At the end of the 19th century, society was in the grip of tuberculosis. The lung complaint, which could not yet be cured with drugs, was regarded as a disease of civilisation. If a sufferer had enough money, he or she took up residence in one of the sanatoriums in the alpine regions. Only a long stay at a sanatorium, as described famously by Thomas Mann, offered the prospect of a cure.
The Dr. Barner Sanatorium in Braunlage is one of the most important Jugendstil buildings still in existence in Germany today. In 1900, the philologist and physician Dr Friedrich Barner acquired two villas constructed in the wooden style typical of the region above the centre of the town and opened his “Convalescent home for the upper classes” there.
In 1904, the patients seeking a cure and recovery included Albin Müller, a lecturer in spatial art and the study of form at Magdeburg School of Arts and Crafts, and later Director of the Mathildenhöhe Artists’ Colony in Darmstadt. The friendship that Müller struck up with the director of the sanatorium during his stay paid off for the architect: Friedrich Barner commissioned him to construct an extension to the building.
With the prestigious central building completed in 1914, Albin Müller connected the existing villas to create a complex with three wings. However, the truly special nature of the sanatorium only becomes apparent inside: the entire decoration of the interior, including furniture, wooden fittings, staircases, wall coverings, wallpaper, lights, crockery and cutlery, was designed by Albin Müller in line with late Jugendstil, with the majority having been retained to the present day. Each room makes an impression with a special selection of materials and coordinated colour scheme.
Alongside materials such as marble and solid wood, the design makes use of linoleum, a new material at that time: Not only are many floor surfaces covered with linoleum, but it is also used for walls – with these features being known as Lincrusta wall coverings. As well as offering hygiene benefits, the material was chosen due to being aesthetically pleasing: thanks to the inlaid procedure in which coloured and ornamental patterns were embossed in the linoleum base, it was possible to create extremely individual designs based on Albin Müller’s drafts for the floors and walls of the sanatorium.
Today, there is still almost 1,300 m2 of original inlaid linoleum flooring in the Dr. Barner Sanatorium.
The Dr. Barner Sanatorium is located in Braunlage, a spa town and winter sports resort with a therapeutic climate in the Harz mountains. The private clinic, which was opened in 1900, includes two traditional-style villas and a central extension competed in 1914, and was formerly used as a “convalescent home for the upper classes”. The central building of the sanatorium was constructed by Albin Müller, who went on to become Director of the Mathildenhöhe Artists’ Colony in Darmstadt, and is one of the most significant examples of late German Jugendstil.
Inlaid linoleum, which had been invented around the turn of the centure, was used for the floor. Using this procedure, it was possible to incorporate colourful and decorative patterns into the linoleum base without the risk of them wearing off. The floors were completed on the basis of Müller’s drafts, with multi-coloured patterns of geometric and organic shapes, rich in contrast, twelve for the floors and twelve for the Lincrusta wall coverings. It is no accident that Albin Müller designed the linoleum floors himself. Similarily to Peter Behrens or Albert Gessner, he generally worked closely with industry and craftsmen when it came to producing his own designs in forms suitable for industrial use. These three early designers are justifiably regarded as pioneers of product design in their era.
Information on the building
Architects: Albin Müller, Dittersbach
Parties involved in the planning: Anker-Linoleumwerke,
Delmenhorst (linoleum floorings and Lincrusta wall coverings)
Client: Dr Friedrich Barner, Braunlage
Location: Doktor-Barner-Straße 1, Braunlage
Image credit: Dr. Barner Sanatorium, Braunlage
The building is fitted out almost completely with linoleum flooring and linoleum wall coverings, known as Lincrusta coverings. Uniquely for Germany, these have also largely been retained up to the present day. Ideas of hygiene played a crucial role in medical beliefs during that era – linoleum floors proved to be ideal for clinics as they were comparatively easy to clean, non-slip, relatively soft and pleasant to walk on.
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