Stuttgart 1927

Die Wohnung exhibition, Weissenhof housing estate
July 23 – early October

The invitation to participate in the design and the construction of the Weissenhof model housing estate was extended to 17 avant-garde architects from 5 countries: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Adolf G.Schneck, Walter Gropius, Ludwig Hilbeseimer, Bruno Taut, Max Taut, Hans Poelzig, Richard Döcker, Adolf Rading, Peter Behrens, Hans Scharoun of Germany; Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud, Mart Stam of Holland; Victor Bourgeois of Belgium; Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret of France; Josef Frank of Austria. The planning conception, developed by Mies van der Rohe, envisioned blocks of flats and detached houses in semi and fully-detached arrangements.

The Wohnung exhibition was organised by the German Werkbund. It was centered on subjects like the rationalisation of housing, the reduction of building costs, more functional solutions in housekeeping and the application of new building techniques. The focus first of all was on assembling buildings from prefabricated elements on site, thus transferring most of the work from the site to the factory and shortening the actual construction process.
The very centre of the exhibition was constituted by the model housing estate consisting of 61 housing units: 13 single family detached houses, 8 single family row-houses, 2 semi-detached houses and 36 flats in tenement buildings. Due to its experimental character, the actual costs of the Weissenhof estate far exceeded the estimates and the originally planned financial framework of the municipal project.

The significance of the Weissenhof housing estate consisted not only in its pioneering role as the first project of this type but also in the diversity of architectural conceptions presented, from the ideas of Gropius and Mies van der Rohe who focused on prefabrication and various types of construction to Le Corbusier’s perfectionism and Scharoun’s organic approach.
The often adamant critics of the Weissenhof project focused specifically on the flat roofs and more generally on the architects’ approach to living space and its prospective users. Thus, the size of the kitchen as a workplace was deliberately reduced and utility rooms were rarely included. Nevertheless, it reflected the two major changes that were coming: the switch from craft to industrial methods and the coming of a new lifestyle. However controversial, its influence would prove strong and stimulate the development of modern architecture in Europe.