HAPPY PLACES FOR HEROES
In the late 1920s, Albert Einstein, celebrated physicist, was presented by the mayor of Berlin with a lakeside plot for his services to science. Einstein was known to be fond of spending his Saturdays sailing on the Wannsee.
When the news of this hit the newspapers, Einstein had declared a preference for wooden architecture. A young industrial architect named Konrad Wachsmann got it touch with Einstein, as he had been working with a factory in Saxony which was pioneering early prefabricated architecture.
Wachsmann felt he could get a man of science excited about new construction methods. The result was a house that is modest and charmingly specific. It is clearly tailored to the tastes of a couple who had clear priorities. some rooms such as the kitchen are consigned to irrelevance, while the large square terrace is given the top spot, looking down over the Schwielowsee.
One can see an emerging 'prefab aesthetic' in the decision to express the rafters in the facade, between the first floor and ground floor windows, although by today's standards the house is largely hand made.
Just a few years later, as Fascism took hold, Einsten, Wachsmann and thousands of others had to turn their backs on their happy places by the lake and start anew. Wachsmann sought the mentorship of Walter Gropius in Massachusetts where the two developed prefab housing concepts for American firms that never really took off.
In the end, Wachsmann's structural talent was of most use to the US Military, for whom he planned amazing hangars.
The house is kept in great condition and makes for a wonderful afternoon's escape from Berlin.