Brno Villas – Villa Tugendhat

Written by Tereza Brozova

Villa Tugendhat situated in Brno, the center of South Moravian Region, symbolizes the first quiver of modern architecture in the Czech Republic and the fourth one in the world. The villa has become an icon of modernism, it was honored by the prestigious UNESCO award and since the year 2001 has been registered in the list of the World Heritage Sight by UNESCO.

The masterpiece of functionalist architecture was being built from 1929 to 1930 according to the project by Ludwig Miese van der Rohe. The architect used top materials, modern technical equipment and exquisite style. Villa Tugendhat was probably the first residential house in the world where the steel supporting structure was used in a private house. Also the technical background of the house was absolutely unique – combination of hot air heating and air-conditioning, electro-motoric lowering of windows, detection-eye by the entrance or glass used in rich an extent, that it became an equal building material.

The whole plan originated from the idea of the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who prepared a project for Fritz Tugendhat and his wife Greta. Mies’ design principle of “less is more” and emphasis on functional amenities created a fine example of early functionalism architecture and new vision in building design at the time. Mies used a revolutionary iron framework, which enabled him to dispense with supporting walls and arrange the interior in order to achieve a feeling of space and light. The cost was very high due to the unusual construction method and use of modern technologies.

The villa is important and interesting not only for its architectural meaning but also for its historical testimony. Fritz and Greta Tugendhat enjoyed just eight years in their new home, because they decided to flee Czechoslovakia with their children in 1938 shortly before the country was dismembered following the Munich Agreement. They were Jews and they wanted to escape from the country which was in danger of German anti-Semitic expansion. The villa was confiscated by the Gestapo in 1939 and used as an apartment and office. This fact caused that the villa’s interior was modified and many special pieces of furniture disappeared from there. It suffered another considerable damage during the end of World War II and later when it acted as quarters and stables for the Soviet military. Later it was partially repaired and used for example as a children’s physiotherapy institute. Greta Tugendhat returned to the villa in 1967 accompanied by an architect from Mies’s studio and explained the original design to him. The main reconstruction and restoration started up to in February 2010 with estimated costs of 150 million CZK (approximately US$7,895,000). Since 1994, the villa has been open to the public as a museum administered by the city of Brno. Another special meeting took place in Tugendhat on 26 August 1992 when Vaclav Klaus and Vladimir Meciar, the political leaders of Czechoslovakia, came there to sign the document that divided the country into its today shape, the separate Czech Republic and Slovak Republic.

For more information about the South Moravian Region where this place is located click here.