Studentenhaus TUSCULUM history

Altes schwarz-weiß Bild des Tusculum von schräg vorn
TUSCULUM before 1950

Studentenwerk Dresden has been running TUSCULUM as a Studentenhaus since 1994.In 2019, Studentenwerk Dresden is celebrating its 100-year anniversary and TUSCULUM its 25th birthday. The following exhibition offers a glimpse into the history of the building and an overview of the renovation work done by Studentenwerk Dresden since 1994.

Bild des TUSCULUM im Sommer von Vorn aus dem Jahr 2016
TUSCULUM 2016 ©Studio Stemmler

Studentenwerk Dresden would like to thank Fritz Hennig, Lars Hermann and Dr. Karl Unger for providing the image materials.

Chronological overview

Year Event
1893 Construction of the villa in the late Neoclassical Roman style, likely according to blueprints of the architect Martin Pietzsch
1894 Residency through painter Oskar Simonson-Castelli
After 1933 Use through Dresden District Air Command
1945 Residency through painting school of Professor Fritz Leopold Hennig
1949 Use by the GDR’s Handelsorganisation (HO) as guesthouse
1950 Erection of store addition by trade organization with walk-in rooftop terrace and hall with cellar at building rear with access to garden
ab 1972 Use by the “Dresden Club of Intelligence”
1976 Use by National People's Army (NVA) as officers’ mess and erection of cargo extension with cellar, loading dock and cargo lift on the garden side
1990 Vacancy after termination of NVA use
1992 Return of property to Federal Property Office
1994 Purchase of property by Studentenwerk Dresden and beginning use as Studentenhaus, in subsequent years to today ongoing, extensive renovation efforts
1996-2008 Studentenhaus with canteen
2019 25 years as Studentenhaus and participation in event series “Get to know us – 100 years of Studentenwerk Dresden”


Altes schwarz-weiß Bild der Villa Illgen
The Royal Villa ©Lars Hermann

The villa “Tusculum” was erected in 1893, presumably according to plans by architect Martin Pietzsch, who also designed “Villa Illgen” (Loschwitzer Str. 27). Painter Oskar Simonson-Castelli was the contractee, who moved into “Tusculum” in 1894 and lived there until his death in 1929.The erection of the villa in Strehlen was not an accident; the village of Strehlen had become the preferred district for Dresden’s upper class in the second half of the 19th century. In addition to the district’s breathtaking view of the Elbe river valley, the 1855 fire that destroyed much of the village contributed to this development. Following the fire, it was necessary to rebuild the village. King Albert II ordered the erection of a “royal villa” in 1860 and in 1870, commercial construction was banned in the area. Subsequently, well-to-do persons in Dresden erected their own villas near the royal domicile.

Oskar Simonson-Castelli

Gemälde: mehrere Männer Stehen an einem Strand. Einer der Männer hebt etwas aus einem Handkarren
Men with handcarts at the seashore - Oskar Simonson-Castelli ©

Oskar Simonson-Castelli was the son of David Simonson, a Dresden painter and founder of two private fine arts academies. His mother was born a Castelli. Oskar Simonson-Castelli studied in Dresden and in Munich and Paris after receiving the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts Silver Medal in 1890.Study trips took him to England, France and Italy. In 1893, he returned to Dresden and moved into the villa “Tusculum”. In 1890, he received the Gold Medal of the Lyon Art Exhibition and assumed leadership of his father’s fine arts academy at the villa “Tusculum” following the latter’s death in 1896.He received the title of Professor of the Royal Academie of Fine Arts in Urbino (Italy) in 1899.Oskar Simonson-Castelli lived in the villa “Tusculum” until his death in 1929.

The name „Tusculum“

Gemälde: Blick auf Ruinen eines Amphitheater mit Weitblick auf Landschaft dahinter
The theatre of Tusculum in front of the Albanian mountains - Thomas Worthington Whittredge, 1860

Tusculum was an ancient Etruscan city south of Rome where aristocratic Romans, among them Cato, Lucullus, Marius and Caesar, erected villas during the late Roman Republic (around 130 to 27 BCE).Renowned politician and philosopher Cicero also erected a villa here in 68 BE which he lent the name “Tusculanum” and where he sought refuge from the hectic life in Rome. His philosophical contemplations on questions of practical ethics and philosophy as an “intellectual haven” that make possible a happy life for fate-stricken man were recorded in the five volumes titled “Tusculanae Disputationes” in 45 BCE.


Altes schwarz-weiß Foto einer Zimmerecke mit einem Kachelofen, mehreren Bücherregalen und einer Lampe.
Reading corner ©Fritz Hennig

Following the death of Oskar Simonson-Castelli in 1929, the building remained in use for residential purposes. The villa survived WWII without suffering significant damage, despite the near total destruction of Strehlen through the bombing. In 1945, the city council approved use of the building for Fritz Leopold Hennig as a residential and instructional space for his recently grounded “Workshops for the Arts and Decorative Arts”. Students of the workshops could learn techniques of painting, especially oil painting, but also Kallitype and drypoint printing. Instruction was free of charge—students were only required to supply their own fuel for heating during the winter months.

schwarz-weiß Foto einer Schülergruppe die auf Stufen stehen. Im Hintergrund ein Gebäudeeingang, im Vordergrund eine Plastik
Group of pupils in front of TUSCULUM ©Olaf Hennig

Due to the social changes that lead the way for the founding of the GDR, the workshops soon no longer complied with the desired political status quo; the link to the pre-WWII “bourgeois” tradition of Dresden’s free art schools was too apparent. In 1949, the workshops were disbanded. Following minor renovations, the Handelsorganisation (HO) of the GDR began using the location as a distribution center in 1950.

Professor Fritz Leopold Hennig

schwarz-weiß Foto eines Zimmers. Ein Mann sitzt mit überschlagenen Beinen auf einem Stuhl. Vor ihm sind mehrere Staffeln mit Bildern aufgestellt
Kammersänger Josef Herrmann in the painting room ©Fritz Hennig

Fritz Leopold Hennig was born in Gdansk in 1895.During WWI, he served a a naval aircraft pilot and was captured by British armed forces in 1916.He was awarded the Benemerenti Medal by the Romanian king in 1917.From 1918 to 1921, it is thought that he studied at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts, then lived in Sopot near Gdansk where he worked as a graphic artist, painter and designer.

In 1945, he moved to Dresden and founded the “Lehrwerkstätten für Kunst und Kunstgewerbe” (English: Workshops for the Arts and Decorative Arts”).He was given the title “Professor” by the Soviet military administration for his efforts. In addition to his activities as a visual artist, Hennig was also an author, publishing three novels and with several unpublished children’s stories and comedies. Following the dissolution of his workshops in 1949, he continued working in Dresden as an independent painter, graphic artist and author, where some of his achievements include paintings for the GDR’s deputy prime minister Hermann Kastner and the first prime minister of Saxony following the war, Rudolf Friedrichs. In 1948, an operetta based on his texts was performed. Until his death in 1951, he was active in the Goethe-Gesellschaft of Weimar.


schwarz-weiß Foto des TUSCULUM schräg von vorn von Straße aus
TUSCULUM 1977 ©Fritz Hennig

Use of TUSCULUM starting in 1949 by the HO made necessary a first phase of renovations. A single-storey extension with a street-level floor and walkable roof terrace was erected on the August-Bebel-Straße side as well as a hall with a cellar toward the garden. The extensions were designed to comply with the architecture of the main building so the historical structure with its classical, nearly square layout was still visible. However, the flair of an upper middle class residence with art workshop and parlor was lost. In 1972, the Dresden Club of Intelligence established a short-lived link to building's middle-class intellectual tradition.

In 1976, the National People’s Army (NVA) moved in and subsequent extensions for use as an officers’ mess destroyed much of the historical structure. In the attic, a ventilation system was installed with equipment in a false floor that was newly constructed by closing the atrium with a false ceiling. As a result, much of the stucco was destroyed. Toward the garden, a lavatory and loading bay were built and the outdoor facilities underwent reconstruction. The villa with its late Classical Italian Neo-Renaissance style was shrouded in the chic of the 1970s which is still visible on the inside in part today.

Der Klub der Intelligenz (English: Club of Intelligence)

schwarz-weiß Foto von Viktor Klemperer der an einem Tisch mit Unterlagen sitzt
Viktor Klemperer

Founded in keeping with guidelines of the Cultural Association of the GDR, the so-called “Clubs of Intelligence” were a space for interdisciplinary exchange between personages from the fields of science and culture in many East German cities.

Black-and-white photograph of Manfred von Ardenne standing in a room with an electrical device in his hands.
Manfred von Ardenne

There were several such clubs in Dresden, such as the “Viktor Klemperer Club of Intelligence”, founded in 1953 and whose members comprised mainly artists and teachers. In 1957, Manfred von Ardenne founded a “Dresden Club”; appointments to the club were considered a high social honor among the science and intellectual elite of the middle class. The elite of Dresden’s physicians gathered in the “Carus Club”. And there were yet other clubs.

Due to its bourgeois, Bohemian orientation where criticism shrouded in humor was exercised against the politics of the state leadership, the “Dresden Club” came under Stasi scrutiny. In 1972, the club was joined with the “Carus Club” and the “Club of Intelligence” under the name “Dresden Club of Intelligence” and placed under the auspices of the GDR Cultural Association.

Renovations 1990-2010

Photograph of a dining hall: Several persons sitting at a table, eating. In the background, a queue at the serving counter.
Food serving before 2008

Empty since 1990, Studentenwerk Dresden purchased the building in 1994 with the aim of revitalizing the old tradition of a Studentenhaus. In the following years, various major and minor renovations were undertaken under the leadership of Dr. Karl Unger; renovations continue to today. And there will be plenty to do in the future as well.

From 1996 to 2008, a canteen for Wundtstraße students was established along with the necessary electrical installations, heating and ventilation; the windows were also renovated at this time. Student rehearsal spaces were built in the attic.

Foto eines alten Holzfenster an dem bereits der Lack abblättert.
Old windows in TUSCULUM 2000
Foto einer leeren Küche. Die Wände sind teilweise eingerissen.
Kitchen renovation 2008

Studentenhauss in Germany

Altes Bild des Studentenhaus von schräg vorn von der Mommsenstraße aus aufgenommen
Studentenhaus Mommsenstraße

The German Revolution of 1918 led to a flood of new students at universities which previously had been reserved for children of aristocratic or bourgeois circles. Commonplace today, there was no such thing as a student infrastructure. Many students suffered from financial problems and student spaces for intellectual and social exchange or for artistic engagement simply did not exist. Moreover, most students lived as private lodgers and hosting guests, especially of the opposite sex, was prohibited. And any organizations that sprung up to deal with students problems were often distributed far and wide. The solution was to erect Studentenhauss that brought together under one roof canteens, libraries, spaces for sports and socializing, student self-help organizations, administration—and of course student celebrations. The first Studentenhauss formed in 1923 and 1924 in Bonn and Aachen. In 1925, a spacious Studentenhaus opened in Dresden on Mommsenstraße.

Renovation Wu5 club 2011/12

Foto eines Raum der gerade renoviert wird mit einigen Werkzeugen und Geräten
Old HO sales outlet during reconstruction 2012

In 2011/12, the previous HO distribution center space and the adjoined storage rooms in the cellar were renovated for use by the student club Wu5.The last of three student clubs originally from Wundtstraße, the club was searching for a new home following renovations of the residence halls.

The Studentenwerk Dresden invested more than 400,000 euros in the refurbishment.

Foto eines Raum der gerade renoviert wird mit einigen Werkzeugen und Geräten
AOld HO sales outlet during reconstruction 2012
Foto des renovierten Raums mit Tischen und Stühlen im Hintergrund und einem Tresen im Vordergrund
Old HO sales outlet after conversion

Student Clubs

Foto einer Plakette mit der Aufschrift: Klubausweis WU5
Alter Klubausweis des Studentenklubs WU5

Student clubs unite aspects of a cultural organization, bar, disco and party location and are largely run through voluntary student work. They are most common in the former East German states. Most were founded during the GDR; some are over 50 years old. Dresden, due to its high number of students clubs (14 today, in the 1990s over 20) is considered the “Capital of Student Clubs” in Germany. The student club Wu5 has existed since at least 1980 as an independent club. It was originally housed at Wundtstraße 5, but moved into the former HO space in the ground floor of TUSCULUM in 2012.

Renovations 2011-2017

Foto eines leeren Raumes mit unverputzen Wänden
Band rehearsal room during construction work 2016
Foto eines leeren Raumes mit einem Schlagzeug im Hintergrund
finished rehearsal room in the cellar of the TUSCULUM

During cellar renovations for the Wu5 club, other parts of the cellar were partially renovated to make space for student photography club and a storage space for the TU Big Band.

In 2012, the access drive from Teplitzer Straße on a newly leased lot behind TUSCULUM was renewed, the lawn was newly designed and parking spots put into place.

In 2013, the sanitary installation was renewed and an exit on the garden side was added. A lift was added to the exit in 2016 in order to enable barrier-free access to the building.

With funds from the Free State of Saxony, two soundproof band rehearsal rooms with ventilation were installed in the cellar in 2016.In 2017, with funding from the City of Dresden, an audio induction loop was installed in the ground floor of the main hall.

Foto des Hintereingang mit unverputzen Wänden und einem Container für Bauschutt
Exit to the garden side during construction 2013
Foto des Hintereingang nach den Bauarbeiten mit gelben Wänden, einer Treppe und einem Hublift.
Exit to the garden side after conversion 2016

Audio induction loop

An audio induction loop is a technical system that converts audio signals to electrical signals which is emitted through an induction loop installed in the space. Special hearing aids with a built-in receiver coil (common in all hearing aids today) can pick up these signals with no interference. This technology makes music and speech accessible to person with a hearing disability, primarily by reducing competing noise and background sounds.

Roof renovation 2017/18

Foto einer Wendeltreppe aus Stahl an der Hauswand des TUSCULUM. Daneben ein Mann in einem Hubkorb.
Construction work on external staircase

From June 2017 to April 2018, the most major renovation measure was carried out since Studentenwerk purchased the house in 1994.

The attic floor was completely renovated and the historic shingle roof was restored in the process. In addition, an outside stairwell was added, toilets installed and the heating renewed.

The ground floor’s now obsolete and clunky ventilation system that was largely housed in the attic floor and cellar, was removed and replaced with a modern system.

Restoration of the historic atrium through the removal of the faux ceiling installed in 1976 and partial reconstruction of the stucco has not yet been realized.

Foto des offnen Dachstuhl mit Holzbalken
Demolition of roof truss
Foto des Dachstuhl mit Holzbalken und einer Leiter
Demolition of roof truss
Foto der ausgebauten Proberaum im Dachgeschoss mit dunklem Teppich und Dachschrägen mit Fenstern
Rehearsal room in the converted attic floor
Foto des Lichthof im TUSCULUM mit Stuckwerk
Stucco work in the atrium

What the future holds

Foto des Proberaum im Dachgeschoss mit einem Klavier, einer Gitarre mit Notenständer und zwei Stühlen.
Rehearsal room in the attic
Foto der Theatergruppe Bühnamit. Mehrere Darsteller stehen auf der Bühne mit langen Stielen und scheinen zu schreien.
Bühnamit Theatre Group

The Studentenhaus TUSCULUM is currently being used by some 20 students and artistic collectives, including the TU Big Band, the theater group Bühnamit, the vocal group VIP and TU Dresden’s Children’s Dance Studio. The university sport center also holds tango courses and events here. In the cellar, there are 2 band rehearsal rooms (with drum kits and e-pianos), 6 unplugged rehearsal rooms in the attic and 3 halls on the ground floor. The Dresden Student Photo Club is at home in the cellar with its analog photography lab and club room. The building can also be leased at affordable rates on Thursdays and Saturdays by students and non-students for events of all kinds.

Despite extensive renovation, there is still more to do. The lawn behind TUSCULUM needs re-landscaping and the historic atrium is to be restored. A new cloakroom is planned for the ground floor, the wood flooring must be renewed and the lighting standardized. And there is lots to do in the cellar as well. A building, especially one of this size that sees so much use, is a perpetual building site so there will be ample work over the coming 25 years.

Foto der Mitglieder einer Big Band die mit ihren Instrumenten auf einer Treppe stehen.
TU Big Band
Foto eines rot beleuchteten Saal. Mehrere Paare tanzen Tango.
annual Tangoball in TUSCULUM