Nothing has been left to chance here. From the outside it seems like nothing more than a solid family residence. But inside, everything has been planned to match right down to the last detail. The wall decorations, the flooring, furniture, lamps, material, even the plates and the cutlery have all been designed to make up a single harmonic entity. The creator of this beziehungsreichen work of art was the Belgian architect Henry van de Velde. The driving force behind the enterprise and the man who commissioned the work was a young banker’s son, patron and founder of the world’s first museum of contemporary art, Karl Ernst Osthaus. Both these men were responsible for making the Hohenhof in Hagen a unique “Jugendstil Gesamtkunstwerk”. The building was based on a comprehensive theory which has gone down in history as the Hagen Impulse. The vision was to create “a path leading to beauty by way of reason”. In this Osthaus’s primary concern was to improve living conditions in the Ruhrgebiet. He did everything in his power to bring outstanding artists to Hagen and combine their creative energies. For he considered the united power of art to be the basic instrument with which to transform modern industrial society. He thought that in so far as art arouses an awareness of beauty and reveals interconnections it would be able to teach mankind to overcome the chaotic results of industrialisation: by means of well-designed architecture and forward-looking town planning. This is the true meaning of Hohenhof. It forms the core of a garden city intended to set an example to the whole of the Ruhrgebiet. It comprises three housing estates, each tailored to the meet the needs of its inhabitants; middle class citizens, artists and workers. This in turn – like Hohenhof itself – is reflected once more in Osthaus’s ideal of a Gesamtkunstwerk: society as a total work of art.
Hohenhof was completed in 1908 as home for Karl Ernst Osthaus and his family. From here he conducted an intense dialogue with artists, academics, politicians, cultural specialists and museum workers from all over the world. When he died in 1921 he was only 46. The garden city was never completed and, following his death, Hohenhof was variously used as a women’s clinic and a higher education college. At the start of the 1980s it was comprehensively restored. Since 1989 it has functioned as an outside branch of the Karl Ernst Osthaus Museum in Hagen. The “Museum of the Hagen Impulse”, as it is now called, contains a huge number of legacies of local artistic history.