House of Youth
Altona Vocational School for Energy Technology (Berufliche Schule Energietechnik Altona)
The House of Youth is not only testimony to the New Architecture, but also a symbol of the radical social changes that took place in the Weimar Republic. It was built in 1928–1930 in the course of wide-ranging building reforms. Gustav Oelsner was an architect, urban planner and, before being expelled by the Nazis, Building Senator of the City of Altona, which was still independent from Hamburg at the time. He created the House of Youth as a vocational training centre for young people and the unemployed. It is located very close to two other prominent buildings in Altona, the Altonaer Museum and the town hall. The modern architecture continues to stand out clearly in the cityscape.
The communal building took form within the context of broader urban development policy reforms taking place in Altona. Just as Fritz Schumacher defined the look of Hamburg’s cityscape, Building Senator Gustav Oelsner was responsible for strengthening Altona’s independence. Together with Lord Mayor Max Brauer, he completed a number of housing estates and new communal buildings, and in the process, found innovative answers to the burning social problems of the time. In doing so, he remained true to the principles of the New Architecture movement: air, light and hygiene.
In the sober aesthetics and functionality of the House of Youth, this influence cannot be overseen. The various wings of the House of Youth are rectilinear modules that are three to six storeys high. The gridded pattern of the steel-reinforced concrete skeleton, which was novel at the time, is still easily recognisable from outside. The building’s concrete frame and the tall windows with copper spandrel panels establish the rigorous articulation of the façade. Inside the building, bright, high rooms, expansive stairways and wide corridors make for a pleasant and stimulating learning atmosphere.
The building has undergone many alterations over the years: Oelsner’s spacious hallways and stairways have made way for narrower corridors, and the façade has not been retained in its original state. The House of Youth continues to be a central venue for culture and education. Since 1954, the former assembly hall has served as a stage for performances by the Altonaer Theatre. And today, as home to the Altona Vocational School for Energy Technology, the building still serves educational purposes. [KM/DK]
Contact and opening hours
Directions by local public transport:Nächstgelegene Haltestelle der Deutschen Bahn und des ÖPNV: Hamburg-Altona
Book: Bauhaus 100 Sites of Modernism
Extraordinary sites associated with the Bauhaus and modernism can be found throughout Germany—pioneering architecture that has enduringly shaped our understanding of life and work, learning and living. This travel guide brings the historical and architectural traces of over 100 examples of Neues Bauen building to life, making tangible the impact of the historical Bauhaus beyond the school, its sites and its time.
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From Altona to Winterhude: its many modernist buildings make Hamburg an extraordinary travel destination.