At the Limits of Architectural Freedom.

The decades-long friendship between the architect Harry Rosenthal and the writer Arnold Zweig began with the building of a ‘writer’s workshop’ for the vision impaired writer in Berlin-Eichkamp. While they were able to maintain personal contact in Palestinian and later British exile, they had to leave their works or the site of their work – for both a highly emotional project – in their original home country.

The studio on the edge of Grunewald Forest was designed especially for the needs of the writer, with a largely glazed southern façade. The black desk and chest of manuscripts were staged in the space. The clear lines of the ‘white cube’ facing the street dissolved at the back of the house, and pergolas allowed the garden and the architecture to fuse.

While the pine trees of Eichkamp lasted through the decades, Arnold Zweig was dispossessed in absentia. When General Leonhard Kaupisch purchased the building from the German government in 1938, he had it remodelled into a standard petit bourgeois home. In the interest of a ‘proper architectural spirit’, the functional remodelling in the eyes of the authorities was a welcome opportunity to have this ‘eyesore’ removed from the area.

Arnold Zweig’s works fell victim to the book burning, but after his return from Israel to the GDR they once again achieved prominence. Harry Rosenthal’s creation, the ‘modern writer’s workshop’, bears the traces of the residents’ various conceptions of living.

Arnold Zweig’s efforts to regain his home after the end of the war ultimately failed after years of restitution litigation. Since the house had lost value in the eyes of the writer due to the remodelling, he agreed to a compensation agreement in 1951. And the building was left to itself.

The after-life of the building located at Kühler Weg 9 led to into a confused network on architectural, literary-artistic, political and historical levels. The large number of unexpected inter-linkages resulted in the intellectual collage of archival material, conversations with other researchers, eyewitnesses, the current residents, and historical and contemporary publications. The film created in the process revisits this material and tries to allow the building itself to testify to its own history.

A project by:
Lucas Podzuweit
Ortrun Bargholz

zum Film (passwortgeschützt)