A masterpiece. Marlene Poelzig's house.
(Tannenbergallee 28, 14055 Berlin-Westend)
INITIATIVE HAUS MARLENE POELZIG
The aim of the initiative House Marlene Poelzig is to preserve the unique building and unique monument of the history of emancipation in architecture and to revive it as a place of coexistence, reflection and discussion among architects.
As an artist residence, House Marlene Poelzig is to become a place for creative encounters, where scholarship recipients live and work together every year. The residence keeps the memory of the architect Marlene Poelzig alive and at the same time promotes the equality of women in the building industry and Baukultur.
Marlene Moeschke-Poelzig (1894-1985) was a German sculptor and architect. With her husband, the well-known architect Hans Poelzig, she had a close and artistically very fruitful partnership until his death in 1936. In 1920/21 she founded the Poelzig construction studio together with her husband, which she continued to run alone for a while after his death but had to close in 1937 under pressure from the NSDAP.
Unlike many other women, she was able to build and was involved, among other things, in Berlin's Haus des Rundfunks (House of Broadcast), in the designs for the Berlin exhibition grounds and in Hans Poelzig's single-family home for the Weissenhof estate in Stuttgart from 1927. She designed the architect couple's studio and home in Berlin-Westend on her own. Although her contribution to her husband’s major projects, among which theater buildings for Max Reinhardt and silent films under the direction of Paul Wegener stand out, is undisputed, but unlike her world-famous husband, she could not properly inscribe herself in the historical narrative.
The House Marlene Poelzig in Berlin-Westend was built in 1930 based on a design by Marlene Poelzig, who, together with her husband Hans, was also the builder. It served as a residential and studio house for the family with their three children and, thanks to its room concept specially tailored to the needs of the Poelzig family, offered the sculptor and architect the opportunity to practice professional life, artistic activity, family life and bringing up children in a completely new way to unite the ambience. In 1937 Marlene Poelzig sold her house, left Berlin and lived in her home town of Hamburg for the last part of her life. The garden of the House Marlene Poelzig was largely designed by the garden architect Hertha Hammerbacher in 1931.
In 1990 the Berlin State Monuments Office decided against a monument protection for the house because it had been redesigned too heavily in 1954. In 2020 a petition was started to save the house from the threat of demolition and to get it included in Berlin’s list of monuments. Building on this, the House Marlene Poelzig initiative was founded in 2020. The owner of the property plans to demolish the house and to realize new housing on the site. The building currently is in a ruinous condition.
Looking towards the future: Artist residency program
Women have been working in the architectural profession for more than 100 years. Today, women even make up the majority of students studying architecture. Nevertheless, to this day only a few women have asserted themselves in this profession, especially in leading positions. Against this background, the Marlene Poelzig's scholarship program, which would be unique in Germany and worldwide, will be designed to explicitly address women in the building industry and Baukultur. The aim is to create a house in which outstanding personalities can pursue fundamental issues of Baukultur in exchange with one another and with a broader public and develop new approaches for everyone involved in construction from a gender-equitable perspective.
With its planned interdisciplinary program, the artist residency at the House Marlene Poelzig will be committed to the spirit of Marlene Poelzig. As a place of artistic creation and intellectual exchange for “masters of the building industry”, the artist residence will enable its scholarship holders to pursue individual projects. The stimulating effect of the everyday coexistence of the scholars from different disciplines and cultures should be at the center of the House Marlene Poelzig.
Starting in the summer of 2021, the initiative launches an open dialogue on Marlene Poelzig's work to engage the general public via various media formats. At the Women in Architecture Berlin festival in June, a demonstration was held in recognition of Marlene Poelzig’s work and for the preservation of the house, and an artistic intervention in memory of Marlene was unveiled. Simultaneously, the initiative’s website (www.hausmarlenepoelzig.de) was set up.
In autumn / winter 2021, the role of women in the building industry and Baukultur will be addressed as part of the online discussion series “Mother of all Arts.”
Moreover, the restoration and / or conversion of the House Marlene Poelzig could serve architecture students at various universities for practical work on a specific design project, provided that access to the building is granted.