Built in 1924 by founding father of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, Haus Auerbach, set on the outskirts of the city of Jena, was an experiment in a new way of living. It was designed for Felix Auerbach, a respected physicist and professor of medicine, and his wife Anna, a board member of the Central German Women’s Union – both of whom were passionate about music, architecture and art.
The light, airy home, which included a music room and an indoor ‘winter garden’, was rationally designed in Gropius’s trademark style, with no unnecessary details or embellishments. As the Nazis rose to power, however, the Bauhaus, and this house, fell from grace. After the war, Haus Auerbach, then located in the communist German Democratic Republic, steadily tumbled into neglect.
Gropius strictly avoided symmetry when creating this building (you need only look at the position of the windows on the exterior above to see that), but what happened next has a pleasing consonance. In 1994, another couple, Barbara Happe and Martin Fischer – also academics with an interest in architecture and the arts – came across Haus Auerbach and decided to make it their mission to rescue it.
‘It was so special here, so different,’ says Barbara. ‘We’ve always admired modernist architecture and knew we couldn’t be happy anywhere else.’ She and Martin struggled through the somewhat daunting process of buying a house in former East Germany, then got to work. They stripped out all evidence of the damage that had been done in the intervening years, and reinstated original features, such as the metal-framed windows and linoleum floors. Hidden beneath layers of wallpaper, the couple rediscovered Gropius’s intended colour scheme – but it wasn’t the primary-hued palette we often associate with Bauhaus. Rather, it was an unorthodox yet nuanced combination of orange, blue and pink, with the paint applied in playful, abstract blocks of colour, instead of wall-by-wall.
Adopting this scheme was no challenge for Barbara and Martin, who already collected mid-century furniture and, since moving in, have gradually acquired more classic pieces that sit happily in this environment. ‘We see ourselves as custodians of the house, and we love living with the Bauhaus colour palette,’ says Barbara. ‘It’s sophisticated, but full of joy.’ haus-auerbach.de
For the full house tour see ELLE Decoration September 2019
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