The Luminaire Professor – Prof. Dr. Klaus Struve’s collection

Right behind the front door there are stacks of boxes, with lamps and door handles lying around as well as bits of furniture standing in the way. “Please excuse the confusion”, says Prof. Dr. Klaus Struve as he tries to make his way through his living room, “it's all just come back from an exhibition”. Not an unusual occurrence for the 79-year old man from Oldenburg. His “Purpose and Form” collection has made him well known way beyond North Germany itself.

It's a comprehensive collection. Some items can be found in Struve's home, a detached house built in 1934 where he has completely redesigned the interior. “The challenge was to obtain all the lamps”, says the college and university teacher with pride. The original interior fittings are examples of the standard features of detached and semi-detached houses up until the 1950s. And therefore belong, not just coincidentally, to his main area of interest as a collector. “My collection focuses on industrially manufactured objects that were installed and used in every house and every room.” Struve is not interested in hand crafted items but in the products of mass production by machinery. He's referring to those mass-produced works of art designed during the decades between the First World War and the recovery and reconstruction period that followed the Second World War. “I'm interested in the results of Bauhaus designs and the impact that they had during the 1920s.” The prevailing ideal in those days was that everyone should be able to live on a certain level of prosperity in surroundings of first-rate design. The downside of the mass-production approach was the waste involved. “Houses were modernised without any consideration for significant historical aspects. I rescued many of my objects from skips.” You can hear how much it means to him to preserve these treasures. But you'd be wrong to think the collection is just an accumulation of similar products.

“As a collector, I'm excited to see the constant change in mass-produced items.” Glass shades in different colours, designs adapted for technical reasons: it's the deviations in the details of one and the same type of lamp that make these items so very special. Collector Struve is in his element. “I'm constantly in touch with colleagues when it comes to defining the exact details of various items in the collection, including when they would have been launched on the market, the period of production and their actual use.”

So it's not so easy to know when to stop. Even so, Struve’s collection does of course have its highlights. Besides lamps and door handles, he also has a few industrial so-called master clocks with slave clocks for use in factories, as well as furniture made of bent beechwood. Bentwood furniture already featured among the first collection items, products of industrialised furniture production of Viennese coffee-house furnishings. How is it possible to keep track of the items when there are so many of them? “I'm still behind with archiving all the things in the collection”, confesses Struve. It is both time-and space-consuming to make sure the archive items are stored properly and professionally. Hundreds of ceiling, wall, desk and table lamps, about a thousand door handles and countless items of bentwood furniture are standing, lying or hanging in shelves, on tables and on the walls of a warehouse. But apart from sorting and numbering them, there are more important things to be done.

Between the lengths of shelving he has a range of workplaces all with different kinds of tools and equipment: the skilled stonemason restores his findings himself, as far as possible. His passion for collecting is not an end in its own right but a means of preserving cultural assets. “My aim is to restore them so they can go back to being used all the time”, emphasises Struve. In this way, it is still possible to perceive the design and beauty of the historical objects. This doesn't mean his findings can't be put to a different use. A lamp can become a sculpture, a work of art, and there's no reason why a doorknob shouldn't be used as a paperweight on a desk.

"But apart from sorting and numbering them, there are more important things to be done."

Moving towards the warehouse exit, Prof. Struve cleverly skirts around more piles and stacks of things. Doesn't he find it hard to say goodbye after he has taken so long to find things and put so much effort into their restoration? “No, not at all!” Klaus Struve shakes his head emphatically. “When all is said and done, they’re supposed to be used!”

Historical lamps, particularly from the Bauhaus period, together with bentwood furniture and door handles account for the majority of Prof. Dr. Klaus Struve’s impressive collection.