* Mies Van der Rohe one of pioneers of modern architecture
* Villa cost $9 mln to restore, opens to public in March
* Original owners fled Europe to escape Nazis
By Petr Josek
BRNO, Czech Republic, Feb 29 Ludwig Mies
van der Rohe's Villa Tugendhat in the Czech city of Brno has
been restored to its original splendor ahead of a public
re-opening of the masterpiece of modern architecture, whose
turbulent history mirrors that of 20th century Europe.
One of the pioneers of modern architecture, German-born Mies
van der Rohe completed the three-story house in 1930 for Fritz
and Grete Tugendhat, wealthy Jewish industrialists who gave him
free rein over the design and construction of the villa in Brno,
130 miles (209 kms) from Prague.
The result was a revolutionary flat-roofed villa containing
an iron framework, that allowed him to dispense with supporting
walls, and enveloped by glass windows that helped to create a
flowing interior swimming in space and light.
Perched on a slope with a view over the gardens of Brno
Castle, it also features a thick onyx interior wall that changes
colour in winter months when hit by the sun at certain angles.
"The building is timeless and has its own atmosphere,"
Michal Malasek, who oversaw the reconstruction, said on
Wednesday at a Brno ceremony attended by one of the Tugendhat's
The City of Brno now owns the villa whose restoration was
overseen by an international team of experts at a cost of some
$9 million. It reopens to the public on March 6.
The Tugendhat family only lived in the house for eight years
before fleeing Europe to escape the Nazis. During the Second
World War it served as a Gestapo headquarters before becoming a
stable for horses used by Russian troops.
Later used as a dance school and a rehabilitation centre,
the villa first opened to the public in 1989 following the
Velvet Revolution, and three years later hosted the talks that
led to the split of Czechoslovakia.
It also inspired 'The Glass Room', a novel shortlisted for
the 2009 Man Booker Prize.
"The location of the structure, its location in relation to
the sun, the layout of the spaces and the construction materials
are the essential factors for creating a dwelling house," said
Mies van der Rohe in 1924 when designing the villa.
"A building organism must be created out of these
conditions," said the architect, who fled Germany under pressure
from the Nazis.
The Tugendhats never returned to the former Czechoslovakia
after the war and their children were unable to reclaim the
villa from the city following the end of communism.
(Writing by Michael Kahn, additional reporting by Robert
Mueller; Editing by Sophie Hares)