Art Nouveau in Dortmund

Art Nouveau houses in Alexanderstraße in Dortmund, Germany.

This is a type of house that was popular around 1900 with builders who wanted to build several homes for themselves (together with relatives/company co-owners/friends), but directly connected so that the distances between the dwelling parties were short. And of course it was easier to build firewall against firewall (and therefore in a row) instead of free-standing homes (where each side of the house had to be designed). Depending on the building regulations, this building model was also required in the respective area where construction was to be carried out.

Houses like this were also built by building companies developing a whole neighborhood, in order to sell them individually to people who were interested in having the perks of a ‘villa’ but not having to spend so much money as for a free-standing house of that type. They were basically designed in such a way that they had all the advantages of free-standing private homes. In English this thouse type is called ‘semi detached’, which means something like ‘adjunct’, ‘built next to each other’.

The houses in Dortmund’s clinic district have strikingly beautiful Art Nouveau facades. These were almost certainly custom-made and did not come from stucco catalogs (intended for the sale of pre-produced plastering). During WWII, however, they must have been damaged in the roof area, because the original gables are partly missing. Only the building on the outer left side still has a rest of its original gable, the ones of the middle and the right house are completely missing today. I reproduced them here, in the style of the period and somewhat how they were often used on houses like this. Of course, after I did that, I found an old postcard on which the real old gables were recognizable – very small, that is, and only in their basic shape – but the ones shown here are held in the same stylistic mode and would have fit just as well (maybe I do another redo of these later with gables that are closer to the actual shape).

The year 1903 can be found in several sources as the year of construction of all three individual objects.

Recreations of colored versions of such houses, if you do not know the original colors and research is difficult (since there are mostly black and white photos and postcards from this time), are a thing, you have to know a few techniques that were available at the time to decipher and envision a colored version of them. In addition to red roof tiles, which I simply assumed (may have been ‘beaver tail’ roof tiles), I am showing a certain form of color design here that is based on the knowledge that I have about the plastering techniques of that time. At that time, buildings not made from natural materials like limestone or other material, but from artificial stuff like cement and plaster, te outer appearance often wasn’t completely painted as far as I know. Only partially color was added to emphasize some details and ornaments, or a kind of ‘tinted’ and colored cement was used. This means that the pigments that gave the house its (sometimes subliminal) color were incorporated directly into the plaster – or the type of plaster used was colored naturally, as for example the ‘Romano cement’, which has been used since ancient times (and is very environmentally friendly, as I read). Anyway, I could imagine an original color scheme like the one here.

The demolition hurts, but you can read that several stucco parts as well as other elements such as doors etc., which are reusable, from these houses are to be removed and stored. I know that many things can be removed from walls – but how it will be possible with these filigree Art Nouveau elements… ? I’m anxious.