Architecture is the supreme art

Düsseldorf

Wilhelm-Marx Haus, Heinrich Heine Alee 53. A big complex, the surface of an entire block.

I am not sure I would like to spend my life in Düsseldorf, but, so far, it’s the most enjoyable place I’ve been in Germany. The old town, along the Rhine, has an unmistakable Dutch character. A splendid position on the Rhine offers magnificent sunsets and the gas light extends the Flemmish painting charm late into the night. Intelligent urbanism made the river promenade an airy and pleasant urban space. The interesting area i am talking about stretches along the Rhine, for a few blocks inwards, up to Beliner Alee. The rest is mostly 60s and 80s concrete boxes clad in glass. The narrow streets bordered by shiny facades along Kö made me think of Milan. The legendary Warenhaus Tietz (now Kaufhof) by Olbrich was under renovation, so you have to rely on your books for pictures.

Stahlhof. Bastion Strasse 39, Near Kö.

Stumm-Konzern, Breite Strasse 69, Paul Bonatz, 1922-1924. Expressionist office building, nicely restored. The facade is rhythmically marked by the protruding columns. Interesting corner transition.

Going north along the Rhine I discovered a homogeneous area of brick expressionist-modernist buildings, on Kaiserwerther, Uerdinger, Orsoyer streets, built by William Dunkel in 1928. Modernism doesn’t mean always flat white walls… Going a bit further north on the river, a garden city Siedlung shows the housing ideals of the 20s. English-style cottages with front and back gardens. Notice the curving of the streets and the slightly rounded corners of the garden walls.

Continuing the trip, you reach the Nortdpark, designed according the indications of the Nazi regime. Statues of German peasants, workers etc. were displayed along the fountain as an example. Four of them still survive. As you walk, there is a note in German only explaining the whole story.

Nordpark

Tonhalle. Wilhelm Kreis, Helmuth Hentich 1926. Interior altered in the 70s.

The Tonhalle/Ehrenhof area is my favourite spot in Düsseldorf. There you can really feel the influence that architecture on your mood. Straight lines, beautiful proportions with an inspiration from Assirian palaces give you clarity of mind.

Tonhalle, lobby. The only original interior left after the 70s transformation from Planetarium into concert venue.

Ehrenhof, NRW Forum Kultur und Withschaft 1926

The Rhein Terasse, built by the same Kreis & Hentrich, echoes the style of the Ehrenhof is a more subdued manner. A service door was opened and I had the chance to admire this Art Deco ballroom.

The most romantic spot in the city is, in my opinion, the moat park…….Who said you have to go to Madeira for lush gardens ?

No nouveau riche could miss Königs Allee, the shopping street with the well-known international brands, from Zara to Chanel. Just like the Champs-Elysees, on the shady side you have the banks, on the other side – shops and cafes. And the same shoppers, eager to acquire social status by showing a golden buckle on their shoes. I prefer going there at night, to admire in silence the reflection of the maple trees in the canal. Then, you fell connected to the XIXth century, to the bourgeoisie traveling from Karlsbad to Budapest, from Merano to Lago di Garda. Interesting zoomorphic wrought iron balustrades.

The city has an rich ceramic museum, open late on Wed, but the lighting is problematic. Interesting Art Nouveau French vases, some contemporary ‘tongue-in-cheek’ reproductions of daily objects and a vast array of aristocratic tableware coming from local princesses and duchesses.

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