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© Projekt MIK e.V.

To celebrate Bauhaus’ 100th anniversary in 2019, Thomas Schütte from the Projekt MIK initiative conducted a research and exhibition project called “Bauhaus and the Textile Industry” in the Krefeld Pavilion, showcasing the unconventional combination of industry and avant-garde for the first time publicly. It was also documented in a book. An architecture guide to Krefeld, entitled “Seide und Moderne” (“Silk and the Modern Era”), is now available online and presents buildings, institutions and people who testify to the silk industry’s productive synergy with modernists. Without claiming to be a complete history, 75 buildings and 65 biographies talk about the productive cooperation between industry, culture and the city.

Many people are familiar with the Haus Lange and Haus Esters buildings in Krefeld, which were planned by Mies van der Rohe for the silk manufacturers and art collectors and are used as exhibition buildings today. There are also bound to be a few people familiar with the yellow-clad atelier building on Hüttenallee 150, which was built by Josef Maria Olbrich in 1906 under an initiative of museum director Friedrich Denken and whose first resident was painter and designer Jan Thorn Prikker. Krefeld of course has much more to offer architecturally. Rudolf Oetker, for example, hired August Biebricher in the late 1920s to design his house on Hohenzollernstrasse. In 1930, merchant Johann Hilsenbeck, the owner of an insurance agency, hired Krefeld architect Josef Janssen to plan his house; Janssen had made a name for himself as a proponent of modern brick architecture. Later, in 1950, Vereinigte Seidenwebereien AG laid claim to saying “We are the avant-garde!” and hired Egon Eiermann to plan its main office building, after Mies van der Rohe had barred the execution of his 1937 plan.

Prestigious mansions, spectacular factory buildings, houses and administration blocks typical for the era, and pioneering office and college complexes – Krefeld has many buildings reminiscent of industrialisation’s peak phase and the silk industry that dominated the city. The key figures in this industry, which was always keen to innovate and design in the latest styles, maintained contact with the contemporary avant-garde and hired and gave work to artists, designers and architects known for their distinctly modern attributes, including many Bauhaus teachers and graduates. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Johannes Itten, Lilly Reich, Georg Muche and many others created significant architecture, shaped textile design and revolutionised design education. Hans Poelzig, Egon Eiermann and Bernhard Pfau also worked on buildings in Krefeld for the silk industry, as did local architects such as Josef Janssen, August Biebricher, Ernst Schäfer and Bauhaus practitioner Hans Volger.

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