The building which preceded Villa Waldfrieden was a house with extensive grounds which was built in 1894 and was acquired by paints manufacturer Kurt Herberts in 1940. The house was destroyed during air attacks on Barmen in 1943. Directly after the end of the war, Herberts commissioned the artist and architect Franz Krause with the reconstruction of the house over the still surviving basement. Herberts had a high regard for Krause due to the “originality of his thought processes”.
During planning, it was possible to obtain Herberts agreement to the experiment of “reciprocal” architecture and thus to a new building. He also took part in the unconventional design process. Apart from the stipulation that the old cellar was to be included, he gave the architect a free hand. Krause developed the unusual organic form of the building in accordance with three dynamic factors: the movements of the human body, the natural world of the surrounding grounds and the daylight entering the building. The two-storey dwelling and the design of the grounds and garden were realised between 1947 and 1950.
In 2006, Tony Cragg acquired both the estate and the villa, which had been empty for a considerable period and which is listed as a protected structure. It was important not only to restore the villa but also to give it a new interpretation so that it could fulfil a dynamic role in the sculpture park. This transformation could not have been in better hands than those of the sculptor and his studio. The building, which had outlived its function as a tailor-made dwelling for the owner and his family, was transformed into the dynamic centre of the park, whereby the highest degree of respect for the architect’s original experimentation in form was maintained.
The park had also been very much left to its own devices for years. Large quantities of dead wood had accumulated in the grounds, parts of which had been used for growing timber. Tony Cragg arranged for recultivation with the aim of expanding the range of vegetation. This new design was determined by aspects of the aesthetics of nature and ecological dynamism. The forest was thinned out in order to bring about the rejuvenation of vegetation and to allow the crowns of impressive trees to develop more fully. The range of vegetation was extended in order to introduce new groups of plant families and to create more differentiated arrangements of shrubs and trees. Selection was made here on the basis of tree habitus, seed heads and the autumn colouring of the foliage.
While the sculptures placed around the villa draw the visitor’s attention to the sculptural quality of the building, the spartan furnishing of its rooms corresponds to their new use.
The villa houses the archive and administrative offices of the Cragg Foundation. Although the building is no longer open to the public due to conservation considerations, it can occasionally be viewed as part of a guided tour. It is also available for hire for special events.
The founding and creation of the sculpture park is the result of Tony Cragg’s private initiative. Thirty years after he started exhibiting his work, Cragg came across the abandoned Waldfrieden estate when he was looking for a permanent outdoor location where he could exhibit sculpture. He acquired the estate in 2006 and redevelopment of the park and buildings began in the same year.
Respect for the value of the historical park estate meant that the surviving fabric of the building and any existing material were conserved wherever possible. The historical dimension of the park and buildings was thus retained despite their conversion to new use.
The sculpture park was opened in 2008 under the auspices of a non-profit foundation of the Cragg family.
The visitor’s encounter with three dozen sculptures in a natural environment is a challenge to perception. Extremely diverse and consistently complex forms of sculptural thought are already linked by the circular walk today. Apart from sculptures by Tony Cragg, a whole range of important standpoints of the modern age and present day are represented through permanent loans of works by Richard Deacon, Thomas Schütte, Wilhelm Mundt and Norbert Kricke among others.
These are accompanied by visiting exhibitions featuring the work of artists of international significance, talks on themes related to cultural studies and concerts. Beyond this, the Cragg Foundation is also dedicated to research and publications on visual arts.