In the upcoming mini-series, I gather photos of the architecture made by Hans Heinrich Müller (1879-1951). The work of this man is too forgotten, although he was the mastermind behind dozens of Electricity Transformer Stations which were constructed in the 1920s. Müller’s usage of red bricks in odd shapes and eccentric ornaments have something magic, even oriental. It happened already five times to me, that I was researching a peculiar building I’ve seen somewhere in Berlin and (once again) used to be an original Müller. Clear as the day, it’s time to research his work once and for all.
Yet, Müller didn’t get the assignment to build transformer stations straight away. He had to work for it earlier. Müller’s career started with the construction of the ‘Landhaus Scheringer‘ (a residential house in Zehlendorf) in 1906/7, followed by projects in the countryside around Berlin and in other parts of Germany. His breakthrough as an architect came in 1909/10, when he worked as the Gemeindebaumeister (±Building supervisor) of Berlin’s suburb named Steglitz. In this function, Müller was responsible for all public buildings that were to be constructed. In this period, Müller planned four buildings for the municipal of Steglitz himself. On the first sight, the three schools (1909 – 1911/12) are different than the brick electricity work (1910), the financial office (1911/12) and the Wasserturm (1915/1919). However, when you keep an eye to the ornaments, one will find these details back in his later work.
The ‘Gemeindedoppelschule’ (1909)
Müllers first public assignment was the construction of a ‘Municipal Double School’ in 1909. After all, the urbanisation made that the population of the Berlin suburb was booming. Müller was inspired by a country houses around Berlin. The two entrances, with sculptures of Hans Lehmann-Borges, separated the boys from the girls. These sculptures have been damaged during World War II, when the school was used by the Nazi’s. Here, they shot several Soviet Union’s prisoners of war as well as imprisoned civilians. Nowadays, the school still serves its original function.
Gemeindekraftwerk Birkbuschstraße (1910/11)
In April 1910, the city council of Steglitz decided to construct an electricity-works to attract more industry. The coals, which were burnt to produce the electricity, were transported over nearby Teltowkanal (Teltow’s canal) – which also provided the cooling-water. Interestingly, Müller’s design was based on the Chorin monastery in the countryside around Berlin. Typically for Müller, the estate has a variety of forms and heights. However, the same type of bricks (‘Rathenower Handstrichziegel, or: bricks from the town of Rathenau) are used, while a row of white bricks underneath the gutter unifies the whole complex.
Gemeinderealschule Steglitz (1911/12)
Wasserturm Steglitz (1915-1919)
Müller served as a lieutenant at the Eastern front during the First World War. He was injured in 1915, after which he was given a more relaxing job as an observer for captive ballons. World War #1 made that it took till 1919 to finish the Wasserturm. The water tower was constructed in order to secure the independency of Steglitz. Ironically, it was gobbled up by the German capital a year after the Wasserturm opened. For Müller, it meant that it was his last assignment as being the Gemeindebaumeister for the municipal of Steglitz…
Thanks to Dan Borden (my friend and former colleague at Exberliner) who wrote an eye-opening column about Hans Heinrich Müller. In addition, I want to further recommand the publication Die Logik der Form. Berliner Backsteinbauten von Hans Heinrich Müller by Paul Kahlfeldt.