02 April 2012

The birth of modern architecture

On Sunday a friend and I visited the Weissenhofmuseum and Weissenhofsiedlung.

The development was erected in 1927 as a residential building exhibition arranged by the City of Stuttgart and the Deutscher Werkbund. Working under the artistic direction of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, seventeen architects created an exemplary residential scheme for modern urban residents.
The architects included Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius (founder of the Bauhaus School), and others. The museum features some details regarding the development in general and Le Corbusier's contribution in particular. You can learn about humorous details such as reactions to the new, modern designs. Postcards show caricatures such as a wife folding away a bed—with her husband still on it, or people swimming nude in their rooftop pool and being generally amoral.

We did the 90 minute guided tour that includes the museum, the interior of another Le Corbusier house, and then a walking tour and discussion of some of the other buildings in the scheme. I probably made up some of if it in my head as I filled the gaps between the bits of German that I did follow, but I think the guide said that architects who visit there basically want to fall down on their knees and say "Yes! Yes! True, wonderful, modern architecture!" ... or something like that? Another point she emphasised was how the design of the buildings really show a new approach to living. First, there was the idea of utility. There was a housing shortage, so they needed to build houses quickly, but ideally also use space optimally. From there special designs like fold-away beds or walls so that rooms could have multiple purposes. Le Corbusier did perhaps apply his ideas to the extreme in some cases, as you'll find with the apartments that feel somewhat cramped. The fold-away walls between rooms also weren't the most sound-proof, and lack of privacy was a problem. That said, one can appreciate the emphasis on light, air, and space. These qualities weren't only important from an aesthetic perspective, but also for healthier living. Living in a small, dank, dark room will quite possibly give you tuberculosis, and many died as a result of uncontrolled outbreaks of the disease. So fresh air and light were a good idea, and as a plus, the architects also tried to design space for callisthenics. Very modern, very German.

Pictures of the interiors can't be published, so these are only exterior shots.

We walked back down to the city bowl, so there are some random shots from that. The big white building at the end is the new city library, or Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart, designed by Korean-born Cologne-based architect Eun Young Yi. You can read more about it on Phaidon.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6/4/12 10:20

    Die biblioteek lyk ongelooflik binne.