Villa Esche designed by the Belgian artist Henry van de Velde is deemed to be a historical monument of European rank and is - apart from the department store Schocken by Erich Mendelsohn, the Kaßberg, as one of the largest completely existing districts in Art Nouveau and Belle Epoche style, and the imposing buildings of industrial architecture - amongst the outstanding architectural feats in Chemnitz.
Having finished extensive restoration work, the Villa Esche now houses Germany's first Henry van de Velde Museum and is used as centre of communication and convention for business, art and culture. Thus it takes up the spirit of the longstanding friendship between the entrepreneur family Esche from Chemnitz and the Belgian artist Henry van de Velde. The Henry van de Velde Museum shows exhibits from the extensive collection of the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz: the ground floor with dining room and music lounge, largely furnished in the original, gives an impression of the unique ambience called "Lebensräume" as designed by van de Velde. A permanent exhibition in the former bedroom, children's room and bathroom on the upper floor allows a look at the multi-faceted works of the versatile artist.
Additional access information for wheelchair users and persons with reduced mobility:
- Access for wheelchair users upon prior arrangement by phone with the event service of Villa Esche
- The separate entrance (door 87 cm) for wheelchair users is accessible via wheelchair lift
- The ground floor, 1st and 2nd floor are accessible via lift
- Toilet for wheelchair users: door 93 cm, 200x116 cm in front of and 77 cm beside toilet
- Guided tours in sign language for hearing impaired guests on request.
Work of art
The entrepreneur Esche family always thought further than their own stocking factory – much further. The forefather of the dynasty, Johann Esche, had – as is shown in the Esche Museum in Limbach-Oberfrohna – recreated a stocking knitting frame in 1700 and thus sustainably influenced the economic development of the whole region. His equally successful successors worked for the benefit of the community as generous patrons. Herbert Eugen Esche (1874–1962) promoted the arts in particular. He was a friend of the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, who painted six portraits of the family, and the Belgian Henry van de Velde. In 1902 Esche commissioned the artist, designer and interior designer, who at the time was still largely unknown as an architect, to build a villa in Chemnitz, which van de Velde in 1911 again extended and largely furnished himself. Van de Velde's wife Maria Sethe is said to have helped the artist to design the park. After 1945 the art nouveau Villa Esche, which is a Gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of art had an eventful post-war history, among other things as the seat of the Soviet military commander and the Stasi secret police. After being carefully restored and redeveloped from 1998 to 2001, it now houses a Henry van de Velde museum with rooms including their original furnishings and other exhibits. It also serves as a meeting place for business, art and culture.
Icon of the modern age
The residential building of Herbert Esche (1874 –1962), manufacturer of socks, was constructed in 1903 in a mansion district according to designs by the artist Henry van de Velde (1863 –1957). Van de Velde significantly shaped Art Nouveau in Germany and is considered to be the forerunner of the Bauhaus ideas. Villa Esche was his first architecture project in Germany. Herbert and Johanna Esche gave him carte blanche in respect to the design. His “design for life” comprised all areas of the family’s living environment: from the façade and spatial arrangements, wall decorations, wall coverings, doors, windows, lamps and rugs, furnishings, porcelain, silver, letter opener and travelling rug in the car to clothes, jewellery and the spaciously designed garden. After an eventful history since the year 1945, the estate and villa were acquired by the town of Chemnitz in 1998 to be restored as architectural gem of European renown. The house serves as museum of the Chemnitz Art Collections, is open for tours and the venue of numerous events. The outbuilding houses a restaurant.