Thanks to a combination of generously sized room layouts, elaborate decorative elements and large windows, buildings designed in the Gründerzeit style have been in high demand since its beginnings in the 19th century. The distinctive genre remains just as appealing to homebuyers to this day.
A love of detail, nature and art
The Gründerzeit architectural style is rooted in mid-19th century Germany and Austria, the age of industry and the resulting economic boom that occurred across Europe. During this time, the middle class rapidly gained influence and founded many of the large and venerable companies that still operate to this day. ‘Railroad barons’, with their new means of transport, made industrialisation on this scale possible. Development was also highly influenced by players such as Krupp in the industrial sector and Baron Rothschild in the banking sector.
However, as well as newly distributed wealth, industrialisation brought with it a grey and drab urban aesthetic and many an eye sore on the cityscape. This is where Gründerzeit offered a refreshing solution.
The architecture of this period is a feast for the eyes. It’s characterised by a desire for natural beauty and the comfort of natural materials in an urban setting. The richly decorated sandstone façades emanate a sense of luxury and exclusivity. This material is durable but easily processed – essential qualities for such impressive exterior decoration.
The intricate working of natural materials was an expression of an appreciation for craftsmanship. Many Gründerzeit buildings contain grand curved staircases and impressive elevator systems made from the revolutionary materials of the time: steel, iron and glass. Balcony parapets, imposing windows and other striking architectural features bestow the buildings with an aura of grandeur.
A passion for detail is also apparent in the living quarters, which exude sophistication and luxury. One need only think of high-gloss parquet, stucco with flowing lines and flower designs on high ceilings, generous suites and stained glass windows. But while all Gründerzeit buildings share certain characteristics, they are also each unique.
From Art Nouveau to Palazzo Risorgimentale – Gründerzeit architecture in a European context
Gründerzeit architecture became popular throughout Europe. Due to a parallel development of similar styles in neighbouring countries, we can still admire the works of Victor Horta in Brussels or the Gothic-influenced buildings of Antonio Gaudi that characterise the cityscape of Barcelona. The Catalan architect and artist created buildings whose flowing sculptural forms along the windows and balconies are reminiscent of living organisms.
Paris, too, is overflowing with Gründerzeit, or Art Nouveau, architecture. Apart from the many buildings, a prime example of this style is found in the entranceways to the metro in the French capital, designed by Hector Guimard. But Gründerzeit also left its mark in regions where you would least expect it. Villa Igiea in Palermo, Sicily, is an outstanding example of a Palazzo Risorgimentale, the Italian version of Gründerzeit style.
Leipzig in Germany not only has an abundance of well-preserved Art Nouveau buildings, it also has the largest district of contiguous Gründerzeit style buildings in all of Germany – the Waldstrasse quarter. The combination of representative front buildings and smaller rear buildings or servant’s quarters has social roots: the intention being to ensure social intermingling. The lower levels of the front buildings contained shops and shopkeeper apartments, while the upper levels were reserved for employees and artisans. The rear buildings, meanwhile, served as accommodation for labourers.
Living in Gründerzeit style
Would you like to make a Gründerzeit building your new home? Bella Italia or Parisian chic, Spanish Modernismo or living aesthetics in your home country. Engel & Völkers is represented in 32 countries, and has what you are looking for. Visit our website to find selected properties from the Gründerzeit style.