Schmela Haus.  By Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck. Completion: 1971. Built for the avant-garde art dealer Alfred Schmela.
Schmela Haus By Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck. Completion: 1971. Built for the avant-garde art dealer Alfred Schmela. © Achim Kukulies

"Make each door welcoming and give a face to each window. Make each one a place ..."

Aldo van Eyck, architect

The art dealer Alfred Schmela bucked the trends of the time when he built this house that combined spaces for living, working and exhibitions in the old city of Düsseldorf. The Dutch structuralist Aldo van Eyck designed the visionary building, made of pumice concrete, between 1967 and 1971. Its interlocking grey surfaces on Mutter-Ey-Straße were at first seen as totally inappropriate for an exhibition space of the time. White cubes were in-demand; they should be empty and neutral. Until the early 1960s, people mostly used private apartments for gallery operations, but now the curators and artists were moving into old factory buildings and empty shops. The movement came out of New York and developed in parallel to minimal and post-minimal art. Here, exhibited and large-format works could be created. The predominant art forms were industrial, serial and process-heavy. Schmela decided to go against the grain with his gallery. The surfaces are raw and textured; the rooms have all sorts of corners and niches; the façade is defined by its differing window formats. A large glass cylinder stands in the centre of the building. Every detail is precisely thought through here: from the recessed windows to the positions of the hoists. Variegated walls and different kinds of openings in and on the building open up visual axes and allow for changing perspectives. The building opened sensationally on 17 September 1971 with the installation “Barraque D’Dull Odde,” by Joseph Beuys. Many shows followed, featuring Jörg Immendorff, Gerard Richter, Jean Tinguely, Gordon Matta-Clark and the ZERO artists. It was not uncommon that they were seen here in Europe first. It is probably for that reason that the Galerie Schmela developed into one of the most legendary in the nation. Since 1996, it has been under historical monument protection.

Schmela Haus.  is one of the 3 houses of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen with art works of the 20th and 21st-century.
Schmela Haus is one of the 3 houses of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen with art works of the 20th and 21st-century. © Jan Dimog
Schmela Haus.  The three houses are K20 (at Grabbeplatz), K21 (in the Ständehaus), and F3 in Mutter-Ey-Straße 3 just a few steps away from K20.
Schmela Haus The three houses are K20 (at Grabbeplatz), K21 (in the Ständehaus), and F3 in Mutter-Ey-Straße 3 just a few steps away from K20. © Hendrik Bohle
Schmela Haus.  F3 is a venue for discussion and debate, for conferences and performances.
Schmela Haus F3 is a venue for discussion and debate, for conferences and performances. © Jan Dimog
Schmela Haus.  With "Futur 3", international guests from the realms of culture and scholarship share their perspectives on the future of art, museum life, and society as a whole.
Schmela Haus With "Futur 3", international guests from the realms of culture and scholarship share their perspectives on the future of art, museum life, and society as a whole. © Jan Dimog
Schmela Haus.  Dutch structuralist Aldo van Eyck designed the visionary building, made of pumice concrete ...
Schmela Haus Dutch structuralist Aldo van Eyck designed the visionary building, made of pumice concrete ... © Hendrik Bohle
Schmela Haus.  ... between 1967 and 1971.
Schmela Haus ... between 1967 and 1971. © Hendrik Bohle
Schmela Haus.  The surfaces are raw and textured.
Schmela Haus The surfaces are raw and textured. © Jan Dimog
Schmela Haus.  The rooms have all sorts of corners and niches.
Schmela Haus The rooms have all sorts of corners and niches. © Jan Dimog
Schmela Haus.  Every detail is precisely thought through.
Schmela Haus Every detail is precisely thought through. © Jan Dimog
Schmela Haus.  Variegated walls and different kinds of openings in and on the building ...
Schmela Haus Variegated walls and different kinds of openings in and on the building ... © Jan Dimog
Schmela Haus.  ... open up visual axes and allow for changing perspectives.
Schmela Haus ... open up visual axes and allow for changing perspectives. © Hendrik Bohle
Schmela Haus.  Architect and THE LINK co-founder Hendrik Bohle
Schmela Haus Architect and THE LINK co-founder Hendrik Bohle © Jan Dimog
Schmela Haus.  Since 1996, the house and gallery has been under historical monument protection.
Schmela Haus Since 1996, the house and gallery has been under historical monument protection. © Achim Kukulies

In 1995, a renovation took place, led by Günter Zamp Kelp, one of the founders of the wonderful Vienna architecture and artist group Haus-Rucker-Co, which renovated the former passageway into a business and exhibition room. Ulrike Schmela-Brüning, the daughter of the art dealer, closed the venerable house and moved the gallery with her to Berlin. Since 2009, the building has been a part of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (North Rhine-Westphalia Art Collection), along with the exhibition spaces K20 and K21. Schmela Haus now serves as an “experimental rehearsal stage.” Discussions, debates and presentations take place there, as do campaign events and performances. The former residential spaces are used for a Curator-in-Residence program.
In 2013, the Düsseldorf sculptor Andreas Schmitten installed his work "Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal" ("A Set for Schmela Haus. Bar and Hall"). The bar on the ground floor and the hall on the basement level, with their kitschy retro/sci-fi design, contrast wonderfully with Eyck’s rough grey. Additionally, the installation creates a perfect frame for Futur3, the exhibition that regularly takes place there, in which questions about the future – of museums, cities, society, art and science – are debated. Upcoming dates are already fixed: they’re always on Thursdays, starting at 7 p.m.

"Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal." ('A Set for Schmela Haus. Bar and Hall').

Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal..  By Andreas Schmitten, 2013
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal. By Andreas Schmitten, 2013 © Hendrik Bohle
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal..  In 2013, the Dusseldorf sculptor Andreas Schmitten installed his work “Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal” (“A Set for Schmela Haus. Bar and Hall”).
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal. In 2013, the Dusseldorf sculptor Andreas Schmitten installed his work “Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal” (“A Set for Schmela Haus. Bar and Hall”). © Jan Dimog
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal..  The bar on the ground floor ...
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal. The bar on the ground floor ... © Jan Dimog
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal..  ... and the hall on the basement level ...
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal. ... and the hall on the basement level ... © Jan Dimog
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal..  ... with their kitschy retro/sci-fi design, contrast wonderfully with Eyck's rough grey.
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal. ... with their kitschy retro/sci-fi design, contrast wonderfully with Eyck's rough grey. © Hendrik Bohle
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal..  In 1995, a renovation took place, led by Günter Zamp Kelp, one of the founders of the Vienna architecture and artist group Haus-Rucker-Co.
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal. In 1995, a renovation took place, led by Günter Zamp Kelp, one of the founders of the Vienna architecture and artist group Haus-Rucker-Co. © Hendrik Bohle
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal..  Andreas Schmitten was born in Mönchengladbach and ...
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal. Andreas Schmitten was born in Mönchengladbach and ... © Hendrik Bohle
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal..  ... is an internationally recognised concept artist ...
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal. ... is an internationally recognised concept artist ... © Jan Dimog
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal..  ... who lives and works in Dusseldorf.
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal. ... who lives and works in Dusseldorf. © Jan Dimog
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal..  Colours and precision
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal. Colours and precision © Jan Dimog
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal..  The Schmela Haus F3 is opened for events only.
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal. The Schmela Haus F3 is opened for events only. © Jan Dimog
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal..  A stage for dialogue, debate, and discussion.
Ein Set für das Schmela Haus. Bar und Saal. A stage for dialogue, debate, and discussion. © Jan Dimog

Von Hendrik Bohle Architekt, Autor und Stadtforscher, veröffentlicht am .