms acted like coulisses of a theatre setting. On the outside this design was totally different from the nineteenth century fully decorated theatres. The interior also contrasted with the traditional theatre, in which all the attention went to the design of the public spaces, such as the foyer. In this theatre it was not intended to show off in a bourgeois way. Here, the stage itself was the most important place and the architecture guided the sight to the centre. The theatre quickly grew into an international centre for modern dance, music and arts, giving artistic expression to the founders' ideal of the spiritual as well as physical liberation of the 'new man'. Hellerau attracted some of the greatest creative minds of Europe at the time: dancers, artists, writers and designers such as Le Corbusier, Hans Poelzig, George Bernard Shaw and Franz Kafka.

In the years the doubts about the Delacroze methods grew and eventually in 1914 Schmidt ordered him to leave the city. At the end of the twenties the establishment of the National Socialist government put an end to the socialist community. The ownership of houses and land had to be handed over by the inhabitants to the new leaders. During the war Hellerau was heavily damaged and the theatre was used by the military, who did not leave much of the building intact. After the war, the Soviet army occupied the building until 1992. After the departure of the Soviets the theatre lay in ruins. First the houses were restored and in 1993 the theatre became property of Reichsstaat Sachsen. From that time on discussions started regarding what to do with this famous but unused building. Eventually it was decided to restore the theatre and use it for exhibitions and cultural activities. In 1996 the building was opened to the public and it became a tourist attraction again. Just as in the first years, when architects came from near and far to this spectacular example of modern architecture.

Hellerau was located in former East Germany

source: Saskia Hulskes

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