Fascinating art nouveau heritage in Bad Nauheim

Bad Nauheim's townscape is characterised by art nouveau architecture. As new spa facilities became necessary because of the increasing number of spa guests, Prince Ernst Ludwig had the obsolete half-timbered bathhouses replaced. This gave rise to the new, larger art nouveau bath and spa facilities that can still be marvelled at today.

The turn of the 20th Century was a period of economic growth. In Europe, the art nouveau artistic era arose from the social circumstances and lasted from 1890 to about 1914. The major European centres were Brussels, Nancy, Vienna, Barcelona, Glasgow and Helsinki, in Germany Darmstadt, Munich and Weimar.

The art movement searched for new shapes that should permeate all areas of art and life, e.g. architecture, sculpture, painting, and graphics, as well as poetry, music, dance, and fashion. The art nouveau movement favoured floral and fauna designs. Dynamic movements, recurring curves and undulations, curved endings and plasticity were common elements.

Bad Nauheim has the art-loving Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine, who also founded the famous artists' colony on the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt, to thank for its art nouveau heritage. He transferred the construction management of the spa facilities to the Darmstadt architect, Wilhelm Jost. He was supported by important representatives of the artists' colony: Sculptor Heinrich Jobst, ceramicist Jakob Julius Scharvogel, painter Friedrich Wilhelm Kleukens, and architect Albin Müller.

The reference to water as a health-giving force is characteristic for Bad Nauheim's art nouveau style. Correspondingly, the decorative elements in the Sprudelhof - fountain courtyard - included marine creatures, nymphs, mermaids, waves, and bubbles of carbon dioxide.

Many of the art nouveau buildings that were erected between 1905 and 1912 are very close to each other in Bad Nauheim. The former spa complex Sprudelhof (fountain courtyard) is the largest coherent art nouveau complex in Europe. Other magnificent art nouveau examples include the Trinkkuranlage (mineral water cure facility) and the theatre in the former Kurhaus (spa house). The station, which was built in 1912, also belongs to the art nouveau era, but also many non-public buildings such as hotels, spa guest-houses and residential buildings, that were built in the so-called Darmstadt style.