Totaling around $9 million and lasting just more than two years, the massive restoration of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Villa Tugendhat wrapped up last month and the historic house opened for public tours
on March 6. The only example of Modern architecture in the Czech Republic, the house was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the end of 2001, which eventually led to this total refurbishment of the house and grounds. Mies built the house for Greta and Fritz Tugendhat and their children. The Jewish German family was heavily involved in the League for Human Rights and had to flee Brno and their custom home in 1938. The house was confiscated by the Gestapo in 1939 and was nearly destroyed during its use as army barracks by the Nazis until the end of the war. Furniture was used as firewood, nearly all of the glazing had been shattered, and the mechanical systems dismantled, including the motors for two technical innovations of the time—air transfer and retractable glazing systems.
Villa Tugendhat was repaired to inhabitable conditions and used as a community building for the next two decades until a local Brno architect began the movement to get the house fully restored in the early 1960s. He was successful and it was declared a public monument in 1963. After the shell was rebuilt, the city also replanted the gardens in their original design. Once Czechoslovakia split into two independent countries in the early ’90s, the house was cared for by the Brno Museum until the Villa Tugendhat Foundation was established in 2006. The foundation oversaw the more complete restoration of Mies’ Modernist masterpiece.
The house can be explored only through guided tours, which are offered Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. A maximum of 15 people can participate in each hourly tour. A garden tour also is available, as well as a technical tour highlighting the ahead-of-their-time mechanical systems used in the house.