Tugendhat Villa is a seminal work of International Style architecture. It was designed by the renowned architect, Mies van der Rohe, on commission from Fritz and Greta Tugendhat, Jewish German newlyweds. Built in Brno, Czech Republic, between 1928 and 1930, the villa’s plan was based on innovative spatial concepts first introduced at the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition. Van der Rohe, who popularized the principle “less is more,” introduced a new aesthetic to Tugendhat Villa. The three-story home is designed with an open floor plan and operable floor-to-ceiling windows, which visually and physically dissolve the barrier between the interior and exterior living spaces. The villa also reflected new industrial technologies, such as steel and reinforced concrete, and it featured unusual interior materials, including chrome, travertine, and onyx. Van de Rohe designed all of the furnishings for the house, including the iconic Tugendhat armchair, which is still in production.
The Tugendhats fled Nazi Europe during World War II, never to live at the villa again. The building served a variety of purposes in the decades that followed, from quarters for the Soviet military to a children’s physiotherapy facility. In 1969, it became the property of the city of Brno. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001.
Restoring a Pioneering Prototype of the Twentieth Century
WMF first sent a team to Tugendhat Villa in the 1990s to work with local organizations to evaluate the condition of the building. They found it in great need of help. Alterations had been made to the original interior, the large terrace was structurally unsound, and the original gardens no longer existed. At its home base in New York, WMF worked with the Museum of Modern Art to research MoMA’s archives for van de Rohe’s architectural plans of the villa. Twenty-seven invaluable drawings were found. A major restoration of the house began in early 2010, focusing on structural repairs to the first floor, the roof, and supporting walls. The project was made possible with the assistance of the International Music and Art Foundation, and the Robert W. Wilson Challenge to Conserve Our Heritage.
The restoration was completed in 2012. Today, Tugendhat Villa is a thriving cultural and educational center, open to the public.