The Wedding Tower and the main exhibition hall as it looks today. Designed by Olbrich and begun in 1905 and finished in 1908 the tower and Municipal Exhibition Building were the most monumental of the Mathildenhöhe's permanent structures. The Wedding Tower was a symbolic gift to the Duke and his bride from the city of Darmstadt.
The cubic horizontal massing of the Municipal Exhibition Building forms a strong counterpoint to the verticality of the Wedding Tower. Even today, Olbrich's interior design for the exhibition hall proves to be highly functional.
One of the first buildings by Olbrich, the Ernst Ludwig House, housed the artist's studios. Called by Olbrich the "Temple of Work" it was changed early on in honor of the colony's patron, Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse. This building like most of those on Mathildenhöhe was heavily damaged during World War II. However, most of the damage was in the rear of the building and the beautiful main portal was left largely intact.
The portal is an omega shaped entrance flanked by two large figures sculpted in raw tufa stone by Ludwig Habich. They are Man and Woman. Across the top of the arch is a motto that recalls the one used in the House of Secession in Vienna. This one translates as: "The artist shall show his own world, that never was or ever will be".
The entrance has a kind of "altar" feeling to it - especially in its heavy use of gold gilt. It's quite probable that Olbrich had every intention of referencing an altar in this regard. He did, after all, view this building as a "Temple To Work". His gold ornamentation probably owes a debt of gratitude to Gustav Klimt whom Olbrich knew well as another member of the Secession.
The only house on Mahildenhöhe not designed by Joseph Olbrich was Peter Behren's house. Behren's was trained as a painter and this was his first foray into architecture. It would not be his last. His home pays homage to certain Jugendstijl sensibilities while still embracing traditional German architecture. This is especially true on the pediment fronts and curved pointed arches reminiscent of Northern German architecture.
The entrance, like Olbrich's portal for the Ernst Ludwig House, exudes a temple like quality. With a linear bronze relief and the beautiful articulated glazed terra cotta brick work, the main entrance implies that one is entering hallowed ground.
Built in 1899 by Russian architects, the chapel provided a place of worship for the Grand Duke's sister, Alex (Alexandra) and her husband Czar Nicholas II when they came to visit. It recently underwent major restoration and is an exquisite example, albeit on a small scale, of Russian Orthodox architecture.
The top of the wedding tower as seen from behind the exhibition building. The tower is 160 feet high. A common belief is that the top of the tower symbolizes a raised hand, however, it's more probable that Olbrich is simply mimicing a Northern German style of architecture in which step gables are used to the same effect. In this tower, the edge of each pinnacle contour is faced with a violet glazed tile that further enhances the effect.
The majestic entrance hall mosaics face each other and were designed by Friedrich Wilhelm Kluekens. The tower honors the marriage of Ernst Ludwig and Eleonore von Solms-Hohensolms-Lich. This mosaic, full of symbolism like so much Jugendstil art, represents marital love. "The Kiss" is a recurrent theme in Jugendstil art.