World Heritage with KEIM
Luminous Blue, deep Black: UNESCO honours Bruno Taut
At the beginning of the 20th century Bruno Taut revolutioned social housing and set standards with his typical colour language. Some of his housing estates in Berlin were recently designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Colour stirs, captivates, provides individuality and enhances architecture. Colour accentuates and lifts buildings out of their normalness. In a nutshell: Colour sends signals! Bruno Taut loved expressive, intensive and bright colours. He replaced the dirty grey of tenement buildings by highcontrast polychromy. Colours provided the visual start signal for a new and better living!
Everything started with the garden district Falkenberg in Berlin. Between 1913 and 1915 a mixture of small, suitable terrace houses and apartment blocks were built in a green environment including small gardens for self-supply. Taut contrasted the plain and ordinary building shapes with intensive colour and an ornamentation scheme that is the only one of its kind. From thereon this part of Berlin has been called the "Paintbox".
Rhombuses, rectangles and diagonals
(See photos) The apartment house was painted with a red-ochre base colour over a clinker socle. The entrance area obtained a fulminant colour ornamentation: The red door is set back, the bevelled door reveals have a light ochre tone. The façade itself is framed by blue rectangles that refer to the small windows of the bathroom and staircase. This portal spans a surface with countless, two-coloured rhombuses that are bordered with a fine black line. This detailed pattern is in contrast to the massive masonry and vitalises the facade that is provided with just small openings.
Black colours that are not scary!
The garden district Falkenberg provides another surprise: Black! Bruno Taut broke all conventions of colour schemes with the consequence of using black colour for large areas. Black in a refined combination with white shutters, bright red painted eavesthroughs or façade squares in red and white ornamentation.
Between 1992 and 2002 the "Paintbox" was renovated. Berlin architect and Taut expert Winfried Brenne placed particular value on the original Taut colours. As Taut did not leave a specific colour plan, todays colour scheme is based on findings by architects office Brenne and Berliner Denkmalpflege GmbH. All of the many colours that were obviously mixed by Bruno Taut himself are today collected in a colour library and used for other Taut projects.
Bruno Taut ran into technological problems initially because using common lime paints, renders and oil paints he could not realise his ideas of intensive colourfulness or durability. Tauts problems were solved when he discovered Keims mineral paints, patented in 1878, with their lightfastness, weather resistance, colour intensity and tremendous durability. So as a fact, the fascinating polychromy of that new building style would have simply not blossomed without Keims mineral paints. Thoroughly convinced Bruno Taut wrote in a letter from 1923 to Keim: "The colour effects are excellent and the colours have not faded, they are wash- and, scrubresistant. Plaster and brickstone have been proven to me the best for KEIM Décor Paints and coatings."
Winfried Brenne and his former partner Helge Pitz came across KEIM Paints during the renovation of the housing complex Onkel-Tom (built1926-1932), also a Taut project. They decided to use the original paints and contacted KEIM in the 1970s. So, after nearly eight decades the Falkenberg garden city got its originality back in the sense of visual appearance plus, the authentic coating material.
Honoured by UNESCO
Six different housing developments in Berlin, built between the wars, including three colourful Taut projects were enlisted to the World Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. Finally Bruno Taut, the architect who emigrated from Germany in 1932 received the before rather cautious international acceptance. And also Winfried Brenne can feel honoured as his work among others contributed that Berlin received the recognition. Last but not least there are the paints. With their inclusion to the UNESCO World Heritage List these developments have raised a simple coating material to what is it in reality: a cultural heritage.