Hamburg’s DAG-Haus is the edifice of The German Workers Union (“Deutsche Angestellten Gewerkschaft”).
DAG-Haus is considered to be one of the great buildings of the world. It is one of the few buildings in Germany to use “Chicago School” architecture.
A powerful, dark, 13-story building with a brick façade, DAG-Haus was constructed between 1921 and 1930 (construction was halted in 1923 because of Germany’s post-war financial crisis and did not resume until 1929). The main portion of the building was completed in 1922, while the tower-like structure alongside the main building was not completed until 1930.
The most interesting detail of the building is the row of bronze athlete figures arising on the tower facade.
No doubt inspired by ancient Greece’s use of caryatids in architecture, the athlete figures attached to DAG-Haus bear a distinct resemblance to sculptures from ancient Greece. However, the figures on DAG-Haus serve a purely decorative function, while Greek caryatids served both structural and decorative functions (and were, of course, female, not male).
At the back of DAG-Haus is the so-called “elephant rider”, a statue of a youth riding an elephant.
Given that DAG-Haus is headquarters for The German Workers Union, such decorative features as statues of athletes and elephant riders make no sense—until one learns that DAG-Haus was originally constructed to serve as headquarters for a long-disbanded German conservationist society.