In the small town of Löbau in Saxony, tucked away behind a closed-down factory, lies one of the most striking houses of architectural modernism, the Schminke house. It was designed and built by the architect Hans Scharoun (1893-1975) from 1930 till 1933 for the noodle manufacturer Fritz Schminke, his wife Charlotte und their children.
The architect and the couple who commissioned him created a world class architectural monument shortly before the nazi years began. It’s a house full of light and open spaces, a common man’s “Sans Souci” as the architectural writer Adolf Behne put it in 1933.
The people in the town called the house behind Schminke’s noodle factory the “noodle steamship”. With its portholes, the bridge and the exterior stairways, it does justice to this name. Hans Scharoun, who came from Bremerhaven, actually took some of his ideas from shipbuilding. And in a metaphorical sense he understood the house as a ship of life for the whole family.
“Your life’s new ship - toot, toot, toot - is under steam. It will serve you well in the coming cheerful battle.”
wrote Scharoun in the Summer of 1933 in the family’s guest book. The new building should be a house without luxuries, the Schminkes want a house which is easy to run, with an abundance of light and comfortable in all weathers.
Notwithstanding the functionality throughout the house, the building goes way beyond the cubic modernism of the twenties. Scharoun didn’t build with a box of ready-mades. He perceived the house as a mediator between a human being and the nature surrounding him. At the same time he exercised all the freedoms of an architect and the end result is a multi-layered work of art, a masterpiece of organic building.
The film tells the story of a modern house, which seems to have fallen outside of its time. Klaus Kürvers, an historian of architecture, leads the viewer through the house, while Helga Zumpfe, the youngest daughter of the Schminkes, and Ello Hirschfeld, who as a Jewish girl and foster child survived the Nazis here, tell us how the noodle steamship, the cheerful place to live in, meant carefree childhood days for them. Achim Wendschuh, an architect and close colleague of Hans Scharoun, explains the principles of the undertaking. In this way the film combines architecture with what a house can mean for its inhabitants.
“The house that I loved most, was bulit for the industrialist Schminke in Löbau in Saxony.” - Hans Scharoun, in the fifties of 20th Century