Darmstadt Artists' Colony Mathildenhöhe
Darmstadt Artists' Colony Mathildenhöhe is part of the Tentative list of Germany in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
Click here for a short description of the site, as delivered by the state party.
- ●● Tentative
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
The Mathildenhöhe Artists' Colony is one of the most promising candidates on the new German tentative list, and it is also a site which I would like to see inscribed. The artists' colony was founded in 1899 by the Grand Duke of Hesse to stimulate industry and crafts with innovative ideas. Until the beginning of World War I, several artists of the Art Nouveau showed in four exhibitions their ideas of architecture, design and visual arts. In some ways, the Mathildenhöhe colony represents the transition between Art Nouveau and Modernism. The most influential artists in Darmstadt were the Austrian architect Joseph Maria Olbrich, who had planned most of the buildings, and Peter Behrens, best known for his later industrial buildings and design.
The Mathildenhöhe is a hill close to the city centre, the proposed area comprises the permanent buildings of the four exhibitions, particularly the two exhibition halls and the artists' houses. But it also includes small structures such as sculptures, a water basin, a pavillon. The most striking building is the Wedding Tower, the landmark of Darmstadt.
I used to live near Darmstadt and I have visited the artists' colony many times. I agree with Assif, that it is a nice place to spend a Sunday afternoon. The buildings are very well described in his review below, thus just a few additional comments:
The Orthodox Church was built shortly before the artists began their work, and although it was constructed in the style of Russian churches of the 16th century, it harmonizes well with the whole ensemble in my opinion.
I would also recommend to visit the collection of furniture, tableware, jewellery etc. in the first exhibition hall. You'll get an impression of the broad spectrum of the artists and their ambition to influence almost all aspects of art and modern life.
Six out of eight artists' houses have been preserved largely in their original state. I like best the Behrens house, it was his first work as an architect. Currently, none of them is open to the public. Some are in private property, but others are owned by the city of Darmstadt and are currently used by cultural institutions. There are plans to open one or two of them to the public in the future.
A visit to the artists' colony can be easily combined with a trip to the Messel pit, the distance between the two sites is only eight kilometres. And a nice addition to both is a visit of the Hessisches Landesmuseum in the city centre. The museum shows among other things numerous fossils from the Messel pit and a large Art Nouveau collection, not only by artists of the Mathildenhöhe colony.
We have already got a connection "Art colonies", however, Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt will probably become the first site the OUV of which lies in its function as such, unless Cubanacan makes it on the list before. Mathildenhöhe is probably one of the first modern art colonies and among the most famous ones. It was built ex nihilo in the beginning of the 20th century and conceived as a innovative art colony. The artists were also encouraged to build their villas at the site.
Despite grave destruction during WWII the site survived and makes an authentic impression, although some of the original buildings no longer stand. The complex includes a fountain, a sculpture garden, the Orthodox church, the iconic Nuptial Tower, the two exhibition halls and the nearby artists villas. Living next to Frankfurt, Mathildenhöhe makes an easy day trip by public transport and I spent several Sundays enjoying it. Some comments on the visit:
The Orthodox church: It seems to have very beautiful interior, but it is still an active church. Each Sunday I came a mass was underway and I could not enter the building. It is not too big and it seems it attracts numerous prayers from the entire area, so even a short glimpse proved impossible through the crowds blocking the entry.
The Nuptial Tower: Do not buy the (cheap) tickets for visiting the tower. Three impressive rooms are featured in the tower. The first is the hallway covered with beautiful mosaics. It can be accessed without a ticket. Then there are two ceremonial rooms upstairs that are covered with impressive frescoes. The Nuptial Room cannot be visited unless you are invited to one of the current weddings held there. The Prince's Room is similarly covered with frescoes. These can only be admired through the door, which is also located in such a way the blocks the view for most of the room. So unfortunately, when visiting the Nuptial Tower the only thing you get to see is a panorama of the area at the top of the tower, which was a great disappointment to me.
The Exhibition Halls: The first exhibition hall is now used to house the permanent collection that includes works by the historical local artists. It is very worthwhile to visit. The original decorative entry to this building is now on its back side, so do not miss it. The second larger exhibition hall is now used to house changing exhibitions of contemporary art. You can visit its beautiful interior without a ticket if you to the cafe there. Using this building for contemporary art is justified by keeping the original purpose of the art colony alife. On the other hand, the Mathildenhöhe Foundation prides itself in possessing the largest collection of Art Nouveau worldwide. Only a fracture of this collection can be exhibited at the first exhibition hall. Therefore, I find it regrettable that the second hall is not used to display more of the original collection. To remedy this situation a third modern hall is planned.
Artists Villas: It is worthwhile to admire these villas from the outside. Unfortunately, due to the fact they are still used as private residences it is impossible to visit the interior unless happen to come at the annual open day.
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- Full name: Darmstadt Artists' Colony Mathildenhöhe
- Country: Germany
2015 - Submitted