The site

The town of Niesky is considered a model town for modern timber construction representative of the Weimar Republic era in Germany (1918 – 1933). There are almost a hundred prefabricated wooden houses in the city area, which blend well into the cityscape with their red tiled roofs, brown façades and light-coloured window reveals.

These timber houses are closely linked to the company history of the famous Christoph & Unmack factory, and the life and work of renowned architects such as Konrad Wachsmann and Albin Müller – also known as Albinmüller – are spread over a total of four factory estates. During the heyday of the factory’s production, residential buildings were built here for its employees as well as public buildings that also served as model houses.

The Christoph & Unmack factory was a pioneer in industrial timber construction thanks to its ingenious system of serial and modular machine production and, from the 1920s onwards, it became the largest timber building manufacturer in Europe. Over the next three decades, the factory began adding to its catalogue a variety of prefabricated structures such as stationary timber residential buildings, and special buildings such as industrial halls, churches, radio towers, etc. Christoph & Unmack sent its buildings and its fitters all over the world. Simple carpenters, who had hardly ever left their village in Upper Lusatia before, travelled the globe by ship after being hired at the barracks factory and erected wooden buildings from the Niesky factory in faraway countries. Among other examples, the company did also construct such prestigious buildings as the Schneefernerhaus on the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany in the Alps, the radio tower on the Brocken in the Harz Mountains and the summer house for Albert Einstein in Caputh near Potsdam.

As a specialist in the production of wooden barracks, Christoph & Unmack was and always remained in the sights of militaristic and repressive state action. The products of Christoph & Unmack were particularly useful to the National Socialist regime during the Third Reich. The Nazi state accommodated soldiers, prisoners of war, forced labourers, deported Jews or prisoners in barracks-camp models produced by Christoph & Unmack. Not least because of this, the Niesky factory site became a target for the Soviet army towards the end of the Second World War and was thus extensively destroyed. The company was broken up and the East German parts of the factory were forcibly nationalised. After a brief resurgence, Niesky timber construction largely came to an end in 1949.

The town of Niesky housed a big variety of examples of structures built by Christoph & Unmack during its existence, since it became a living stage for showcasing the catalogue offered by the factory to visitors from around the world seeking their craftsmanship. A big number of wooden prefabricated houses in Niesky are still largely preserved in their original substance and are still in use today. The buildings which were constructed in different ways show the technical possibilities of the time and provide an excellent overview of the wide range and state of technical and architectural development of the early industrialised timber construction. At the same time, they are an exemplary testimony from the beginnings of prefabricated house construction.

The most iconic of these buildings is the “Konrad-Wachsmann-Haus” which was built in 1927 based on a design by Konrad Wachsmann. With its modern, Bauhaus-oriented design language, it is an outstanding example of industrialised wooden house construction. Originally built as a residential building for a member of the board of directors of Christoph & Unmack, it was acquired a few years later by the chief physician of the Niesky hospital. Since 2005 it has been owned and restored by the town of Niesky and houses since 2014 the “Museum Niesky Forum Konrad-Wachsmann-Haus” and the permanent exhibition “Wooden buildings of the modern era – Development of the industrial timber construction”.


The training course

One of Christoph & Unmack’s best-selling products was the summer arbour "Kleiner Christoph", which was offered in different variations. Listed in the factory’s catalogue as KC 35, "Kleiner Christoph" was offered as an ideal structure suited for "hunting, weekend escapades and leisure time". Its striking silhouette with log wall and mono-pitch roof had a lasting influence on the design of 20th century German leisure architecture.

The European Heritage Training Course will introduce the participants to one of the last original examples of the summer arbour “Kleiner Christoph” which fortunately has survived until today. The structure stood for a long time surrounded by five-floor socialist buildings from the 1970ies in the town of Görlitz, located twenty kilometres from Niesky.

In 2022, the building was carefully documented, disassembled, and properly stored. During the European Heritage Training Course 2023, it will be translocated and re-erected in direct vicinity of the “Konrad-Wachsmann-Haus” thus creating in the future together with the “Konrad-Wachsmann-Haus” itself an impressive ensemble which gives testimony of the diversity in modern timber architecture of the 1920ies.

The dissembled building is in a quite good condition, but after almost a hundred years of existence some of the lower beams, various ends of the beams and several joints between the beams are rotten. Therefore firstly, the damaged joints will be replaced by copies and connected to the original beams using traditional carpentry techniques. The few missing lower beams will be replaced by new ones. Afterwards the construction will be reassembled, and the roof will be closed by a layer of boards.   

The works will be guided by a master carpenter with several decades of experience in heritage conservation and education of young carpenters. In parallel to the practical works, the instructor will provide the participants with insights into the process of construction of the wooden structure as it was in the time of its creation and with proper approaches to repair and conserve wooden structures using traditional carpentry techniques.

In addition to this, the participants will be provided by the staff of the “Museum Niesky Forum Konrad-Wachsmann-Haus” with theoretical knowledge about the architectural movement that created these novel wooden buildings and the techniques involved in their production.

Guided tours through the town of Niesky and an excursion to examples of industrial timber constructions on both the German and the Polish side of the region will complement the educational programme of the training course and will illustrate the historical, technical, and social processes that motored the architectural and industrial development of the prefabricated timber constructions in the 1920 in the region and beyond.


The training course will take place from July, 30th, till August, 12th, 2023, and is organised by European Heritage Volunteers in cooperation with the Museum Niesky Forum Konrad-Wachsmann-Haus and the Municipality of Niesky.


European Heritage Volunteers