The Yenidze Building
The Yenidze Building: The German city of Dresden is renowned for its Baroque architecture that lines the banks of the Elbe River, but there is one notable exception that stands out – the iconic Yenidze building, also known as the ‘tobacco mosque’.
Built over a century ago, the Yenidze features clear oriental architectural elements of mosques and the famous Alhambra Palace of Granada. Standing 62 meters (203 ft) tall, with 600 windows of various styles and an impressive glass dome, it would be one of the largest mosques in the world.
However, despite its appearance, the Yenidze has never been a mosque; it has operated as a tobacco factory for most of its existence. The unusual design was chosen as a tribute to the Oriental origin of the tobacco processed there and as a clever way to circumvent the rules on architectural restrictions in Dresden’s city center.
In 1886, Jewish entrepreneur Hugo Zietz established his company, Oriental Tobacco and Cigarette Factory Yenidze. Due to strict architectural restrictions regarding the construction of factories in central Dresden, he found it challenging to build a production facility in the area. After two decades of failed attempts to persuade the local government, Ziets decided to bend the rules.
In 1907, Zietz commissioned 29-year-old architect Martin Hammitzsch to design a factory that didn’t look like one. The construction was inspired by the Mamluk tombs in the Cairo Necropolis, with red and grey granite blocks to recreate the stripes of black masonry, colorful mosaics and Moorish geometric patterns, and even chimneys designed like minarets.
The backlash was severe, as many architects viewed the factory as a stain on the city’s famous baroque history. Martin Hammitzsch was excluded from the chamber of architects after he submitted his draft, and the city council threatened to reject Ziets’ construction permit. However, Ziets threatened to move his business elsewhere, and the local authorities backed off.
By 1909, the Yenidze Tobacco Factory was complete and even featured the illuminated words ‘Salem Aleikum’ – ‘peace be upon you’ in Arabic – on the side for train passengers commuting by. Soon, the “Salem Aleikum” and “Salem Gold” cigarette brands became some of the most popular in Germany, and the factory became known as the ‘tobacco mosque’ because of its distinctive look.
The architecture of the Yenidze building has always been controversial in Dresden, and some still see it as kitschy compared to the city’s many Baroque masterpieces. Nevertheless, today it is considered an integral part of the city’s landscape, having miraculously survived the carpet bombing of 1945 during World War 2.
Fifteen years after its inauguration, the tobacco mosque was sold to the Reemtsma Tobacco Group, which operated it until 1953. It sat in isolation for several decades until being completely restored in 1996. The building is currently owned by the Berlin-based EB Group, after being bought in 2014 from Israeli millionaire Adi Keizman. It operates as an office facility, with a restaurant set up in its large dome, where patrons can enjoy a 360-degree view of Dresden.
The Yenidze building is not only notable for its unique design and history but also for its cultural significance. The building’s name “Yenidze” is derived from the Turkish word for “new building.” It is said that Zietz named the factory after a mosque in Istanbul, which he had visited and been impressed by.
The Yenidze building has also played an interesting role in the city’s history. During the Nazi regime, the building was used for propaganda purposes, with the illuminated words ‘Salem Aleikum’ removed and replaced with a swastika. After the war, the building was used by the Soviet army as a radio station and later served as a storage facility.
Today, the Yenidze building is a popular tourist attraction and a cultural landmark in Dresden. Its unique architecture attracts visitors from all over the world, and the restaurant in the glass dome provides a stunning view of the city. The building is also used for occasional events, such as concerts and exhibitions.
Overall, the Yenidze building is an example of how architecture can reflect cultural and historical influences and how it can serve as a symbol of resistance against restrictions and norms. It is a testament to the creativity and determination of its founder, Hugo Zietz, and the architect, Martin Hammitzsch, who created a building that was both functional and aesthetically pleasing.