Heinrich Tessenow. Approaches and Iconic Projects

Exhibition "Heinrich Tessenow. Avvicinamenti e progetti iconici", Teatro dell'architettura Mendrisio. Foto Enrico Cano
Exhibition "Heinrich Tessenow. Avvicinamenti e progetti iconici", Teatro dell'architettura Mendrisio. Foto Enrico Cano
Exhibition "Heinrich Tessenow. Avvicinamenti e progetti iconici", Teatro dell'architettura Mendrisio. Foto Enrico Cano
Heinrich Tessenow, State school near Klotzsche (Dresden), 1925-27.
Heinrich Tessenow, State school near Klotzsche (Dresden), 1925-27.

Teatro dell'architettura

Start date: 1 April 2022

End date: 17 July 2022

From Friday April 1, 2022 to Sunday July 17, 2022, the Teatro dell’architettura Mendrisio is pleased to present the exhibition “Heinrich Tessenow. Approaches and Iconic Projects”, promoted by the Academy of Architecture of the Università della Svizzera italiana and curated by prof. Martin Boesch.

The exhibition aims to explore the work of Heinrich Tessenow (1876, Rostock-1950, Berlin), through a number of his buildings, architecture and urban projects, his theoretical reflections and his writings, in the context of the cultural and architectural debate in Germany in the 1st half of the last century.

The exhibition includes original drawings from private and public collections, as well as numerous architectural models of his projects, interpretative panels, reliefs of parts of buildings made with the "frottage" technique, samples of materials, publications, photos and videos as well as some pieces of furniture designed by Heinrich Tessenow himself.


The German architect Heinrich Tessenow (1876-1950) is mainly associated  with projects for small housing for workers, artisans and the middle-class. These buildings, thanks to their simple square form, absence of decoration and expertly controlled proportions, are striking in their strong but discrete presence.

With the exception of the Hellerau Festspielhaus of 1911, it is often forgotten that Tessenow himself designed a number of other iconic buildings, such as the State School in Klotzsche of 1926, the conversion in 1931 of the guardhouse (Neue Wache) in Berlin into a memorial to the victims of World War I, and his impressive yet sensitive project for a bathing holiday centre on the Baltic Sea coast of Prora in 1936, with the powerful image of the great hall (Festsaal) as an open pillared chamber.

Tessenow, who believed the ideal city should have from 20,000 to 60,000 inhabitants, with his projects for schools and administrative buildings, proved to be perfectly capable of carrying out large-scale urban projects. He could control the large scale as well as smaller projects. His school building in Kassel is an excellent example of urban design and  architectural intelligence. In  the 1940s  he carried out  considerable projects of urban expansion and reconstruction.

The discovery of the ruins of the 1926 State School in Klotzsche (Dresden) at the end of the 1990s, thanks to the efforts of the exhibition curator Martin Boesch (1951, Zurich), led to a research project on Heinrich  Tessenow’s achievement. In addition to research in the archives, the curator also practised fieldwork and archaeological investigations, seeking to completing the knowledge of the project also  with the  materials actually used and so save it from completely disappearing. This research has given us back important information about the materiality, colours and atmosphere of the German architect’s work.

This wealth of in-depth knowledge is presented and on display, arranged in three thematic areas:

  • Building in the landscape
  • Projects for the city
  • The big house and the small house