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Between 1899 and 1914, the Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt was the site of the legendary Artists’ Colony, founded by the young Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse. Situated close to the city centre, it became a sensational experimental field for artistic innovations in which the open-minded sovereign and a group of young artists realised their vision of a fusion of art and life. Their intention was to revolutionise architecture and interior design in order to create a modern living culture. The whole human life-style was to be reformed to gain in beauty and happiness as well as in simplicity and functionality.
This ideological aspect was particularly important in the euphoric beginning, when the Artists’ Colony still stood under the influence of an elitist aestheticism. After 1901 the program became gradually more rational and realistic. The change of ideas is visible among other things in the numerous buildings created on the Mathildenhöhe between 1900 and 1914. They were presented to the general public in four comprehensive exhibitions in 1901, 1904, 1908, and 1914. Though the artists had at first exclusively projected the construction of private villas, they later also created apartment houses and workers’ homes as architectural life size models on the Mathildenhöhe, documenting their efforts to face the arising questions of their time’s life and housing.
The ensemble of the Darmstadt Artists’ Colony is considered today to be one of the most impressive records of the dawning of modern art. Its appearance today is still marked primarily by the buildings of the architect Joseph Maria Olbrich, who notably created the remarkable silhouette of the Mathildenhöhe, as it presents itself to the city, consisting of the Wedding Tower and the Exhibition Building, both completed in 1908.
The Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt is a kind of “open-air museum” where the artwork is present in the buildings, fountains and sculptures. At the same time, in the former studio house and spiritual centre of the artists’ colony, the “Ernst-Ludwig House”, created 1901 by Joseph Maria Olbrich, is today a museum that presents fine and decorative art from the members of the artists’ colony.
The unique integrity of the building complex is today a first-class cultural attraction. Moreover, the Mathildenhöhe is today a lively and contemporary centre of the city’s cultural landscape, supported namely by the Institute Mathildenhöhe.



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