The collaboration between architect Adolf Rading and artist Oskar Schlemmer resulted in a unique Gesamtkunstwerk of classic modernism in Zwenkau, built between 1929 and 1931. To this day, the straightforward minimalist design of the almost cube-shaped Rabe House stands out from its surroundings.
The design of the family residence was revolutionary and caused great turmoil in the neighbourhood. The client, the physician Erich Rabe, had granted the two designers maximum flexibility: Rading developed the floor plan, colour scheme and room layout, while Schlemmer added artistic decoration that gave the rooms the finishing touch. Yet the building is rather nondescript from the outside. Its main façade is a square, unadorned white surface. Only inside are the building’s real variety and artistic originality revealed.
The charm of the design lies in the interplay of austere space and lively colouration. Instead of expensive interior fittings, accentuated contrasts become spatial and form-giving elements. Geometric surfaces and coloured stripes on the floors, ceilings and walls mark out different spaces and transitions. Schlemmer’s works reinforce this play of colours: his silhouette-like murals give the stairway a dancing gesture, and the metal reliefs cast shadows on the wall like three-dimensional frescoes.
The spatial constraint of the house’s rather small footprint is resolved by a two-storey living space, around which all the other rooms are arranged. Thanks to this high, open hall, the house exudes spaciousness and generosity. A completely glazed wall transforms the side facing the garden into a sort of glass box that was used as a winter garden and which flooded the house with light.
The Rabe House is an exemplary monument of the New Architecture. Rading’s daughter used the house until the first post-reunification years. Thanks to her dedication, the building has remained intact as a nearly unchanged work of art. [DB/DK]
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