A brief story.                                                                                                               Spanish version

The Tugendhat House: Mies, Johnson - Henningsen, Poulsen.
Juan Manuel Boggio Videla Arch                              Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This story started almost as an inner journey. I owed it to myself to pay attention, after so many years of persistent curiosity. What started as a personal task grew and developed into a research that may be considered trivial when set against our current harsh daily context, but I think it provides new information and valuable lessons. That is why I decided to share the result.

1. Johnson´s text facsimile

As a beginning student of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning of the University of Buenos Aires, I came across a journal article with photos and plans of the Farnsworth House, which I devoured in true architectural wonderment. My enthusiasm grew stronger after Phillip Johnson´s book on Mies van der Rohe´s work (MoMA, revised second edition, 1953) - a must read for those interested in the subject-. My excitement motivated me to convince my friend Marcelo Montserrat to take on with me the adventurous challenge of translating the book. A Law student then and a respected member of Academia now, Marcelo merged his excellent command of the English language with his life long interest in history and the arts to produce an excellent work that has withstood the test of time.


Writing about the Tugendhat House, Johnson says in his book (and the phrase is repeated in the following editions):"With a scrupulousness unparalleled in our day, Mies personally designed every visible element even to the lighting fixtures, the curtain-track holders and the heating pipes.". This statement was totally admissible within the context.

As soon as the translation was completed I was surprised to find lamps similar to those in the Tugendhat House (although bigger and metallic) lighting a gym I had just joined. Almost immediately, I found out that a small shop nearby had the same lamps for sale.

Amazed at the find, I visited the shop and told the owner about the lamp in the Tugendhat House and the words by Johnson on the design. Without hesitation, he replied: "The architect designed himself everything but the lamps, which are made by Poulsen, a Danish lighting company". I was astonished, and I choose to presume that the manufacturer had used a Mies´ design. I set on to compare my discoveries with Johnson's affirmation, but the task was postponed indefinitely. After some time, the gymnasium was remodelled, its lamps gone, as was the shop that sold them.

For more than forty years, the subject has randomly reappeared in my consciousness without resulting in further action until now, the start of the second chapter of this story.

I recently came across the web page of the Danish Embassy in Washington (USA) and my surfing took me to a Bulletin Board.

I picked up where I had left and posted a request for information on the lamps, mentioning Mies, the Tugendhat House and Poulsen. I re-visited the board several times to find no answers to my request. But one day, I received a message in my personal mailbox that said:

"Dear Sir,
The lamp that you refer to is most certainly made by the company Louis Poulsen in Denmark. I have contacted someone from the company, and they will forward some information to you on possible models. If you have a picture that you can forward by mail, that could help them out.     
Kind regards.                   Nicole

 While still in awe of the news, I received a second message, from Alvin Madsen, an executive from Poulsen. Nicole, his daughter living in America, had re-sent my message to him. The following mail exchange - which Vibeke Mogensen, an architect from the company, joined afterwards - allowed me to discern accurately where the lamp came from.

Note:   From now on, those words in
red will be hyperlinks to pages with additional information about the particular topic. At the bottom of this text, I included a more detailed list of links organized according to the sequence in which the diverse themes appears, as well as the credits to the illustrations. If anyone owns the copyright of illustrations shown here, and believes that right is being violated, please contact me for removal of text and link.

The Louis Poulsen Company was founded in 1892, as Denmark was being electrified. It started by manufacturing electrical tools and supplies as well as lighting products. The firm became known abroad and today (more than a hundred years after) it continues developing new products and custom designs.


2. Poul Henningsen


In 1924, Poulsen began a lasting, close and strong relationship with an outstanding Danish architect and designer, Poul  Henningsen, starting with a presentation in the "Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes", to be held in Paris the following year.

Hennignsen´s designs won a gold medal, and Poulsen achieved great renown among the architects who visited the exhibition, Alvar Alto and Mies van der Rohe among them. From that moment on, Poulsen products were frequently used in important architectural works.

Poulsen manufactured several products for the Tugendhat House: ceiling lighting designed by Arne Jacobsen and the lamps called PH- Pendant Glass, belongin to the PH series, named after designer Poul Hennignsen.
Designed in 1926, they are still in production and widely used. A unique feature of this formally refined fixture is that the light source always remains hidden to the observer, thus preventing glare.

3. Glass Pendant PH- Lamp (current version)


4. Tugendhat House  (1931)    Living room with PH lamps

5. Tugendhat House (at present) Living room
     with PH lamps supplied by Poulsen for the
     house restoration

The PH lamps are part of a generic lighting design concept by Poulsen, called Multi-shade. Its concentric shades eliminate glare through the careful three-dimensional design of shade components.

6. . Henningsen´s study for his multishade system.

7. Contrast Lamp.

8. Artichoke Lamp.

Poul Henningsen developed several lighting designs, most of them based in the Multi-shade system, among which the Contrast and Artichoke lamps are remarkable examples. All of his designs were widely accepted and most of them duplicated. Another worthy example of Henningsen´s talent, his "black-out" lamps, allowed the famous Tivoli remain illuminated during World War II despite air raids.

Henningsen (1894 - 1967) was a renaissance man. A skilled architect, outstanding lighting expert and filmmaker, he was also involved in theatre activities and in social criticism.
For the centennial of his birth, Louis Poulsen CO A/S published a book "Light years ahead" in which the PH series is prominently featured (a copy of this book was generously sent to me by Miss Mogensen).
At the same time, the firm re-launched the pendant and tabletop versions of the PH and organized an exhibition of its history at the Danish Museum of Decorative Art (Kunstindustrimuseet) in Copenhagen.

9. Poul Henningsen

PH series style lamps can be seen in Buenos Aires at the lobby of the Cesar Pelli-designed building of Telefónica de Argentina. It is a four-shade Henningsen concept re-designed by Sophus Frandsen and Ebbe Christensen in 1980 for the Charlottenborg Café (after which the lamp is named).


10. Charlottenborg Lamp


11. República Building, Buenos Aires


More information about Poulsen and Henningsen, their history and products (including the PH and its versions) can be found in the respective web sites (see list of web sites below).

As stated, valuable conclusions can be derived from this experience:

12. Tugendhat House. Main front on the street.

13. Tugendhat House. Hall.

14. Tugendhat House. Access area and study.
15. Tugendhat House. Living Room.

16. Tugendhat House. Winter garden.
17. Tugendhat House. Dining room.

18. Tugendhat House. Main front on the garden.

19. Tugendhat House. Main front on the garden.

I am quite pleased with this harvest and hope the future will bring even greater abundance.

Note    (November 2003):

The above article was written and published between 2001 and 2002. References to the book by Daniela Hammer-Tugendhat y Wolf Tegethoff were based on Internet excerpts and commentary. More recently I obtained the actual book and was able to read it in detail. It is an excellent publication in all respects. Text and graphics afforded a fascinating experience. I highly recommend it to those interested in this topic.

The book is organizad in five chapters.

The first chapter features personal commentary by Daniela and her parents regarding the architect, the house and the life they led in it. Information about the family confirms my Internet data-based assumption that Ernst is the son of Fritz and Grete. It is important to highlight the human, fresh quality contributed by family photographs depicting daily life, with those featuring the children conveying remarkable tenderness. This is uncommon in architectural publications, which usually exclude the "distracting" owner-user.

In addition to said account and comments and to those of nanny Irene Kalkofen, the driver and other witnesses related to the history of family and house, special consideration should be granted to the excelent second chapter featuring Wolf Tegethoff's critique of the work and the design process. I specifically would like to point out the review of the alternatives considered before adopting the final design, the fine analysis of the indoor-outdoor relationship, the aesthetic and spatial value of the Villa and the detailed inventory of its advanced technological and construction features: steel structure, waterproofing of the basement, sliding glass panels, solar protection, HVAC systems, etc., including data on builders and suppliers.

In the third chapter, Franz Schulze invokes the character and thinking of Mies van der Rohe. The fourth chapter brings Ivo Hammer's account of the criteria applied at each of the different stages of preservation of the house. His careful analysis addresses the most minute details.

Finally, in the fifth chapter, Nina Franziska Schneider and Wolf Tegethoff review the original furniture catalogue, listing designers, manufacturers, placement within the house and current location.

Despite the valuable and abundant information compiled by the authors, it is interesting to point out that there is no reference to lighting systems except for the mention of a safety light at the entrance ("The passage was originally protected by a railing and provided with extra security by an electric light barrier", Tegethoff, pg. 55) and the restoration of lighting at ceilings and walls ("ceiling and wall lighting", Hammer, Note 62, pg. 136). There is also no reference to the origin of lighting fixtures installed, even though Hennigsen's PH fixtures and Jacobsen's surface ceiling mounted fixtures clearly appear in original and current photographs.

Some additional remarks: in my review of the excellent and abundant photographic materials provided in the book and Internet sites, I was unable to find interior or exterior night photographs of the house. As far as I know, the only photographs depicting artificially lit spaces are those found in Johnson's book (Mies van der Rohe, MoMA, Second Edition, pgs. 84 and 85) .

Finally, I kindly suggest that the inclusion of the precedent topics could become an interesting addition to future editions of the Johnson and the Hammer-Tugendhat / Tegethoff books.

A Personal View

The photographs below show Marcelo Montserrat and the author when they were translating Johnson’s book.

At that time they visited Casa Curutchet (La Plata, Argentine, Le Corbusier, architect) which was under construction.


Marcelo is seen standing on the roof while Boggio VIdela stands by the front windows. Below is a photograph of the house with scaffolding still in place.

List of links:

http://www.pritzkerprize.com/pjohn.htm   About Philip Johnson.

http://www.an-historia.org.ar/index2.php?s=laacademia/acad_m/academicos_nros.php   About Marcelo Montserrat.

www.louis-poulsen.dk   Web site of Louis Poulsen & Co. A/S.

http://www.scandinaviandesign.com/poulHenningsen/   Biographical data of Poul Henningsen.

http://www.brno.cz/galerie/podrobnosti.php?id=59&jazyk=en    About Tugendhat House. Current photographs..

http://dw-world.de/german/0,3367,1645_A_398858_1_A,00.html   About Tugendhat House.

http://www.spilberk.cz/eng/index.html    Museum of the City of Brno.

www.tu-harburg.de/b/kuehn/lm2.html    Mies and his work.

www.washington.edu\ark2    Mies and his work. Washington University. Achitecture photographs data base.

http://www.iit.edu/~grc/miesvideography.html  Mies and his work. IIT videotapes on Mies.

http://www.unesco.org/whc/sites/fr/1052.htm  Tugendhat House in the UNESCO.

http://www.grahamfoundation.org/abstract/grantDetail.asp?abstractNo=00.067  Lost  and Found Productions.

http://www.summamas.com/25a.htm   About J. P. Bonta.

http://pages.infinit.net/malicorn/tugend.html  Biographical data of Ernst Tugendhat.

http://www.archinform.net/projekte/6242.htm?ID=437e56a1217f6f9f60bd6fa506754358    Lemke House.

http://www2.rz.hu-berlin.de/francopolis/Cons.II01/Rohe.htm  Biographical data of Georgia van der Rohe.

http://www.krefeld.de/   House Esters and House Lange Museums.

http://www.iba-fuerst-pueckler-land.de/wolf-house-project/my_wolf_house_projectfirstpage.htm   Wolf house project.
http://www.miesbcn.com/   and http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/   Barcelona Pavilion.
http://caad.arch.ethz.ch/teaching/wfp/ABGESCHLOSSENE/vonwil/analysis/MHbau.html    House for the Berlin Construction Exhibition.

www.weissenhofsiedlung.de   Weissenhofsiedlung.

www.moma.org/mies    MoMA and Whitney Museum Exhibition.

About the Author:

Juan Manuel Boggio Videla ( jmbvarq@hotmail.com ). Architect. Graduated from the School of Architecture and Urban Planning of the University of Buenos Aires. Vice-president of INTEGRAL COMPUTACION S.A. Member of the Board of the Latin American and Iberian Association of Computational Methods, with headquarters in Rio de Janeiro. Head of Architecture Department, Project Manager, and Head of the R&D Department of the Engineering Division in SADE SACCIFIM, an international A-E-C Firm. Project and construction of houses, schools, offices and commercial buildings, graphic and industrial design projects, developed as independent architect. Professor and Researcher in the Housing Research Centre at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning of the University of Buenos Aires. Guest lecturer at various domestic and foreign cultural institutions including schools, universities, museums, associations, etc. He has published books and articles in areas of his competency and has participated in courses and congresses in Argentina and abroad.

Credits to the illustrations:
1; 4; Mies van der Rohe. Ph. Jonson. (MoMA, 1953)   
2; www.leksikon.org/html/dk/henningsen_poul.htm
3; www.louis-poulsen.dk  
6;Design of P. Henningsen.  Light Years Ahead, Louis Poulsen A/C   
7; 8; 10; Dansk Møbelkunst  www.dmk.dk/designers/001 9; www.pladstilosalle.dk/baggrund/persongalleri/15.html 11; Juan Manuel Boggio Videla   12; Jan Kratochvíl www.czarchiweb.cz  
5; 13; 15; 16; 17; 19; Zdenek Kolarík www.brno.cz/podrobnosti.php?ID=59&jazyk=en 
14; www.chez.com/archive/maison/tugendhat  
18; Helena Kupèíková1 www.brno.cz/podrobnosti.php?ID=59&jazyk=2 

Produced by ARQUITECTURA EN LINEA ©, 2003.