Hanseatic modernism

Tillmann Franzen,
Chilehaus (1922-1924), Architekt: Fritz Höger


Beyond the internationally renowned Kontorhaus district, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, numerous other urban and architectural works demonstrate that as Hamburg’s chief building director, Fritz Schumacher had a strong impact on the Hanseatic city. Examples are the schemes for the Jarrestadt and Dulsberg residential developments, both built in the 1920s with farsighted planning that, even today, still meets social and design requirements. Public and cultural buildings are just as much a part of his architectural oeuvre as educational or office buildings. 
Gustav Oelsner, a contemporary and friend of Schumacher – and the building senator in what was then still the independent city of Altona – created one of the most ambitious urban development programmes of the Weimar Republic: the “New Altona”. Municipal housing such as the Luna Park apartment block and public buildings such as his “Haus der Jugend” (House of Youth) were built following the principles of “New Architecture”.

In the 1920s, architect Karl Schneider designed highly modern country homes, cultural buildings, residential complexes and industrial facilities in Hamburg that are clearly related to the Bauhaus. With his design for Hamburg’s Kunstverein (art society; destroyed) and the compact Werner House, he gained international attention and, in 1932, was part of the landmark show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) titled “Modern Architecture: International Exhibition”. His Michaelsen House is today a doll museum and largely preserved in its original state.

In the spirit of modernism, these and many other architects, urban planners and landscape architects shaped the image of the city of Hamburg during the 1920s, and hence redefined its building culture, without losing touch with tradition. Even today, their influence is still discernible in the city’s evolution.

After the Second World War, Bauhaus students like Kurt Kranz, Otto Lindig and Gustav Hassenpflug found employment at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (University of Fine Arts). Despite the emigration of numerous leading figures during the period of National Socialism, the defining Bauhaus concept was carried forth in art education.

[AB 2017, translations: DK]

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Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg

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