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Villa Tugendhat

Villa Tugendhat is a historical building in Brno, Czech Republic. It is one of the pioneering prototypes of modern architecture in Europe, and was designed by the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Built between the years 1928-1930 for Fritz Tugendhat and his wife Greta, the villa soon became an icon of modernism.

Rohe's design principle of "less is more" and accent on functional amenities of the house created a fine example of early functionalism architecture, a grounbreaking new vision in building design at the time. Mies used the revolutionary iron framework which enabled him to dispense with supporting walls and arrange the interior in order to achieve a feeling of space and light. He also designed all furniture (two types of armchair designed for the building, the Tugendhat chair and the Brno chair, are still in production). There were no paintings or decorative items in the villa but the interior was by no means austere due to the use of naturally patterned materials such as the captivating onyx wall and rare tropical woods. The onyx wall is partially translucent and changes appearance when the evening sun is low. The architect also managed to make the magificient view from the villa an integral part of the interior.

The cost of building the villa was very high due to the unusual construction method, the luxurious materials, very modern technology of heating, ventilation, etc. It is also quite large for a family house, a fact which may escape casual visitors since the elegant simplicity of the rooms used by the family is compensated by a very large space occupied by various utility rooms.

Fritz and Greta Tugendhat, who were Jewish, left Czechoslovakia with their children in 1938, shortly before the country was dismembered following the Munich Agreement. They never returned. The house was used for various practical purposes for several decades after World War II and in 1992 the political leaders of Czechoslovakia met there to sign the document that formally divided the country into the present separate states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Since 1994 the villa has been open to the public as a museum administered by the city of Brno.

Villa Tugendhat was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001.

In 2007 the heirs of Fritz and Greta have formally applied for the restitution of the villa, citing a law covering works of art confiscated during the Holocaust. The reason for this application appears to be frustration over the failure of the municipality of Brno to carry out vital restoration work.

The house was a principal location in the 2007 film Hannibal Rising, serving as the Villa of the villain, Vladis Gutas. Simon Mawer's 2009 Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, The Glass Room, is a fictional account of a house inspired primarily by the Villa Tugendhat.

A reconstruction and restoration of the villa started in February 2010 with estimated costs of 150 million CZK (app. 5,769,000 EUR; 7,895,000 USD). This reconstruction should end in january 2012.

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