Haus Cramer, Dahlem, Berlin, Germany Hermann Muthesius (1861-1927)


The Haus Cramer records primarily contain original and reprographic architectural drawings, photographs, correspondence, and personal and professional records related to the design, construction, and ownership of the Haus Cramer in Dahlem, Berlin, Germany. The property was designed by noted German architect Hermann Muthesius in 1911-1913 for Hans and Gertrud Cramer, with later additions by Muthesius and other architects. A significant portion of the collection also documents the Cramer family’s efforts to obtain restitution after World War II for the seizure of the house in the 1930s. Also included are records documenting the restoration and reuse, an effort led by noted architectural historian Julius Poesner.

Recognized as one of Muthesius's masterworks, Haus Cramer, commissioned by Hans and and Gertrud Cramer, is located at Pacelliallee 18/20 in Berlin-Dahlem. This collection contains a comprehensive set of drawings dating to the construction of the house in 1911-1914, including drawings of the exteriors, interiors and gardens.

cramer_01b

Haus Cramer possesses striking rusticated limestone facades and with its scalloped gables and flared hipped roof on the service wing, it melds the planning innovations of the modern English house with forms from traditional German and Dutch architecture. Muthesius carefully developed the plans of the houses, taking into account circulation and the amount of light received by the rooms at various times of day. As with many of his other villas, Haus Cramer incorporated the multi-story hall of the English manor house through which most traffic passed and which formed the social heart of the dwelling with its large hearth. The gardens represented an equally important component of the design and Muthesius viewed them as a continuation of the living space of the family.

Hans Cramer ran a profitable import/export business dealing mostly in grains. His family was of Jewish descent, although they had converted to Lutheranism at some point during the mid-nineteenth century. During the 1930s, the family ran into financial trouble as a result of the oppressive anti-Jewish policies of the Nazi government. Due to his inability to pay taxes on the house and property, the city of Berlin seized his house and eventually auctioned off much of the contents. The Cramer family emigrated to the United States in the early 1930s. After World War II, Hans Cramer waged a long battle to gain restitution from the government of Germany for his lost property. The house survived the war only to be destroyed in a gas explosion sometime during the 1950s. Julius Posener, the noted architectural historian, intervened in the 1970s and petitioned the city of Berlin to reconstruct the house for use by Stanford University’s Berlin program. Stanford University purchased Haus Cramer in 2000.

Hermann Muthesius, architect. Haus Cramer, garden view, circa 1920. Hermann Muthesius, architect. Haus Cramer, garden view, circa 1920.

Hermann Muthesius was born on April 20th, 1861 in Gross-Neuhausen in Thuringia. From 1881-1883, he studied philosophy at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (now Humboldt University), before transferring to the Technische Hochschule Berlin where he studied architecture. Muthesius gained practical experience in a number of architectural offices, including that of Paul Wallot, the architect of the Reichstag building. Muthesius traveled widely, visiting Japan, China, Thailand, India, Egypt and Italy. However, his sojourn in England proved to have the most lasting effect on his intellectual development and reputation. In 1896, he was appointed technical attaché to the German Ambassador in London. He lived in England from the time of his appointment until 1903, writing reports on railways, gasworks and other industrial installations for the Prussian Board of Trade. He also befriended many leading members of British artistic circles, including Charles Rennie Mackintosh and William Morris. Muthesius was fascinated by recent innovations in English domestic architecture and eventually wrote a three volume study on the topic, entitled Das englische Haus. In 1907, Muthesius helped to found the Deutscher Werkbund, a trade organization heavily influenced by the English Arts & Crafts movement in its desire to bring a higher standard of artistic production to handcrafts and industrial products. Muthesius’s remained influential in German architectural circles until his untimely death in a tram accident in 1927. His other publications include Stilarchitektur und Baukunst [1902] and Kleinhaus und Kleinsiedlung [1918].

Hermann Muthesius, architect. Haus Cramer, perspective view, 1912. Hermann Muthesius, architect. Haus Cramer, perspective view, 1912.