Thursday, 5 August 2010

Velhagen & Klasing, Prager Str. 27, Leipzig

The building at Prager Straße 27 was designed in 1912 by Leipzig architect Hans Enger for Verlag Daheim-Expedition, a subsidiary of publishing house Velhagen & Klasing from Bielefeld, in Nordrhein-Westfalen. The Leipzig subsidiary was set up in 1864 to print and dispatch Daheim, an illustrated magazine for the family.
Enger had become relatively well-known in the 1880s as an exponent of Historicism through works such as the Leipzig Neue Börse (New Stock Exchange), built between 1883 and 1886 in the early Renaissance style (it was damaged during an air raid in 1943 and demolished in 1948), or the neo-Gothic St. Petrikirche (St Peter's Church) in Chemnitz, built between 1885 and 1888. A respected architect, he was commissioned in 1897 to design some of the pavilions of the Sächsich-Thüringische Industrie- und Gewerbeaustellung (Saxony and Thüringe Industry and Craft Exhibition) held in Leipzig. Yet in the closing years of the nineteenth century Historicism was losing ground rapidly in Leipzig. A new generation of architects was emerging. Between the second half of the 1890s and the First World War, they changed the face of the city with their Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) villas, blocks of flats, commercial, industrial and public buildings. Thus the choice of 64 year old Enger for the new Velhagen & Klasing building seemed a little odd.
In the end Enger designed a building that had little to do with his previous works but was in many ways reminiscent of industrial buildings by Händel & Franke and Paul Möbius (Leipzig's most famous Jugendstil architect had worked for Händel & Franke between 1890 and 1899). The materials, colours and motifs in particular are very similar to those they used for their electric substations and factories, for which Assyrian, Egyptian and Roman architecture had been a source of inspiration.

Enger has been successful in creating a façade where the eye is drawn naturally towards the Egyptian heads on top of the columns. However on the four columns closest to the street corner, he replaced the Egyptian heads by wreaths with a tied ribbon. This was the logo of Daheim and was found on the pages of the magazine and on the stationery of the Leipzig branch of Velhagen & Klasing.

Originally the façade on Prager Straße consisted of eight bays and the one on Johanisallee of five (picture). Nowadays the former is four bays shorter and the latter four bays longer.
By 1990 the building was in a very sad state. Damaged during the war and neglected during the GDR period, it stood without its top floor and roof, while part of the decoration had fallen down. Fortunately, like countless buildings across Leipzig and eastern Germany, it was thoroughly restored following the reunification.

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