Villa Esche in Chemnitz was designed in 1902/1903 by Belgian designer Henry van de Velde for the family of Herbert Esche, a successful stocking manufacturer. Just eight years later in 1911, the building underwent its first minor modification – still following van de Velde’s plans. The Esche family lived here until 1945. After that, the house had a number of reincarnations including as a military command post, a residential building and the headquarters for the local Chamber of Craftsmen. From 1998 to 2001, the mansion was treated to a meticulous and extensive renovation based on its historical design. The building has been a popular conference center plus concert and event venue ever since as well as home to a museum dedicated to van de Velde.
Villa Esche was Henry van de Velde’s first architectural commission in Germany and is a shining example of the artistic actualization of an integral living space encompassing architecture, interior design and landscaping. His designs reflected the fast fading Art Nouveau style giving way to the Bauhaus, with van de Velde being one of its leading pioneers. His wealth of design creativity extended far beyond architecture to furniture, porcelain, silverware, lamps, carpets, doors, windows, radiator and wall coverings – even dresses for the lady of the house and pipes for the lord of the manor. The museum now housed in the home’s former bathroom, bedroom, children’s nursery and historically restored dining room and music salon allows insight into the overall living space concept on which van de Velde based his designs.
Blessed with four of his projects, Chemnitz is considered a major highlight along the route Henry van de Velde carved through Europe. The most interesting part of this route for visitors winds through the two German states of Saxony and Thuringia, as there are a total of 15 testaments to his design sense all relatively close to one another, 4 right in Chemnitz: Villa Esche (1902/1903; commissioned by Herbert Esche), Villa Koerner (1913/1914; commissioned by brother-in-law Dr. Theodor Koerner), Villa Quisisana (1908: remodeling of existing structure, commissioned by father-in-law Theodor Koerner) and the Chemnitz Lawn-Tennis Club (1906/1908; commissioned by brother Fritz Esche; no longer standing).
Also nearby: the Rittergut Lauterbach estate (1907/1909; remodelling of existing structure, commissioned by brother Arnold Esche).