OLBRICH, Josef Maria
(b. 1867, Troppau, d. 1908, Düsseldorf)


Olbrichweg 13a, Mathildenhöhe, Darmstadt

Olbrich's Secession Building caused outrage in Vienna but brought Olbrich international acclaim and an invitation (1899) from Ernest-Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt, to join the artists' colony he proposed to set up in the Mathildenhöhe Park at Darmstadt. In the artists' colony, Olbrich found the freedom and patronage that enabled him to realize a Gesamtkunstwerk combining the garden-city principles of Sitte with an increasingly original architectural style, which moved from a novel volumetric Jugendstil to the simpler, rationalist forms of proto-modernism.

Except for Behrens's house, Olbrich designed all the buildings at the colony, including studios, houses, temporary and permanent pavilions and galleries for exhibitions of the colony's work in 1901, 1904 and 1908. Among his first works was the Ernst Ludwig Haus, a communal studio building with a north-light roof, which was designed to be the focus of the colony's activities and was at the centre of its first exhibition, Ein Dokument deutscher Kunst (1901). Sited on rising ground above the houses, its smooth rectilinear form was set off by a decorated arched entrance flanked by two monumental sculptures representing Strength and Beauty by Ludwig Habich (1872-1949), one of the colony's resident sculptors, at the head of a grand approach stair.