In April 1911, Anton and Helene purchase the Ellenwoude estate in Wassenaar. There they intend to realize Helene’s plan for a museum house. Peter Behrens is commissioned to produce a design. But the collaboration with the German architect is difficult from the start. He works simultaneously on other commissions and leaves most of the preparations to his young assistant Ludwig Mies (later Mies van der Rohe). Helene gets along well with Mies: he is calm, serious and listens to her ideas.
Peter Behrens, Design for the Ellenwoude estate in Wassenaar, circa 1912
Helene doubts whether Behrens’ design will ‘exude the spirit’ that she has in mind. Therefore, in early 1912 Anton has a life-sized wood and sailcloth model built on location, with the sailcloth painted in the colour of the brick intended for the museum house. The wooden model can even be moved on rails. Helene indeed finds the design lacking. Then in April, Mies is suddenly dismissed by Behrens. Helene and Anton do not wish to continue without him. They travel to Berlin and urge Behrens to reinstate him. Behrens refuses and is in turn dismissed by the Kröllers.
Two new designs
The young Mies is employed by Müller & Co and is asked to make a new design for the museum house, based on Behrens’ floor plan. But two days later, at the insistence of her advisor Bremmer, Helene gives the same commission to the experienced architect H.P. Berlage. The decision regarding which design to realize would then be made later. Ideally, Helene would like the two architects to produce a design together, but Berlage does not agree to this.
Perspective drawing for the Ellenwoude estate, Mies van der Rohe, 1912
Difference of opinion
The plans of Mies and Berlage are made into scale models in September 1912. Helene prefers the design by Mies, which meets all her requirements thanks to her intensive collaboration with the architect. She finds that Berlage’s plan has too much ornamentation and exudes an unnecessary ‘display of luxury’. But Bremmer chooses Berlage’s design, because, as he declares, ‘that is art’ and the design by Mies is not.
Bremmer’s judgement weighs heavily on Helene. Therefore, Anton also has the design by Mies produced full size in wood and sailcloth. Mies himself even draws the stones on it by hand.
Ludwig Mies, Design for the Ellenwoude estate, model full size, 1912 at Wassenaar
Although Helene is satisfied with the layout, she eventually takes Bremmer’s advice and chooses the design by Berlage. In June 1913, Mies leaves Müller & Co and Berlage joins the company. His plan for Ellenwoude was not made into a full-sized model until the summer of 1915. Then Helene decides that she would, in fact, prefer to build her museum house on the Veluwe and the Ellenwoude estate is sold.
H.P. Berlage, Design for the Ellenwoude estate in Wassenaar (plaster model)