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Publication date 1 December 2022

Inside Iconic Houses at Taut’s Home in Berlin

Stream an exclusive online house tour inside this special house. Owners and curators of the tiny, museum-like holiday home, Katrin Lesser and Ben Buschfeld, point out the interior details tributing the work of Bruno Taut. Buy your ticket HERE.
And read the article about the restoration below the teaser.

 

A Heritage House for Short Stay Rental, Meticulously Restored and With 1920s Splendour

To classify the background of the project, one must know that Taut's Home is part of the UNESCO-listed ‘Hufeisensiedlung’ (Horseshoe Estate) in the district Berlin-Neukölln Britz. Of the total of six residential settlements with World Heritage status in Berlin, the Hufeisensiedlung is the only one in which—after the privatization of the former municipal housing company GEHAG and several takeovers of the entire portfolio on the stock exchange— terraced housing stocks were converted into individual ownership on large scale from 1999 onwards. This has the effect that over 600 private individuals today, own a part of this UNESCO World Heritage ensemble. The challenge to develop the house for heritage conservation has led to several activities and publications by the two owners of Taut’s Home, landscape architect Katrin Lesser and designer Ben Buschfeld, an enthusiastic couple that has lived in the estate for 25 years. They dedicated all those years to preserving and promoting the special value of 1920s modernism.

  • Aerial view of the Horseshoe-structure, 2014. Photo Ben Buschfeld
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, garden in front of the semi-detached terraced house
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, terrace in front of the kitchen window
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, living
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, kitchen
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, kitchen
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, authentic built-in cupboard and historical cooking facility
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, room with tiled stove
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, hallway view towards the kitchen
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, coloured details of the stairwell
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, study desk with a portrait of the architect
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, foldable bed in primary bedroom
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, bathroom
  • Aerial view of the Horseshoe-structure, 2014. Photo Ben Buschfeld
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, garden in front of the semi-detached terraced house
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, terrace in front of the kitchen window
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, living
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, kitchen
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, kitchen
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, authentic built-in cupboard and historical cooking facility
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, room with tiled stove
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, hallway view towards the kitchen
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, coloured details of the stairwell
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, study desk with a portrait of the architect
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, foldable bed in primary bedroom
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, bathroom

A Tribute to Bruno Taut
This terraced house at the end of the row with a slightly larger garden, is a lively, well-founded tribute to the architect Bruno Taut (1880-1938) with a lot of carefully chosen details. In 1924, Taut was appointed chief architect of the GEHAG housing company. In just a few years of practice, before the rise of National Socialism, he designed around 12,000 flats, the majority of which are listed monuments. In addition to listed status 3,543 of his dwellings even have UNESCO World Heritage status, because four of Berlin's six UNESCO World Heritage housing estates are largely based on his designs. With this quantitatively and qualitatively outstanding record, Bruno Taut may be considered the most important architect in Berlin housing construction of the early 20th century, even if—due to his early death in exile in Turkey in 1938—he was not able to really start a second career after World War II, which may limit his posthumous fame on an international scale. But of all the great architects of the 20th century, only Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright are similarly prominently represented on the World Heritage List.

The Significance of the Hufeisensiedlung
The ensemble, covering some 28 hectares, is grouped around a 350-meter-long iconic structure curved in the shape of a horseshoe. It gave the settlement, built in 1925-30, its name and reminds many visitors of the "Bauhaus style"—a popular label, which, however, in no way does justice to the independence of the complex and Taut's special position in the transnational polycentric development of modernism. Also known as the ‘Britz Large Housing Estate’, the Hufeisensiedlung is not only considered Taut's most important work but is also the largest and best known of the six "Berlin Modernism Housing Estates" listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2008.
Even at the time of construction, the complex was considered an icon of public housing oriented toward the common good. In addition to Bruno Taut, Martin Wagner (who later became the city planning director of Berlin) and the garden architect Leberecht Migge were involved in the design. In terms of building type, the ensemble of 1,263 multi-story apartment buildings and 679 terraced houses with gardens marks the transition from the reform-oriented garden city movement to a rationally planned, row-based large-scale housing development, as it then became internationally established in the 1930s, 50s, and 60s. At the Hufeisensiedlung these two ideologically opposing design maxims–artistic individuality vs. serial construction–were brought to a unique synthesis.

A Special Treat for Design and Architecture Lovers
With its socially, economically, and politically turbulent history, the estate is ideal for guided tours and study visits. This also makes Taut's Home the ideal starting point for exploring not just the immediate neighbourhood, but also Berlin's multifaceted architectural heritage. The city´s heritage includes various iterations of modernism and ranges from the industrial buildings of the late 19th century to important buildings of post-war modernism (in the East and West) as well as important buildings of brutalism, late modernism, and post-modernism.
A stay in the house, which is suitable for up to four people, allows guests to take in the colourfully varied ensemble in a very personal and peaceful way. To achieve that, furnishings also bring architectural and design history to life: The house is part of the sixth construction phase, which was built in 1929/30 in the form of parallel single-family terraced houses with gardens and cost-reducing flat roofs. The interior has been completely restored in Taut's distinctive colour scheme and furnished throughout in the style of the 1920s and 30s.

  • Europa Nostra Award for the restoration of Taut’s Home
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, before restoration, 2010
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, reconstruction of the missing tiled stove, 2010
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, state after the wallpapers have been torn off, 2011
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, documentation of the historic paint layers before restoration, 2010
  • Europa Nostra Award for the restoration of Taut’s Home
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, before restoration, 2010
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, reconstruction of the missing tiled stove, 2010
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, state after the wallpapers have been torn off, 2011
  • Taut’s Home Berlin, documentation of the historic paint layers before restoration, 2010

Interior Design and Furnishing
The house is only 65 sqm in size but convinces with a very functional and space-efficient floor plan. Modern comfort has been discreetly integrated. All colours in the interior were meticulously researched and restored strictly according to the well-documented findings. The colourfully resurrected rooms in strong cornflower blue, dark red, muted green and various shades of grey, white, and warm yellow are furnished throughout with original furniture or furniture reconstructed in the style of the 1920 and 30s.
The kitchen, which is suitable for self-catering, is a replica of the typical GEHAG kitchen designed by Bruno Taut for the Forest Estate in Berlin-Zehlendorf, which was begun six months later. During the reconstruction by a carpenter, modern kitchen amenities like a refrigerator or a dishwasher were discreetly integrated behind the historically appealing front doors. A special feature in the kitchen is also the red-coloured magnesite flooring, which has been restored according to the original recipe with a mixture of concrete, sawdust, and Ferro-oxygen-powder.
In the living and dining room, typical furniture from the Weimar Republic is gathered, joined by some modern classics, such as the first tubular steel furniture from the Bauhaus Dessau or a pending lamp by Sistrah. At the time the housing estates were built, central heating had not yet been installed. Instead, a tiled stove was installed in every living room and bedroom. These are complemented by black lacquered radiators, the design of which dates from 1930, the year the construction of the house was completed. This is another special feature of the house, which has an outstanding amount of original substance: Two of the original three tiled stoves were still intact and present. The third, green one was newly built from original tiles donated by neighbours.
Throughout the house, there are so-called ‘monument windows’ that allow to trace back the sequence of the individual coats of paint. In our case, we always restored the first coat using the high-quality mineral products of the Keimfarben, which were already in use at the time.
Another large piece of furniture, re-interpreted by the two landlords according to historical models, is the large folding bed in the blue room on the first floor. Here, the redesign is inspired by a photo printed in a publication from 1927, which presented a model flat for a similar small housing estate in Frankfurt am Main built in the same tradition. The sofa in the neighbouring yellow room, the former children's room, which can be extended to a small double bed with a width of 140 cm. This construction was inspired by a sofa from one of the master houses of the Bauhaus Dessau. All the furnishings, such as crockery, lamps, and small pieces of furniture, are originals from the 1920s and 30s and were bought from flea markets and antique dealers.
The garden is designed according to plans by the garden architect Leberecht Migge with fruit trees, herbaceous borders, and a rose hedge.
After two years of restoration, Taut's Home has been let for short stays to history and architecture enthusiasts since 2012. It offers space for 2-4 tenants, who can embark on a journey back in time to the era of emerging modernism. An opportunity that effectively complements Berlin's museum landscape and has been enthusiastically received by guests, the professionals, and the media on an international scale.

  • Ben Buschfed and Katrin Lesser with the Iconic Houses plaque at the entrance of their Taut’s Home
  • Postcard with Hufeisensiedlung doors. Photos Ben Buschfeld
  • Collage Berlin World Heritage Estates. Photos Ben Buschfeld
  • Taut’s Home floor plan
  • Ben Buschfed and Katrin Lesser with the Iconic Houses plaque at the entrance of their Taut’s Home
  • Postcard with Hufeisensiedlung doors. Photos Ben Buschfeld
  • Collage Berlin World Heritage Estates. Photos Ben Buschfeld
  • Taut’s Home floor plan

Awards
Despite the fact that the realization took place without any subsidies, today Taut´s Home is considered by officials to be the most active and lively ambassador of Berlin's newest world heritage site. The house and its two owners have been awarded several prizes, including the Golden Badge of Honour of the district of Neukölln, the Berlin Monument Price (twice), and in 2013 the prestigious European Union Prize for Monument Preservation / Europa Nostra Award. Being honoured with this award in the restoration category is special since it has only been granted to three out of more than 8,000 registered monuments in Berlin.
In her laudation for the local ceremony, the former Senate Building Director Regula Lüscher described the project as follows: "Tautes Heim (German version of "Taut´s Home") is a masterpiece of monument education. More impressively than any words, it brings the architecture of the 1920s back to life and convinces everyone who enters it of the value of modernism. Prejudices that modernism is inevitably cool, sterile, boring, are refuted by Tautes Heim in an unpretentious and at the same time powerful way with its colourfulness and many homely details."

Basic text: Ben Buschfeld.

Publication date 1 December 2022