The history of Haus am Waldsee

Haus Knobloch, 1926, today Haus am Waldsee, photo: Käthe Stoef, Hamburg

Built in 1922, the villa at Argentinische Allee 30 which has presented international contemporary art under the name “Haus am Waldsee since January, 1946, is being refurbished and expanded through the German Lottery Deutsche Klassenlotterie. The former east wing of the house, which was damaged in 1945 and demolished in the 1950s, has been reconstructed and transformed into a functional room with large French windows. 

Haus am Waldsee was one of the first institutions in Germany to show international contemporary art in January 1946 and is one of the few to have done so in an unbroken sequence ever since. The villa was originally commissioned by a Jewish mackintosh manufacturer as a residence for his family. Before the end of the 1920s, however, the Knobloch family sold the lakeside estate and emigrated to Argentina. By the end of the Second World War the property had changed hands no fewer than a further seven times. The deputy director of the Film Chamber of the Reich, Karl Melzer, lived here in the 1940s. In March 1945 he did not return from an official trip and disappeared in Southern Germany instead. In June 1945 the Berlin Philharmonics played one of their first concerts after the war in the garden of the house that had been co-opted by Soviet forces. In 1946 the art historian and former Reichskunstwart, Erwin Redslob, is said to have been the last to see Franz Marc’s “Der Turm der Blauen Pferde” (1913) at the house. The painting is missing to this day. On the history of the painting and the rumours surrounding its eventual disappearance in Berlin-Zehlendorf by 1948, Haus am Waldsee, in cooperation with Staatlichen Graphischen Sammlungen in Munich, has presented a major group exhibition of contemporary artists in the spring of 2017.

Waldsee around 1910, colour print based on photo by Richard Hoffmann, From: Die Villenkolonie Zehlendorf-West am Grunewald, published by the Zehlendorf-West Terrain-Aktiengesellschaft, Berlin


From 1946 the affectionately named “Haus am Waldsee” became a meeting place for artists and musicians who had been silenced during the Nazi period. From 1948 the house, under the directorship of Carl Ludwig Skutsch, developed its profile with an exhibition programme that gained attention well beyond the city. Artistic positions that had been ostracised since 1937 and passed Germany by, such as Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore or Max Ernst, were presented at Haus am Waldsee for the first time in post-war Berlin. Artists who had been victims of the action known as “Degenerate Art”, like Oskar Schlemmer, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Käthe Kollwitz or Hermann Blumenthal, were thus rehabilitated here by the late 1940s.

William Shakespeare, Ein Sommernachtstraum, open air theatre by the Waldsee, 1949, Photo: Haus am Waldsee

Exhibition Renée Sintenis, left: Karl Ludwig Skutsch, right: Bernhard Heiliger, 1958, photo: Haus am Waldsee

Exhibition Karl Hartung, 1952, photo: Haus am Waldsee

Exhibition Alexander Camaro, 1951, photo: Hellmuth Pollaczek, Berlin-Schöneberg

Since 2005, when Katja Blomberg took over the directorship, the focus is placed on today’s creative scene in Berlin. Thomas Florschütz, Jonathan Monk, Corinne Wasmuth, Norbert Bisky, Beate Gütschow, Anton Henning, Björn Melhus, Olav Christopher Jenssen, Frank Nitsche, Marcel van Eeden, Albrecht Schnider, Takehito Koganezawa, Michael Sailsdorfer, Christine Streuli and Leiko Ikemura, among others, mark international positions in the visual arts. Moreover, designers like Werner Aisslinger, architects such as Jürgen Mayer.H or composers like Peter Ablinger were given solo exhibitions.

Haus am Waldsee, 2019, Foto: Bernd Borchardt

Haus am Waldsee, 2019, photo: Bernd Borchardt

Haus am Waldsee, 2012, photo: Harry Schnitger

Artist’s talks, artist’s dinners, concerts, book presentations, children’s openings, yoga amidst the art and guided tours in dialogue form will again accompany the exhibitions after the reopening. Audio guides to the Modernist architecture in the neighbourhood (Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, Hermann Muthesius) and a sculpture park on the Waldsee (Karl Hartung, Lynn Chadwick, Thomas Rentmeister, Michael Beutler) round off what we offer. Haus am Waldsee is independently operated. It receives subsidies and grants from the Berlin Senate as well as the borough of Steglitz-Zehlendorf of Berlin. A growing friends and supporters association lends crucial support.