Archeological & Archival, Spacial

A walk in the Park on the Ilm in Weimar retracing classical Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the modernist Bauhaus

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In Weimar’s valley of the river Ilm a park was created in the style of an English garden between 1778 and 1830. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was initially involved in its creation, but withdraw from its further development. ⠀
The Park on the Ilm is part of the World Heritage Site «Classical Weimar» and features some architectural treasures on its margins.

Already in 1776 duke Carl August had invited von Goethe to Weimar and gave the poet a country house with a garden in the valley as a gift, because he wanted him to stay. Another reason for the gift was, that for the polical functions he was proposed for, the citizenship and property of land were required. So on 21st of April 1776 the house and the property was handed over to J. W. von Goethe and repair work and equipment started soon after. ⠀
The interior was intended to be without ornaments and excuberance – simple and in beautiful forms. We will see this principle recur later in another building near the park. ⠀
Goethe lived in this country house until he moved into the city in 1872. ⠀
During his period in the house he created everlasting poetry like the poem «To the moon» which is also on display in the house, handwritten by the poet himself. Goethe also swam in the river Ilm by night in the moonlight – which was quite unusual in his times, even by day. The main rooms of the house are up to now not yet electrified and give quite a good impression how it was to live there. ⠀
The sculpture «Altar of Agathé Tyché» which is a bowl resting on a cube is said to be one of the first abstract sculptures in Germany. It combines of the stability of the cube with the unsteadiness of the globe. Tyché is the Greek goddess of destiny, agathé is Greek for good – so it’s a symbol for good fortune and therefore also called «Stone of the good luck». •

The highlight of the Ilmpark in Weimar was the realization of the «Roman House» by duke Carl August, after the plans by Hamburg architect Johan August Arens. Von Goethe had travelled Italy between 1786 and 1788 where he met the architect and both found inspiration in the Roman country houses. ⠀
The building which was erected between 1792 and 1797 has to floors and is set halfway into a hill in the western part of the park. You enter it from the east on the second floor – only on the side to the park you can see the two floors, where the lower forms an open hall. Is is fitted with a fountain hutch and roofs over a path and gives an extraordinary view over the park. ⠀
After the death of duke Carl August the «Roman House» was first used by other grand dukes, then it was a popular backdrop for visitors of the park until the building was opened to the public in 1929. ⠀
It was renovated in the 1990ies: The stucco was completed and the walls and floors of the neo-classical rooms were renewed. They are completely in the focus of the visitor as no furnishing of the building is preserved. The great prospect over the park is visibible from all the windows. ⠀
To give the park an Italian touch so-called «Lombardic Poplars» which were en vogue in the 18th century got planted back then, because cypresses aren’t hardy enough for the German winters. ⠀
If you go down the stairs you’ll find the epigram «Solitude» by von Goethe built into the rocks on the northern side of the house in 1782: «Oh, ye kindly nymphs, who dwell ’mongst the rocks and the thickets,/ Grant unto each whatsoever he may in silence desire!/ Comfort impart to the mourner, and to give the doubter instruction,/ And let the lover rejoice, finding the bliss that he craves./ For from the gods ye received what they ever denied unto mortals,/ Power to comfort and aid all who in you may confide.» •

On the nothern side of the park at the river Ilm you can find the very first building constructed based on the design principles of Bauhaus, called «Musterhaus am Horn». It was built after plans by painter and architect Georg Muche who was a teacher at Bauhaus for the first exhibition of Bauhaus («Werkschau») which was held from August through September 1923. ⠀
It was a prototype which was developed to start a settlement for the members of Bauhaus to solidate the living situation, to foster the community and lifestyle and to give the workshops a testing field for their productions. ⠀
After World War I there was a lack of low-cost living space and the population couldn’t afford to built houses themselves. Therefore the cities had to invest in social buildings for the very first time which created a general atmosphere and awareness for the founding ideas of the Bauhaus too. ⠀
The Musterhaus was built in four months, because the government of Weimar wanted to see results of the new pedagogical movement of Bauhaus, and although Walter Gropius and the other members thought it was too early for a presentation they concentrated on a presentation in their first exhibition. ⠀
They created a whole festival to start the exhibition with lectures, dance, theatre and musical performances which was celebrated by the press and the public – so the success of the Bauhaus principles were proven. ⠀
They chose the Hornberg as the site for the houses, but could only realize this very one. The Bauhause had to move to Dessau because of the rising fascist movement in Weimar. There they built the famous «Meisterhäuser» and their most famous building: the school itself by Walter Gropius. ⠀
In 1996 the «Musterhaus am Horn» was nominated by the UNESCO as a cultural World Heritage Site. At the moment it is closed for renovation for the Bauhaus 100th birthday in 2019. • ⠀

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