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Threshold between architecture and politics

Dissertation Tutor: Michael Scott

Konstanca Ivanova U30099 Dissertation

13084292 Submitted 29/01/2016 9 725 words

Social housing in Germany Threshold between architecture and politics A dissertation presented to the School of Architecture, Oxford Brookes University in part fulfilment of the regulations for BA (Hons) in Architecture.

Please note the only externally sourced images will be noted as follows - (Fig. X) in text and next to relevant image. Due to the significant amount of imagery the personal sketches, provided on tracing paper, will not be referenced.

STATEMENT OF ORIGINALITY The dissertation is an original piece of work, which is made available for copying with permission of the Head of the School of Architecture.


Konstanca Ivanova

Contents 8 12

14 24 34 44 52


62 64

Introduction Methodology

Politicless In-between Partial Dictatorial Combinatory


Bibliography List of figures


Some of the first buildings in Europe, dating as far back as 3000 BC, were settlements, houses or huts, evidence of emerging societies and early forms of cities. The complexity of the housing question, its importance and significance to the sphere of architecture has been present ever since these early settlements. Alongside public buildings, social housing has been fundamental to the development of architecture throughout the years. It is a way to identify and acknowledge the development of society, as there has always been a demand for housing projects no matter the era or the circumstances of a country. For Germany, the subject of this dissertation, social housing seems like a battleground between architecture and politics. With German architects always shifting between the new and bright ideas of modernism and the past glory of traditionalism, as there seems to exist an ever-present conflict between politics and architecture, struggling in a never-ending battle. Using the tool of the timeline, one can notice a change of power with each passing period of exploration, with these changes being mirrored onto the face of architecture. An understanding of these changes of power, affecting architecture, can be obtained from the diagram, provided below (Fig.1).


the leader Wilhelmine; traditional

traditional; modernist

international; modernist

capitalist; traditional


garden cities



the landlord

the collective

the collective

the political leader

capitalist; traditional stalinallee hansaviertel modernist; inernational the community


With each period, the power, exerting control over architecture, changes and it seems that the style of architecture changes together with it. Due to this constant transition between the new modern and the old traditional, politics have always found a way to intervene - as the politicians believed in the power of architecture over the community. This would find its peak level with the architecture of the Nazism era and the leadership of Adolf Hitler. The threshold between politics and architecture, as will be explored, is the connection between these figures of power and the style of architecture. Political controversy over architecture started being strongly sensed with the Weimar period (1919-1933) and the creation of a radically new architectural style. This is the reason why in this dissertation, the beginning will be exploring the end of the Wilhelmine era (18901914) and the end - the occupational control over the country after the second World War (1939-1945). The chapter, discussing the Wilhelmine era is completely different from the other chapters, in a negative sense, as architecture then was a tool for obtaining more wealth without concerns about the inhabitants of the spaces. The division, on the other hand, has been explored with the intention to reveal its role of a "combiner" of the previously explored in-between period of the Weimar Republic. It is thought that the involvement of politics in architecture developed mainly because of the Weimar period - which included extravagant artistic creativity and extreme political instability. The years of political chaos understandably were followed by economical hardship. Thus, one could claim that there is an obvious interrelation between these terms: politics, economy, and architecture. 9

Therefore, the intention of this dissertation is to research and explore the social housing typology of Germany between the periods of late 1800s to early 1950s and identify an analysis of drawings and materiality as means of the architectural language the implementation of the political context of the country in the given periods. This topic would be discussing the differences between the macro (the political side) and the micro (the private house side) through the tool of the drawing. The dissertation also deals with the issues of the public and the private since this has been a major topic in Germany during the 19th century and towards their urbanization process - people tend to separate the public, of the workplace, to the private, of the refuge. The focus of this dissertation is on social housing projects instead of other types of construction, on which extensive research has already been undertaken. These projects will be investigated through different case studies in order to explore the impact of constant political opposition and overpowering of architecture through politics. Robert Taylor, who has written about the politicalisation of German architecture, notes that German life has always needed "some degree of guidance and control" (1974, p.80). The housing projects, being the most needed type of architecture in the country in most of the periods explored, embody the state of the country - in their own way, each is a representative of this interrelation between politics, economy and architecture. Most of the projects explored deal with this connection and not the question of "if ", but "how" they were interrelated. As a result of this connection, the architectural drawings can be perceived as a mirror of the atmosphere of the country, its genius loci.1 • 1Genius loci refers to the distinctive atmosphere or pervading spirit of a place. 10


This dissertation will be split into five chapters, followed by a conclusion. It would aim to explore the complexity of the relationship between politics and architecture and its implications on design outcomes. Each chapter will introduce a case study which should inform the research in a visual way. A timeline, following the events taking place within the text, would be running along the pages of the dissertation as to add a diagrammatic explanation of the discussed. Chapter images will be supported with personal sketches as a tool to help the reader understand the text more clearly and express my thoughts visually. Research has been conducted by using mostly printed resources, while the Internet has provided most of the imagery of the dissertation. More foreign book resources would have been best to be used, but translation of German language has proven to be time-consuming. •


Politicless Meyers Hof, Berlin This dissertation begins with the post-industrial period in Germany in the 1900s - a period in which housing programs would constitute an important chapter in the evolution of urban planning in the country. The focus in this chapter will be on the Meyers Hof, a Mietskaserne that has been renovated and still exists at Ackerstrasse 132 in Berlin, chosen because at the period explored, it was one of the first and most common examples of this type of architecture. The German Mietskaserne (rental barrack) typology emerged into the architectural dictionary of the country during the period of transformation of the capital into a bustling industrial metropolis in the years of 1870 - 1914. As a result of the industrial growth of the country, people started migrating to Berlin in search of housing. The spatial and aesthetic arrangement of this type of building is interesting, in both plan and elevation. The reasoning behind the creation of the rental barrack scheme was for landlords to secure financial wealth, meaning that the job of the architect here would be to create a space that would accommodate as many people as possible. Although it has not been directly influenced by politics, it has been highly influenced by the lack of them. An adequate way to start the exploration of this type of building would be to separate the enclosure with the enclosed, therefore I would like to start with the two elevations - front and back - as they are different and contradicting. In his research paper on the subject, Rolf Kuck (Kuck, 2010) explores in detail the creation of the two facades and the process of designing the decoration. When placed next to each other, the two images reveal the substantial differences not only in terms of decoration, but also in structure and composition. 1840 - start of industrialization in Berlin 14

The front facade, facing the street, (Fig.2) has been heavily decorated with fine elements like the cornice and frieze which suggests the elevation of a palace. The sophistication and precision with which it has been done conveys an idea of the inside as being cosmopolitan and luxurious. It is necessary to mention here that the owner Jacques Meyer never lived in this building, but nevertheless one can assume that the front facade of the building would be a representation of his wealth as it is the visible one. In contrast, the elevation facing the courtyard (Fig.3) lacks all of the elements of finesse and instead exposes a straight-forward, monotonous facade. Devoid of all of the decorations, cornices and pilasters, festive details that the front has been imbued with, has been created the obvious opposite - it is simple and neat. One can conclude that this had been done because this is not a side, visible for everybody, but the tenants (Fig.4).



The two differentiating facades could be considered as results of the control assigned to the private owners around this period. During the 1900s the city governments paid insufficient attention to the buildings themselves but were instead mainly regulating the layout of the streets and the heights of construction (Ladd, 1990). Eventually, one could suggest that the Mietskasernen were indeed an example of the freedom which private owners like Jacques Meyer had been given by the state.

1874 - Meyers Hof built 15

A major setback for changes within building laws, in order for this speculative freedom to become controlled, was the interest of property owners and town representatives who feared losing local powers of self-administration. Prevention of construction of urban slums, or Mietskasernen, proved hard to impose because building laws seldom dealt with the erected buildings and mostly with the urban planning of the city itself. This would be the reason why the bill, suggested by Franz Adickes, the reforming mayor of Frankfurt at the time, that included clauses, aiming "to permit Umlegungen (re-routing) in Prussian towns of over 10 000 inhabitants" and "enabling towns to confiscate property for widening streets, redeveloping slums, and for building new housing on vacant land" (cited in Diefendorf, 1993), did not manage to be enforced. Only until the Prussian Housing Law (1918) was introduced did the urban slum removal start taking shape, as well as new, modern housing projects started developing.

Fig.4. 1918 - Prussian Housing Law put into force 16

The protection of private property from arbitrary seizure by civil law codes meant that the power of the land owners like Jacques Meyer was immense: "But it was left primarily to private builders and speculators to determine the nature of the housing units to be built and thereby to create the residential environments of the expanding cities." (Ladd, 1990, p.6) In plan, Meyers Hof. consisted of seven buildings overall - six of them were six storey high for accommodation and one that served with the multipurpose of being a depot, bath house and an office for administration (Kuck, 2010). Looking at the plan (Fig.5), the image gives an idea of crowdedness, especially by the tight arrangement of the small rooms which were to be of minimum dimension of 5.3 by 5.3 meters in compliance with police regulations (Kuck, 2010). The 229 units and additional 28 ones housed a number of around 2 000 people (2 500 at peak) (Kuck, 2010). Even with the plan of the building failing to accommodate for even a single family spatially, the residents sublet to night lodgers and night workers in order to subsidise the cost due to high rents. Using the historical numbers given, I have calculated that 7.78 people (~9 at peak) were living per unit, meaning that each person had 3.61 m².



As a result, not only the planning, but also the economic conditions converted the rental barracks into spaces of cohabitation. Looking at both the building structure and the hierarchy of 'power' within, there is a correlation between the two - the land owner as the one that the tenants were directly dependent on, can be read onto the external facade of the building that is for everybody to see. Below the landlord is the tenant himself whose figure is translated onto the facade at the back and the last is the night lodger or the only one occupying the functional internal parts of the building (Fig.6). the landlord

the front facade

the tenant

the back facade

the night lodger

the internal spaces


The cohabitation of the internal spaces creates conditions of unhealthy living and existential problems, regarding hygiene, health and safety. The evident problem with the Mietskaserne was that the standard of housing that it provided was appalling as they were characterised by - "stale air, little or no sunlight, serious overcrowding, and insufficient sanitary facilities, all of which dramatically increased disease rates" (Diefendorf, 1993, p.108). Not only this, but the rental barracks were also believed to be the cause for high mortality rates, criminality and political radicalism within the working classes (Diefendorf, 1993)(Fig.7).

Fig.7. 18

Highly attacked by public health reformers (Ladd, 1990) was the ordinance plan, created by James Hobrecht in 1862 and is thought to have been one of the reasons for the emergence of the Mietskasernen (Ladd, 1990). The final form of the plan (Fig.8) is thought to have reflected negotiations between the municipal government and local property owners (Ladd, 1990). It can be taken as an example of the power of control that was invested in these characters. It could be speculated that it was also the reason behind the tightness of the plan of the Meyers Hof.


1862 - James Hobrecht creates his ordinance plan of Berlin 19

After 1873, the economic situation in the country started changing and so did the floor plan of the Meyers Hof (Fig.9), which adjusted to suit the small business development that emerged within the building. As described in the paper of Rolf Kuck, interior walls were being taken down and staircases were being converted to suit the purposes of office spaces. The blossoming of the Meyers Hof as a commercial site created a different type of cohabitation. An example is that of a small tobacco manufacturing business that was taking place in the rental barracks at Ackerstrasse and was considered as a precedent "of smallest-scale enterprises that were connected to each other" (Kuck, 2010, p. 19), meaning that the different stages of the tobacco production took place in different buildings, part of the overall structure of Meyers Hof.


This exploration suggests the creation of a community and different types of relationships (between the different manufacturers and between the tenants themselves). In contrast, the most important and complex one has not been explored, namely between the tenants and the landlord. According to Meerovich and Kholodilin (2014), the government of Germany started regulating the relationship between landlord - tenant only after World War I. Before the war "the relations between the tenants and landlords were regulated exclusively by the contracts they concluded" (Kholodilin, Meerovich, 2014, p. 2). This 'regulation' was imposed by the 1900 German Civil Code that "provided a complete freedom of contractual relations in the housing market" (Kholodilin, Meerovich, 20

2014, p. 2). The 1900 Civil Code (Fig.10) specifies that the landlord is to terminate the contract with the tenant or evict him in the case of subletting to third parties without landlords' permission or failure to present rent in two subsequent periods. The regulations of the law are evident examples of the power, invested in the landlord, and the regulatory status of the relationship landlord - tenant.


The emergence of the rental barracks in Germany started because of the lack of regulations and control by the government over the erected buildings. These flaws in the law at the time were also responsible for the rental barracks being examples of poor living conditions.

1900 - Civil Law Code put into force 21

In spite of that, this type of building was not only a place of misbalance in terms of health, rights, and law, but also a place for cohabitation. It created within itself a space of different relationships and activities, allowing it to grow into a microcosm. It is also the first example in the exploratory period where the architecture is controlled by the power of a singular institution, in this case the landlords. The creation of the buildings was not in the hands of architects - at least not solely - but in the private owner. "Until 1924 the "new society" gave radical architects little opportunity to translate their visions into reality" (Miller Lane, 1985, p.87), meaning that this omission of architects as central players would continue until the introduction of the modernism in the country and would specifically start to change with the introduction of the garden cities into the landscape of German architecture. •


In-between Hellerau Dresden In order for one to understand the complexity of the period at the turn of the century and the ideas behind the Garden City movement, a preview of the historical events needs to be provided and discussed. As discussed in the previous chapter, industrialization that sprung up in the country at the end of the 19th century was a reason for the emergence of the Mietskasernen. Until the beginning of the 20th century, they were a major part of the architecture in most of the larger cities in the country and were accepted by the government as they helped address the overcrowding problems. The rental barracks also had an impact on the arts and crafts circles of small workers who were becoming endangered by the rising factory competition. This was also noted by the political leader Otto von Bismarck who stated that although factories enriched the individual, they were also endangering the life of the state by creating a mass of potential proletarians. He supported the independent crafts people and thought of their existence as "essential to the life of the state" (Maciuika, 2005, p.15). This is where the complexity of the situation of this period comes across - there is a tie between architecture and crafts, as German architects believed in both tradition and workers as drivers of the state. The same goes for the government, who believed that a carefully maintained middle and lower class would prevent "revolution of the existing political, social, and economic order" (Maciuika, 2005, p.15).


Two very important organisations were founded at the time that dealt with the problems of social economy and the art, crafts and architecture. According to Frederick Schwartz, "political economy was not only a cultural science: it was, according to its practitioners, the preeminent cultural science" (1996, p.78). The two organizations - the Verein and the Deutscher Werkbund - had a lot in common - not only the fact that they both included politicians at the time, but also because both of them were trying to deal with the economy of the country but through different means. In order to explain this fully, one must explore them separately in order to highlight the key aspects of each and draw conclusions as I am about to do so further.

The Verein for Sozialpolitik was founded in 1872 by professors of political economy who believed in an anti-Marxist economy and rejected "an abstract sense of the nature of economic activity" (Schwartz, 1996, p.78). A goal of theirs, that the later founded Deutsche GartenstadtGesellschaft (German Garden City Association) would accommodate, was "bridging over class differences in society" (Schwartz, 1996, p.78). The idea behind the Verein seems to have been to take control over the economy that was bustling because of the industrialization process. The Werkbund, on the other hand, founded in 1907, was thought to be an "applied arts movement" (Schwartz, 1996, p.9), even though, the meeting point of both organizations was economy. Authors like Frederic Schwartz explain in detail the ideas behind both alliances and in his book "The Werkbund", he describes the applied arts movement's purpose as "to improve the quality of goods manufactured in Germany by encouraging cooperation between producers, tradesman and art professionals" (1996, p.9). It was connected to the Verein not only because of shared members like Hermann Muthesius (discussed further below), but also the fact that the Werkbund promoted a strong relationship between the craftsman and the businessman. In this way, one can conclude the evident connection between the two organizations in terms of their aim for economical growth of the country. 1872 foundation of the Verein

1907 - foundation of the Werkbund 25

The figure of Hermann Muthesius (Fig.11) can be considered as a bridge between the Verein and the Werkbund. A part of the Prussian state bureaucracy and an architect, he was appointed to advise the ministry in the reform of its arts, crafts, and trades schools (Maciuika, 2005, p.16). Being a strong supporter of the English economic and political reforms, he was very much in favor of the ideas that the English architect Ebenezer Howard (Fig.12) had put forward in his book "To-morrow: Peaceful path to real reform". Ebenezer Howards' ideas were received well by the governing bodies in England because they suggested ways of coping with the housing problems that the industrialization had created. After the design of several projects, the ideas of Howard spread throughout Western Europe. Thus, they were embraced by the also rapidly industrialising country of Prussia. What initially had started out as a movement, created by artists, the German Garden City Society soon became the most developed movement in the country that advocated a workers' city that would embrace the arts and crafts traditions and integrate the different social classes together.

Fig.11. 1898 - Ebenezer Howard publishes his book 26


While the organization of the German Garden City started out as an alliance of utopian social-reform groups, men like Hermann Muthesius saw in it "a tool to advance the economic development and social-reform programs" (Maciuika, 2005, p.220). The three major figures in the movement, Naumann (Fig.13), Schmidt (Fig.14) and Muthesius, each saw a different reason for backing up the Garden City society and their project for the city of Hellerau. As explained in the book "Before the Bauhaus", Naumann thought of Hellerau as means "to reconcile liberals and socialists, as well as the bourgeoisie, and working classes, in the service of Germany's expansion" (Ibid., p. 220). As opposed to Naumann, Muthesius saw in the garden city society a way of creating centralized control, hierarchical authority and he "hoped to overcome the vagaries of the modern real-estate market and execute comprehensive, paternalistic design at the garden city of Hellerau" (Ibid., p.221). Since the government believed that the more educated the lower and middle classes were about culture, the easier it would be for architects to provide a domestic market for the improved goods of the Commerce Ministry (Maciuika, 2005, p.223), one of the greatest supporters of this was Hermann Muthesius. Incredibly different from the Mietskasernen, the creation of the Hellerau project was intended to build the appropriate housing types that the workers needed, therefore reflecting the early ideas of the modernism.

Fig.13. 27


The German garden city society believed in people being the driver of the design, they therefore put forward questionnaires for the workers to fill out, explaining their existing and desired inhabitations. In comparison to the Mietskasernen, where the buildings were created to express wealth and gain money, without concern about peoples' living conditions, the Garden City ideals and the Hellerau project were a big step towards changing the face of architecture of Germany for the benefit of people. The main focus of the project, built in 1909, was not only to solve the problem of creating social housing according to the social class, but also to provide good living conditions, beauty and artistic tradition combined together in its design (Fig.15).

Fig.15. 1909 - Hellerau is built 28

It was in Hellerau that the first standardised housing emerged with Richard Riemerschmidts' housing types. Since the design of Hellerau had been divided to be put forward by four different architetcs (Richard Riemerschmidt, Hermann Muthesius, Heinrich Tessenow and Kurt Frick), this had been the first example of the freedom, given to the architect to construct a housing project, and also it was the first to combine several different architects' ideas together. The problem that emerges from the designs of these architects is that it can be considered too idealised. When looking at pictures of their housing types and the overall layout of Hellerau, the houses seem "to fit in comfortably with the planned segregation and hierarchical social and economic visions of the new owning class". It is thought that Riemerschmidt's ideas were the exact opposite of the proletarian life in the Mietskasernen (Fig.16). Since Muthesius was an important driver of the Hellerau project, the standardization and the topic of "the type" were considered of great importance to him (Fig.17). Giving it the name "Typisierung" (the Type), he introduced this concept in his speech "Wo stehen wir?" (Where do we stand?) in 1911. For the architects of the Werkbund, of which Riemerschmidt, Muthesius and Schmidt were members, "the concept of the type had a very specific meaning or set of interrelated meanings" (Schwartz, 1996, p.121). The term can be considered as an extension of the concept of standardization but outside of the factory and according to some, "the establishment of types was no longer a matter of production, technique (or even production efficiency); it was a matter of the way products were to meet the consumer and his or her demands - a matter of the market" (Schwartz, 1996, p.124-5). What John Maciuika discusses in his book "Before the Bauhaus" is that for Mutheius the typification (Typisierung) was an opportunity to return to the balance between traditional approaches in German building design and the new advantages of production, thus satisfying political and economic needs, while still preserving construction being artistic (2005, p. 301).

1911 - H.Muthesius introduces “Where do we stand?� 29

Fig.16. Riemerschmid Housing Types

Fig.17. Hermann Muthesius House Type


Returning to the Hellerau project and looking at the building types, drawn by Richard Riemerschmidt, one can relate the Typisierung with the ideas of the garden city. In spite of the fact that three out of four architects created their respective parts through standardized design, the fourth one, Heinrich Tessenow (Fig.18), failed to do so, creating extreme polemics within the Garden City Society. While his colleagues had used mass produced elements for the whole of their designs, his use of mass produced elements only in fixtures or windows and doors, created conflicts within the society that proved fatal for its existing (Fig.19).

Fig.18. 31

Fig.19. Heinrich Tessenow Housing Type


Even though the German Garden City Society did not live long to manage more garden city projects, its members believed in the need for a theoretical framework. Therefore, the ideas about the "social city" or "social architecture" and the term "Typisierung" evolved and grew to become some of the most important and polemical concepts in the design world of Germany in the 20th century. What had started as a movement within the literary and artistic circles, had developed into a movement with progressive ideas on design, society, housing and urbanism. One could assume that the Hellerau project and the German Garden City movement was a transitional stage in architecture between the period of the Mietskasernen and the Bauhaus movement. It was thought that "houses and apartments would flourish in orderly, planned settlements and provide an antidote to the "barracks-city" that many cities feared Berlin had become" (Maciuika, 2005, p.222) and in this context it can be viewed as being partially successful. Partially because not a lot of the garden cities were actually built in Germany after all, but in spite of that very successful in actually trying to change the architectural landscape of the country in such a difficult time. The garden city movement was a beginning for architects in many ways - it had begun a dialogue between the topic of standardisation and tradition that would later continue with the creation of the Bauhaus school. It also questioned the idea of tradition and its integration in the built environment with Heinrich Tessenows' designs in Hellerau. The end of the garden cities signified the beginning of a very developed and complex stage in the architecture of Germany, namely the modernist era, imposing the problems of individuality and tradition, arts and crafts, nature and urbanism that would become highly discussed within the modernism era. The topic of whether politics have been involved into the tackling of these problems is to be discussed in the following chapter. •


Partial Weissenhof Siedlung Stuttgart Life after the First World War, that started a few years after the Garden Citiy of Hellerau was built, made it difficult for the German government who had to, again, face housing shortages. In the period of the first housing programs (1919-1924), the government consisted of a coalition of middle-class parties, none of which supported large-scale construction at the time. (Pommer, Otto, 1991) The imbalance between the political power made it difficult for a lot of new construction to take place. Following the elections in 1925, won by the Social Democrats, the new government is said to have been "bolder and more experimental [...], more stringent and economical" (Pommer, Otto, 1991, p. 18). Daniel Sigloch, deputy mayor of Karl Lautenschlager (Stuttgart mayor, 1911-1933), was a supporter of using standardised plans to reduce construction costs but was met by other parties with disapproval as they feared "that mechanization would take too much work away from the local building crafts and contractors" (Pommer, Otto, 1991, p.19) - a confrontation similar to ones that government before the war and with the Garden cities had. Even though they were not supporting Sigloch's ideas, when the project for the Weissenhof Siedlung (Weissenhof Settlement), (Fig.20) an exhibition for proposed social housing design, was introduced to the government by the Werkbund, they did not accept, nor reject the proposal. 1918 - End of WWI 1914 - Start of WWI

1919 - First housing programs 34

What could be easily assumed is that they liked the idea of making Stuttgart famous for such a big project, but were hesitant about its style and costs. These two concerns, discussed later, would become the two major problems around the Weissenhof Siedlung. It would introduce far too many considerations that the German government, still recovering from the war, would not be capable to comprehend completely. In fact, this is a main reason for choosing this project to discuss as a case study of the period - where it is highly politicized by the fact that the architecture offered is too modern for the still very traditional German politics. It also adapts the ideas of standardization, mentioned in the previous chapter, and takes them further by creating the "rationalization" technique.


As soon as Mies van der Rohe took the project in his hands, making an exemplary model (Fig.21.) and plan to invite foreign architects to take part in it, the Siedlung became a controversy of politics and architecture, with The Neues Bauen (The New Dwelling) becoming a central issue. This meant that aspects of the new style of architecture were conflicting with "the local customs of housing and building" and soon "came to be seen as a threat of the status of the Stuttgart School of Architecture" (Pommer, Otto, 1991, p.27) Although this new architecture offered model efficiency and sometimes social reform, what seems to have worried the city council was that it was the exact opposite of the economics of the low-cost dwellings that they supported and needed. Another reason for their deep concerns can be considered the fact that they had already agreed to add the Siedlung to their housing program instead of offering the separate houses for sale, which would in the end be the case. This step could be assumed to be taken to take control over the already mentioned above housing shortage. 35

Fig.21. Weissenhof Clay Model

Not only was there immense differentiation and controversy in the opinions of the major political parties of the time in general, but also in their views on the new style of housing emerging. The architects of the Werkbund and the Ring (a new collective, founded in 1926 with the purpose of promoting Modernist architecture) seem to have seen in the Weissenhof Siedlung not only an opportunity to prove that the new style is as good as the German traditional housing, but also that standardization could be of help to overcome construction costs. Opposing them, the politicians were extremely indecisive of the project as they were still trying to define their own "social and cultural policies in the middle years of the Weimar Republic" (Pommer, Otto, 1991, p.29) Each of them had a reason for supporting or rejecting the project in their own way: the Democrats were highly supportive and members of the party agreed with the decision that the Werkbund should have complete control over the design and choice of architects; the Center party was uneven in their reasoning, regarding the project as both suitable for large families and at the same time as considering it to have unnecessary luxuries; the Nationalists were strongly anti-modernist and believed in rural Siedlungen (settlements) for farmers but supported it for economical reasons; Initial project developments - 1925 1926 - The Ring founded 36

the People's party was unstable in its view, supporting the new style as long as "planning did not interfere with business and property rights" (Pommer, Otto, 1991, p.30). Even though this disproportionate overall view on the project and the new style, the power was in the hands of the Social Democrats to decide. Yet again, the mayor Lautenschlager's interest in Weissenhof was mainly in its value as an exhibition, rather than housing. It is important to note here is their decision on the site, with Lautenschlager deciding on Weissenhof hilltop which seemed to be convenient to reach for tourists. A conclusion one can draw from all this is that all decisions were connected more or less to the economics of the country rather than housing. After second proposal was drawn and submitted to the council, they still failed to decide whether to fully accept it on the grounds that the appearance of the buildings differentiated strongly from traditional architectonics (Fig.22,23). Even though, after great negotiations and implications, the project was approved by all parties and was commissioned to be built. In spite of the project being very complex in terms of its economical agenda, political implications also stemmed from its design agenda. It is important to note several issues here, one of them being the fact that Mies van der Rohe had been a great supporter of the Garden Cities, discussed in the previous chapter. For him, the Weissenhof Siedlung was in a way a garden city, especially by the way it sat on the Weissenhof hilltop, but was also very different to the garden city ideals in the fact that it existed mostly "to unite town and country, not to establish a dense settlement in the countryside" (Pommer, Otto, 1991, p.39)

Fig.22. Weissenhof View Front 1926 - Mies van der Rohe first proposal 37

Fig.23. Weissenhof View Back

The Weissenhof Siedlung, according to the last planning proposal by Mies van der Rohe (Fig.24) of 1927 , included 19 units of single-family houses of one and two stories, and 42 as apartment buildings of two and three stories (Fig.25). Decisions on the overall appeal of the dwellings called forward associations with earlier dwelling types for politicians and architects. The single-family house was associated to the Garden City movement and its single-family houses, recalling Hermann Muthesius' house "that was plain, compact, well-built and inexpensive, as a dwelling intended specifically for the lower classes of workers and farmers" (Pommer, Otto, 1991, p.73) (Fig.26, 27). The apartment building on the other hand, reminded some of them of the Mietskasernen period and the rental barrack apartment buildings. Nevertheless, because of these associations and the growing conflicting nature of the project, two of the apartment blocks, given to the architects Mart Stam and J.J.P. Oud, were changed to row houses instead, leaving the only two apartment blocks to be handled by Mies and Peter Behrens.

Fig.24. 1927 - Final proposal and beginning of construction 38

Fig.25. Weissenhof Plan and Key


Fig.26. Weissenhof Adolf Schneck House

Fig.27. Hermann Muthesius House


Important details of the overall appearance of the buildings like the roof, even small as they were, created heated debates. It was, from what I believe, in exactly these small details that the city council saw too great of changes to what formerly had been traditional in the country. Looking at pictures of the different housing types of the Siedlung, all of the roof structures are flat - a key feature of the Modernist movement. It is of these flat roofs that, from what it appears, the architects of the Ring and the Werkbund were trying to state that housing terminology can be different, but nevertheless functional and technical. Questions, emerging from the use of flat roofs, like water dripping and loss of attic space (Fig.28,29), were tackled by the architects of the Weissenhof by adding terraces and green roofs. What could not be translated to the politicians at the time about the flat roof, was the unity that it gave to the Weissenhof buildings. An important step of this period that had been tested and experimented with in different settlements before, but realized in Weissenhof, was the use of standardised parts in housing projects. Much like Muthesius before the war, architects in the 1920s favored standardisation and because of shortages from the aftermath of the First World War, politicians saw ways to improve the economy via standardisation. Much of the ideas of standardisation were used in Wessenhof like the walls and smaller components like windows and doors. Considering the building types individually, starting with Le Corbusier's villas, he used standardised structural components that were to be used for different models of living (Fig.30), while Gropius stated that "his Weissenhof houses are experiments in prefabrication" (Pommer, Otto, 1991, p.88)(Fig.31). In his apartment block, Mies van der Rohe used a standardised frame design that was intended for economical construction, while in their row houses, Stam and Oud decreased the sizes of their dwellings, while making them standardized, in order to keep an appearance of spaciousness.


Fig.28. Hans Poelzig House

Fig.29. Richard Riemerschmid House Type, Hellerau

Fig.30. Le Corbusier Element

Fig.31. Gropius prefabricated house


It had been firstly decided that the houses would be part of the Stuttgart housing program, led by the government, which later changed and ended up with the houses being put up for sale and bought by artists, professionals and businessman. This left the lower and middle classes yet again looking for places to live, making the Weissenhof Siedlung unsuccessful in addressing the housing shortage. It is thought that it failed to convince politicians in the functionality of the new style as well, despite all the support from the leading Democratic party and the belief of the Werkbunds' leading architects. In the end, the persistence of the modernists in the Weissenhof initiated the opposition modernist and antimodernist to be read as political signs of nationalism and internationalism. For what it is worth, the Weissenhof Siedlung is still an exhibition of the ideals of a movement that although too politicised, was to leave a great mark in the world of architecture and Germany. Even though it is to be absolutely prohibited in the following years of Nazism in Germany, it appears to represent an ideal that overcame even these hardest times, emerging later on to become one of the greatest movements in history. •


Dictatorial Ramersdorf Siedlung München Long before Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists came to prominence, the architecture of Germany had given hints about the type of construction programs they would lead in the Nazi years - völkisch (human), yet one that is racially "clean" and truly German. There appeared people like Theodor Fritsch who in his work "Die Stadt der Zukunft" (The City of the Future, 1986) offered a type of garden city before Ebenezer Howard with the difference that Fritsch's work was thought as outlining his "nationalist, racist and anti-Semitic program" (Pommer, Otto, 1991, p.220). It was perhaps one of the earliest examples for the move towards a nationalist architecture. Considering the different periods addressed in the previous chapters, it appears that they had all been leading up to this period - the architecture of the Nazism. Although as different as they all seem, they have all been alternating between those very important ideologies for the German people - the traditional and the modernist. After the modernist period, it seems that the fear of the new had reached its peak level as it was beginning to be seen as a threat to the country (Taylor, 1974). This clearly creates a switch from an environment, divided between nationalism and internationalism, modernism and anti-modernism, to one of general dislike of the existing German political and economical state and dislike of the avant-garde in particular during the rule of Hitler.

1896 - Theodor Fritsch publishes “The City of the Future” 44

After the crumbling of the Social Democratic government and the coming of the National Socialists to power, one image defines all things German after - the image of their leader, Adolf Hitler. Much has been written on the Third Reich - on their politics, their economic policies, their military procedures and their architecture, but there is little scholarship with regards their social housing as part of their overall rule. In Hitler's view, community buildings were much more important than private ones, as they sought to imply that the community life was superior to individual life. They were supposed to remind people of their great nationality, of their unity as a nation and of their mutual aid (Taylor, 1974) (Fig.32). Even though Hitler's early interests and observations on social housing, he had lost this interest by 1933 over monumental buildings - which as one can observe from pictures of this period was the major type of architecture, commissioned in the country. According to Robert Taylor, a writer on the Nazism period in Germany, "community" architecture never meant building to meet the social needs of the community" (Taylor, 1974, p. 28).

Fig.32. 1933 - National Socialist Party comes to power 45

In the years, leading up to the Ramersdorf Siedlung, the chosen project of discussion in this chapter, Hitler seemed to have given a great importance to architecture in his rule. Like many aspects of society, architecture too seems to have been highly propagandised and considered as a political weapon - a way to impose subversive control over the German population. An aspiring artist himself, Hitler frequently surrounded himself with architects (See Fig.33). Although he did not have neither interest, nor time to carry through social housing programs, assuming they would not have such high levels of influence over the Germans as the monuments he built, his right hand and leading architect of the country, Albert Speer did. Speer, according to Robert Taylor, did not take an active part in the political world of the country, despite being appointed as the minister for armaments, but had considered himself more of a "follower of Hitler" (Taylor, 1974, p. 69).

Fig.33. 1934 - Albert Speer becomes the Partys’ architect 46

An ideology that emerged during the Nazi rule, was the "blood and soil" construction of rural settlements for the German peasant. It originated from the idea that any type of building should be created organically from the German soil, hence the decision of the architects to use stone in many of their buildings. Even though not a lot of housing was built during these years, the government believed that in every German town, even the smallest buildings should be able to represent the presence and power of the party and the leader. Unlike the Weissenhof Siedlung, Ramersdorf was one of the few housing projects, created with the intention not to impose a particular style in building design, but a new housing policy, based exactly on the ideology of the "blood and soil" (Miller Lane, 1985). It is an ideology one could easily connect to the Third Reich when a clearance of all things non-German took place (Fig.34). Although Hitler was not interested in rural settlements, his government believed that these types of settlements were decaying and started a program for their revival (Taylor, 1974). The Arbeitsgemeinschaft Heimat und Haus published a series of books, "Die landschaftlichen Grundlagen des deutschen Bauschaffens", on the topic of German villages. It states a necessity for "cleanliness" in the village design, clear of "urban architectural Kitsch" (Taylor, 1974, p.228). Something that can be clearly observed in the Ramersdorf Siedlung with the house's clean, white walls, with a square in the middle, as recommended in the book series, for the gathering of people for festivities (Fig.35). It is suggested in the book of Robert Taylor "The Word in Stone" that exactly these series were considered an example of architecture being a political weapon, for it would direct architects "concerned with the East" (devoted to rural architecture in Germany and its propaganda in the east of Europe) in the right way, namely to the establishment of new rural settlements with local materials and styles. "Clean indication of buildings parts, neat arrangement of windows and stylistic unity throughout" (Taylor, 1974, p.229) are all evident characteristics of the houses within the Ramersdorf Siedlung (Fig.36).

1934 - Ramersdorf Siedlung built 47





Also mentioned in the series is the use of a steep roof, also called "Nuremberg roof ", a construction detail so debated over in the past. Since the assumption that the Siedlung was built as an opposition to the modernist Weissenhof Siedlung, the roof, as important as it had been in the modernist settlement, had been addressed traditionally in Ramersdorf with the intention to claim it, as stated by Taylor, as "a symbol of the strong, protective strength of the Nordic feeling for the home" (1974, p.229). It is important to note here a difference that one can find in the detail of the roof of the Ramersdorf. For the modernist movement its flatness had been done so, as already discussed previously, as a sign of their beliefs in a certain architectural style and its functionality. For Nazi architects though, one can find it having not only the purpose of defining a style, but also, as with many buildings of different function during the period, claiming the notoriety, power and beliefs of the governing party. All decisions, connected to Ramersdorf, seem to have been taken with the consideration of the leader Adolf Hitler, as a minor detail, looking at the plan, is the way in which the church seems to have been left out of the overall closed structure of the Siedlung. From my translation of the book "The Word in Stone", all buildings that distracted the purity and German style of the landscape, had to be in a way left out. This is crucial to the explanation of the distanced church and connects with statements of Hitler's hostility to the Christian Church (Fig.37).

Fig.37. 49

The Ramersdorf, like its modernist counterpart, can be considered contradictory in what it was aiming to achieve. In "Architecture and Politics in Germany: 1918-1945", Barbara Lane observed, that the two main purposes of the Ramersdorf Siedlung, as stated by the government architects, were "to lead the Germans back to the soil" (1985, p.211) and to have an overall resemblance of a small rural village, were unsuccessful. The latter because German villages never had such extensive vegetation, according to Lane, and the "blood and soil" ideology as one that never fully took place around Germany, possibly because of the lack of interest by Hitler. What defines the Ramersdorf Siedlung, in my opinion, as Nazi architecture is not the "blood and soil" ideology, not even the traditionalism implemented in its design or layout, but the propaganda with which the government kept attention consistently on it. Although Weissenhof had an extensive publicity as well, Ramersdorf was highly promoted by the governing bodies in order to propagandise further their vÜlkisch policies and the beliefs of the political patron. What had started as traditional for its time during Wilhelmine years (1890-1914) with the design of the Mietskasernen as a way of solving, what seems as an everlasting, problem with social housing, through the almost transitional period of the Garden Cities as a period of a swift from tradition to the realization that there may be more to be explored in architecture; coming upon the Bauhaus period of modernism and experimentation, ends up being the long way the German architects had to walk to come to their peak. It appears as if they had been climbing a ladder understanding the needs of their people and their demands for better quality homes, only to come across the period of the Nazism where everything that they had been building upon fell mercilessly to the ground. •

1939 - WWII begins 50

1945 - WWII ends

Combinatory Stalinallee & Hansaviertel Berlin Closing the circle of discussion, this final chapter returns to Berlin and explores the post-world war II division of the city and its architecture under the influence of political ideology as discussed in previous chapters. Now that Germany had lost almost everything after the war, its future rested in the hands of the four divided zones as established by the victorious Allied forces. Following the war, there had been great demand for social housing due to bombing damage, as such housing programs were a major issue for all occupational forces. Berlin, although not the capital city at the time, became the showcase of the conflicting typologies of housing between the occupying Americans and Russians. It also underlined the two very different ideologies of Capitalist and Communist respectively, with the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in 1949 and the Eastern bloc, under the rule of the Soviet Union, as the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Chosen as case studies are two building exhibitions from both sides of Berlin - the Stalinallee (East Berlin) (Fig.38) and the Hansaviertel (Interbau, West Berlin) (Fig.39), as representatives of the two respective occupational zone countries, Russia and America.

Fig.38. 52


Looking at the sites, accommodating the two housing constructions, one can notice the linear arrangement of buildings along the street in the East (Fig.40) and the free, irregular style, dipping into the Tiergarten in the West (Fig.41). Not only the site, but also the shapes of the buildings look as distinctive examples of the opposition between the two zones. The building blocks of the East look very much like the building blocks in the center of the capital Sofia in my own home country, Bulgaria. They look familiar to me because Bulgaria was also a communist country and under the control of the USSR government. The block typology is identical tall buildings with shops in the ground floor, similarity obvious in the pictures that are provided below (Fig.42,43). Analogous to Germany, the architecture of Bulgaria under the communist regime is oppressed of using untraditional details and construction techniques, unlike the West of Berlin. The free approach of the Americans, opposed to the regimented communist bloc makes the different ideologies of the two sides, as the opposing opinions in the different Siedlungen of before, evident yet again. Jeffry Diefendorf (1993) explains in detail the probable reasons behind the decision of the Americans to build the Interbau near the Tiergarten. First and foremost, it is believed that the land on the edge of the cities had not been bombed as much as the inner parts, therefore construction there can be assumed to be easier with not much rubble, needing to be cleared. This is very similar to the ideas of the settlements of the 1920s that have been explored previously and their preference to building in suburban areas. Not only that, but also the fact that the modernists within the government believed in the separation of urban areas "according to their functions [as places of] work, housing, transportation, recreation, culture, and administration" (Diefendorf, 1993, p.145), makes this project similar to the modernist Siedlung exhibitions of the 1920s. The FRG also believed that the Interbau should demonstrate what they considered to be modern city planning and proper housing, "in contrast to the false ostentation of the Stalinallee" (Diefendorf, 1993, p.149), it was to represent the "free" West, as opposed to the "democratic" East. 1949 - Creation of FRG & GDR 53




Fig.43. 54

The main focus of the Soviet Union, on the other hand, is said to be the exact contrary - the design of a new street that "would represent the ideals of a socialist Germany" (Diefendorf, 1993, p.194), in opposition to the modernist, democratic ideology of the West. Important section of this belief can be assumed to be the mixture of urban functions, notable in the buildings of the Stalinallee. Since GDR had sought to represent Germany, the appearance had to reflect its traditions in architecture. It had to, according to author Brian Ladd, "display centralization, hierarchy, and monumentality" (1998, p. 181). The skyscraper buildings, erected on Stalinallee, certainly incorporate this wish, being tall, unadorned blocks. The following policies during the 1950s in East Berlin created an architecture that resembled the German traditional neoclassicism of Karl Friedrich Schinkel (Fig.44). It is paradoxical how after the long rule of a dictator such as Adolf Hitler, half of the split of Berlin went into the hands of yet another dictator in the face of Joseph Stalin. Similarity between Stalinallee's design (Fig.45) and Albert Speer's architecture (Fig.46) of grandeur is unmistakable - all facades are proportionate, ornamented with classical detail and employ the indisputable use of stone, as has already been observed as a significant detail in the Ramersdorf Settlement. As already mentioned above, not only with the East could one notice analogy to a style of another period. The design of the Interbau in West Berlin had been given to international architects like Gropius, Aalto, Niemeyer, Le Corbusier, Scharoun and others, all supporters of the modernist style and most importantly, most of which familiar with the architectural past of Germany simply by having taken part in it. Noticeably different from the design of the Stalinallee, the Interbau buildings are not only constructed into a freer site plan, but also some of them include colour (Fig.47). From the images below, one can notice the use of the obvious and well-know colors of the De Stijl movement, connected to Bauhaus (Fig.48). This is important to be noted as they are also representative signs of the modernist movement, much like the flat roof. 1949 - 50 - First buildings, built on Stalinallee

1957 - The Interbau Exhibition opens

1949 - Frankfurter Allee renamed Stalinallee for Stalins’ 70th birthday 55

Nonetheless, even though being so greatly contrasting, they could also be considered as being very similar. Thinking about the way in which both of them represent previous periods in the history of the architecture of the country, they seem like the perfect endings to a great epoch. One could conclude that they are the end results of the long way that the German architects had to come to free themselves of any particular style or any particular political side, in order to achieve what they had been trying to for so long - create architecture for the people. One could imagine that although until the end of the war politics and housing had been always tied together by circumstances, created within the country, in the post-war period they were almost like a necessity for the existence of each other. As being remarkably different in their design, Stalinallee and the Hansaviertel Quarter grasp the ideas of two extremely contrasting ideologies of architecture, existing in Germany. They can be considered as collections of the ideas of the periods of before that dealt with the opposition modern - traditional and democratic - capitalist. Even though these two projects have been executed by outsiders of the country, implementing their own political ideologies, it has been explored in the text above that these occupied forces still wished to incorporate the ideas of earlier German architecture. As discussed in the previous chapters, German architects and politicians had attempted to create a balance between architecture and politics throughout the years before and between the two world wars. With the end of the Second World War though, as this chapter suggests, the connection between architecture and politics becomes a necessity to restore the country to its previous flourishing state. •









An important lesson, learned in this dissertation is that by all means politics are always involved in architecture - it is an inevitable but also crucial fact. It has been observed in Chapter 1 that the lack of political influence is unhealthy to social housing but in like manner, as explored in Chapter 4, so is the overpowering of architecture by politics. As demonstrated in Chapter 2, solely realizing the need for change was not enough to find balance between politics and architecture. On the contrary, it created even more obstacles to finding such equity with the division on the topic of modern and traditional. Significant exploration, made in Chapter 3, was that despite of this opposition, social housing did get built. In the end, however, it did not serve the ones who really needed it. Thus, one can conclude that the lack of balance between the two spheres resulted in them being built, but unsuccessful in their aims social housing projects. The relationship between all the case studies, as discussed already, can be perceived as a timeline of constant changes, proof of the existing misbalance between architecture and politics. It is a long period of exploration but also of the persistent attempts of the politicians and architects to accept each others’ differentiating beliefs. Nevertheless, even though being in a chaotic state for too long, the development during these periods managed to raise important questions on emerging new architectural terminology like “the type�, standardisation, prefabrication and modernity, as discussed in Chapter 2 and 3. They proved crucial for the future of architecture as observed in Chapter 5.


In this final chapter one can summarise that all these terms and their significance were closely related to the political state - they had become definitions of the two political regimes. The topics of prefabricated houses and the standardisation of construction elements, brought to the architectural scene during the modernist period (1924-1933), along with the heatedly debated over flat roof, became signs of a liberal government and were thus implemented by the architects of the FRG after the division of the country. The grandeur and monumentality of the Nazi rule, stressing to the German population the power of the state, became present once more with the GDR, as discussed in Chapter 5. Social housing was not by any means the only type of construction being explored by authors and torn between the modern and traditional. Public architecture was also exposed to this opposition but was not as crucial to the German life as the social housing can be perceived as. Social architecture can be considered as a way of providing shelter to the nation that supports the need for any type of public architecture. In that sense, social housing can be viewed as more important and thus, understanding of the interest of German architects over social housing, examined through the case studies in this dissertation, can be gained. As discussed in the Introduction, shifting between the tradition and the modern, both of which as assumed define respectively the capitalist and democratic political regimes, German architects were searching for balance. Now, with the German country becoming multinational and especially with the recent refugee crisis that has spread all over Europe, the job of the German architects is no longer solely to create dwellings for the German people. The debate on traditional and modernist seems long gone with the advance of technology and construction and, whereas there is still control of politics over architecture, it seems to be purely by building law regulations and not as restrictive as it has been before. The multinational state of Germany and the liberal political system allow for more diversity in architecture than before, especially after opening its doors for the refugees of the East.


Even so, German architects may find themselves with the challenge of housing the substantial amount of refugees, entering the country. While this can be viewed as an opportunity to create housing, responding to the needs of people of a different culture, it can also be seen as a political situation that can affect the state of the German architecture. If too many asylum seekers enter the country, Germany may find itself in a housing crisis yet again, establishing the everpresent connection that exists between architecture and politics. •


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. Introduction . . Fig. 1 - Konstanca Ivanova, diagram

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Social Housing in Germany: Threshold between architecture and politics  

Oxford Brookes University, 2016

Social Housing in Germany: Threshold between architecture and politics  

Oxford Brookes University, 2016