Schloss Freudenberg unfurling the mind and senses
Pass more often
than through books,
trees and stones
teach you what masters cannot.
-Bernard von Clairvaix,1090-1153
(from Guide to the Freudenberg Experience Field,
produced in 2001 with funding from AWCT)
The path to Schloss Freudenberg is unexpectedly modest; patchy asphalt is bordered
by wooden stakes and exposed wiring. Narrow wooden plank stairs rest on what
were once steps, stretching almost across the entire width of the building,
but are now covered with tar sheeting. The neo-classical facade includes a single
shutter and a boarded up window. Walking through tall thin doors painted white
and peeling, visitors enter a large lobby which extends to the second floor
ceiling. The walls expose layers of pink, pale green, and gray paint. Uneven
parquet floors creak underfoot.
Unknowingly, visitors have already begun their journey through Schloss Freudenberg's
"Experience field for the unfolding of senses and thought"
(Erfahrungsfeld zur Entfaltung der Sinne und des Denkens).
As well as thoughtfully designed 'imperfection' to awaken the senses, visitors
to Schloss Freudenberg can enjoy over 80 different interactive 'experience stations'
to explore "how the eye sees, the ear hears, the nose smells, the skin
senses, the fingers touch, the feet (under)stand, the hands (be)hold, the brain
thinks, the lungs breathe, the blood pulsates, [and] the body vibrates".
Huge black and white and colorful discs rotate on the walls, creating dynamic
images; a maze in the complete darkness rises and falls; steel bells are suspended
from a ceiling, their clappers almost reaching the floor; metal plates on thin
stems emerging out of a sand floor can be played with cello bows, creating music
and tone paintings. Outdoors on the 16 hectare grounds, an Aeolian harp (named
after the Greek god of wind, these harps are 'played' by the wind) graces a
hillside next to a stone labyrinth; a barefoot-path made of smooth pebbles,
bricks, stones, wood, and other materials snakes through a section of forest
past a humming hole; the playground is flanked by mounds of carefully assembled
logs and ropes; there are stilts, balancing discs, and a giant set of duet swings.
The idea of a 'permanent space for the art of perception' was first thought
up by Hugo Kükelhaus. Born in 1900 in Essen, at a time when industrialization
had already transformed many aspects of life, Kükelhaus spent much of his
life bringing humans closer to nature. Starting out as a carpenter, he was an
ardent traditionalist and rejected standard measurements, keeping to those which
literally embodied human proportions. His main interest, however, was education,
in particular instilling future generations with a closeness to and inclusion
in the natural world. After several years of developing 'sense friendly playgrounds'
(organgerechte Bauweise) for clinics, schools, and homes, Kükelhaus was
invited by the German government to contribute to the German Pavilion for the
International Exposition in Montreal in 1967. Visitors enjoyed Kükelhaus'
experience stations so much that there was little left to take back to Germany
when the fair ended. At 67, Kükelhaus was embarking on the most active
stage in his life, giving radio interviews, running workshops, consulting, and
writing. In the next eight years, Kükelhaus recreated and developed his
collection, which the Bavarian State commissioned to include in the International
Craft Fair held in Munich in 1975.
That same year, Kükelhaus began touring Germany with a caravan of circus
tents and experience stations. He passed away in 1984, but two of his students,
Beatrice and Matthias Schenk, continued touring, traveling also in Austria and
Switzerland. In 1992, the experience stations arrived in Wiesbaden. A year later,
the Nature and Art Society (Natur und Kunst Gemeinnütziger e.V.) was founded,
and Schloss Freudenberg became the permanent home of the Experience Field.
Built in 1905, Schloss Freudenberg has lived many lives. Originally a private
home, it has also been a hotel, a Nazi home for unmarried mothers, an American
soldiers' recreation center (legend has it that Elvis once played in the center's
Jazz Club), and as the headquarters of the International Pentecostal Church.
When the Nature and Art Society moved in, the building had stood empty for almost
a decade and extensive repair work was required. This ongoing process of renovation
is referred to as "healing through art and culture" and is a collaborative
effort, like much of Schloss Freudenberg's initiatives, involving several individuals,
and public and private organizations in the region.
Schloss Freudenberg's cafe offers a range of refreshments and desserts made
at Mechtildehausen's bakery, a local organic and communal farm. Perhaps the
most unusual eating experience, however, is at 'The Dark Bar' (Der Dunkelbar).
Through heavy black floor-to-ceiling curtains, visitors enter complete darkness.
Friendly bartenders put nervous customers at ease by asking them to follow the
sounds of their voices, left, right, feel for the barstools. Orders are filled
and customers reach hands out towards glasses or plates that are gently tapped
on the counter. Food and drink is savored while bodies finally begin to relax
after repeatedly straining to see. Ears perk up to identify the multitude of
sounds, clinking forks, giggling, footsteps, and throats cleared, which would
normally be perceived as white noise. In recent years, Schloss Freudenberg's
success has inspired others to create Dark Bars in Berlin, Koeln, Hamburg, Nürnberg,
We would like to express our thanks to the Canadian writer Ms. Fong Ku who
gave the permission to use this article for our homepage.
For more information and directions, contact:
Fon 0611-41 101 41