The one thing that has inspired me most in the last couple of years is our ‘new’ house in Berlin. It was built in 1927 in the purist Modernist style and is one of very few surviving originals. The house was designed by the Jewish avant-garde architect Arthur Korn, who managed to escape from Nazi Germany in the 1930s and found refuge in London, where he later became a town planner and teacher at the Architectural Association.

When we first saw the house, we instantly fell in love with it. It had been empty for years and in need of complete restoration, which took us one year to complete.

Our house was built in a suburb of Berlin amid traditional detached houses, all with large tiled roofs and the typical prominent elements of ‘Gemütlichkeit’. Even today people think it is a new building, because of its design and how it still misbehaves in the neighbourhood, but back in the 1920s it must have looked like something from another planet.

I had always admired the clarity and purism of the so-called Bauhaus architecture, but it had been a superficial love. Rebuilding our house and researching its history in detail has made me realise for the first time the sheer force of the Modernist movement, its impact on the world back then and the extreme courage and commitment both on the side of the architects/designers and the owners.

Justus Oehler


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