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A Wealth of Typological Solutions from the Twenties: Vienna and Frankfurt

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Of the European housing experiences from the interwar period, das rote Wien (Vienna, 1919-1934) and das neue Frankfurt (Frankfurt am Main, 1925-1933) developed the most convincing typological solutions for responding to the rising housing shortage and terrible sanitary conditions. In this perspective, the Viennese small apartments and the Frankfurt single-family house correspond to two alternative but complementary dwelling types. The objective of this paper is to draw a comparison, employing novel re-drawings of dwelling plans with the highest degree of graphic homogeneity, between these opposing architectural arrangements according to the following criteria: dimensions, surfaces and spatial organisation. Despite their evident differences, both are the result of a modern and rational approach towards designing affordable housing as well as for promoting new comfort standards, an improvement of the hygienic conditions, and a new living culture.
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II Congreso Internacional Cultura y Ciudad
La Casa. Espacios domésticos, modos de habitar
Granada 23-25 enero 2019
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María Elena Díez Jorge, Universidad de Granada
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Francisco Peña Fernández, Universidad de Granada
Antonio Pizza, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya
José Manuel Pozo Municio, Universidad de Navarra
Rafael Reinoso Bellido, Universidad de Granada
José Rosas Vera, Ponticia Universidad Católica, Santiago de Chile
Carlos Sambricio, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Margarita Segarra Lagunes, Università degli Studi RomaTre
Marta Sequeira, Universidade de Lisboa
Jorge Torres Cueco, Universitat Politècnica de València
Elisa Valero Ramos, Universidad de Granada
La riqueza de soluciones tipológicas
de los años veinte: Viena y Fráncfort
A Wealth of Typological Solutions
from the Twenties: Vienna and Frankfurt
Alessandro Porotto
PhD in Architecture & Sciences of the City, Research scientist,
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, alessandro.porotto@epfl.ch
Resumen
De entre las experiencias europeas en el periodo de entreguerras, “La Viena roja” (1919-1934)
y “el nuevo Fráncfort” (1925-1933) desarrollan las soluciones tipológicas más convincentes
para dar respuesta a la creciente carestía de vivienda y las terribles condiciones de higiene de
aquella época. Los pequeños apartamentos vieneses y los inmuebles unifamiliares de Fráncfort
corresponden a dos alternativas diferentes, si bien complementarias, de tipologías de vivienda.
El objetivo de este artículo es el de dibujar una comparativa a través de casos de estudio re-
dibujados con el mayor grado de homogeneidad entre estas diferentes composiciones
arquitectónicas acorde a los siguientes criterios: dimensiones, superficies y organización
espacial. Ambas soluciones son el resultado de un acercamiento moderno y racional al diseño
de viviendas asequibles, a través de la propuesta de nuevos estándares de confort, la mejora
de las condiciones higiénicas y una nueva cultura de vida.
Palabras clave: vivienda colectiva, Viena, Fráncfort, tipología, estudio comparativo
Bloque temático: El proyecto doméstico como núcleo de la modernidad: casa singular y
vivienda colectiva, del Movimiento Moderno al siglo XXI
Abstract
Of the European housing experiences from the interwar period, das rote Wien (Vienna, 1919-
1934) and das neue Frankfurt (Frankfurt am Main, 1925-1933) developed the most convincing
typological solutions for responding to the rising housing shortage and terrible sanitary
conditions. In this perspective, the Viennese small apartments and the Frankfurt single-family
house correspond to two alternative but complementary dwelling types. The objective of this
paper is to draw a comparison, employing novel re-drawings of dwelling plans with the highest
degree of graphic homogeneity, between these opposing architectural arrangements according
to the following criteria: dimensions, surfaces and spatial organisation. Despite their evident
differences, both are the result of a modern and rational approach towards designing affordable
housing as well as for promoting new comfort standards, an improvement of the hygienic
conditions, and a new living culture.
Keywords: mass housing, Vienna, Frankfurt, typology, comparative study
Topic: The domestic project as the heart of modernity: the single, one-off house and collective
housing, from the Modern Movement to the 21st century
842
Alessandro Porotto
Introduction
The social housing policies during the inter-war years produced several architectural
experiences in different cities in Europe in order to address the housing issues deriving from the
speculative system of the 19th century.
Among the architectural initiatives of the Twenties, two main models can be identified which,
beyond their peculiarities, however conceived the relationship between architecture and the city
as the connection between spatial organization and social practice.1 The so-called Das rote
Wien (Red Vienna) is a particularly significant example (Tafuri, 1980), while in the urban
initiative Das neue Frankfurt (New Frankfurt) «the link between the municipal urban policy and
architecture reaches a level rarely equalled in other German cities».2 Specifically, both cities
adopted two alternative urban models of mass housing:3 on the one hand, the large courtyard
block (Hof) in Vienna, on the other hand, the row houses in slab formation (Siedlung) in
Frankfurt. In this sense Vienna and Frankfurt are the extreme polarities of the history of social
housing in Europe in the first decades of the 20th century.4
Both cities developed their housing policies by considering the relationship between urban
morphology and typology. Despite the two models being located on opposite spectrums, the
design of different dwelling types is always linked to the research for the most adequate
dimensions for the modern housing. This is linked to a typological evolution from the point of
view of organization and distribution of the domestic spaces. Both had the common objective of
solving the housing shortage and, at the same time, of improving the quality of urban dwelling.
The issue of the dwelling size is evidently linked to studies on comfort and convenience and
represented a collective vision of society. For this reason, the typological research in the inter-
war years marks a new paradigm, literally a new chapter in the history of the social housing.
Few studies provide a typological analysis through a comparative approach.5 This paper
proposes to analyse the main typological principles, clearly stated in the housing programs, and
to examine a select number of case studies, in order to highlight the differences between the
program’s intentions and the complexity of the projects’ solutions. It offers specific analytical
tools, in order to compare the typological solutions between different urban contexts with the
highest possible degree of homogeneity.
1. Typological principles
Two publications concerning the housing policies had a crucial role in revealing the importance
of typological research in the design process of new and modern dwellings. In Vienna, Die
1 Philippe Panerai, Jean Castex, Jean Charles Depaule and Ivor Samuels, Urban Forms: the Death and Life of the Urban Block
(Oxford: Architectural Press, 2004).
2 Panerai, Castex, Depaule and Samuels, Urban…, 90.
3 Gert Kähler, Wohnung und Stadt: Hamburg, Frankfurt, Wien: Modelle sozialen Wohnens in den zwanziger Jahren
(Braunschweig: Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, 1985).
4 Alessandro Porotto, “Logement de masse: Vienne et Francfort” (PhD thesis, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, 2018),
https://infoscience.epfl.ch/record/255946.
5 The most complete compararive studies about Vienna and Frankfurt are Kähler, Wohnung…, and Porotto,Logement…”.
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A Wealth of Typological Solutions from the Twenties: Vienna and Frankfurt
Wohnungspolitik der Gemeinde Wien6 was published at the end of the second five-year plan for
housing policies; in Frankfurt, Ernst May presented the constructed Siedlungen and elaborated
projects in the architectural review Das neue Frankfurt.7
The common starting point concerns the precarious conditions of the urban fabric and dwelling
that the speculation system had given rise in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Therefore, it is important to note that the logic behind two respective architectural ideas was
based on an in-depth knowledge of urban conditions and the set of problems related to housing.
In this perspective, it is clear that both architectural experiences considered the dwelling type as
the most efficient instrument for constructing the city and for addressing the poor hygienic
conditions of urban fabric. As a consequence, the typological research carried out in Vienna and
Frankfurt corresponded to the success of urban policies: at the same time, the adopted
architectural model and the degree of typological variations were intended to satisfy housing
demand from a quantitative and qualitative point of view.
The Hof and the Siedlung models constitute a radical position that involves a set of fundamental
distributive and compositional principles, which were capable of rationally responding to the
housing issues.
In the Viennese residential buildings,
Das Gangsystem ist ausgeschlossen worden, jede Wohnung ist von der Stiege aus zugänglich, da
höchstens vier Kleinwohnungen in jedem Stockwerk an einer Treppe liegen. Die Anzahl der
Treppenhäuser ist demnach auch größer. Jede Wohnung enthält den mit Wasserspülung
versehenen Abort im Wohnungsverschluß, tunlichst von dem ausgeführten kleinen Vorraum aus
zugänglich. In jeder Küche ist ein Auslauf der Wasserleitung vorgesehen. Es gibt keine indirect
belichteten Aufenthaltsräume mehr. Auch die Küche hat fenster unmittelbar ins Freie, auf die
Straße oder in den großen Hof. In den Familien der Minderbemittelten hat die Küche als
Aufenthatsraum größte Bedeutung. Um so wichtiger sind gute Beleuchtung und leichte
Durchlüftbarkeit.8
These principles can be defined as a “spontaneous” reaction dictated by the critical observation
of the pre-existing city and, above all, by new housing and societal needs.
On the contrary, the Frankfurt typological study is linked to the a priori choice of the building
type itself: «The ideal residential form, as the most natural, is the single-family house. It
guarantees domestic peace and an intimate life to the family [...] Only this dwelling type allows
every single house to be directly connected with a garden,…».9 Therefore, the attention is
focused on the spatial articulation, in order to «first of all conceive harmonic plan.10 For this
6 Gemeinde Wien, ed., Die Wohnungspolitik der Gemeinde Wien. Ein Überblick über die Tätigkeit der Stadt Wien seit dem
Kriegsende zur Bekämpfung der Wohnungsnot und zur Hebung der Wohnkultur (Wien: Gesellschafts und Wirtschaftsmuseum,
1929).
7 Ernst May, Fünf Jahre Wohnungsbautätigkeit in Frankfurt am Main, Das neue Frankfurt 4, n.° 2-3 (1930).
8 [Translation by the author: The construction system with a corridor was excluded, so each dwelling can be reached from the
staircase, because each floor has at most four small apartments. Consequently, the number of staircases is higher. Each dwelling
is provided with a toilet with water flush, which can be accessed by a small entrance. The kitchen is provided with a water conduit.
There is no longer any indirectly lit living rooms. The kitchen windows face out directly onto the open towards the road or towards
the large inner courtyard. With the poorer families the kitchen is of great importance as a collective room. Which is why good
lighting and ventilation are so much more important]. Gemeinde Wien, Die Wohnungspolitik…, 45.
9 May, “Fünf Jahre…”, 36.
10 May, “Fünf Jahre…”, 37.
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Alessandro Porotto
reason, the rigorous typological study published in the pages of Das neue Frankfurt assumes
the connotations of an experimental open-air laboratory. The guidelines for defining dwelling
types confirmed the “scientific” character of the whole approach used in Frankfurt:
1. Die Gesamtanordnung der Räume zueinander ist so gestaltet, dass der hauswirtschaftliche
Prozess mit einem Mindestaufwand an Kraft entwickelt warden kann…
2. muss die Wohnung so beschaffen sein, dass sie ihn auch gefühlsmäßig befriedigt. Dies wird
nicht nur durch die Art der Ausbildung der einzelnen Räume und ihrer Anordnung zueinander
erreicht, sondern in ganz besonderem Masse durch Hereinsaugung von Licht und Sonne in die
Wohnung.
3. Die Grundrisse aller Mehrfamilienhäuser sind so orientiert, dass möglichst alle Schlafräume
Morgensonne, der Wohnraum Nachmittagssonne empfängt
4. Der Wohnraum als Hauptaufenthaltsraum der Familie wird auch in den Dimensionen eindeutig
zum Hauptraume gemacht…
5. Die Küche selbst erhält Einbauten, die eine rationelle Ausnützung des geringen zur Verfügung
gestellten Raumes sichern. Die Anordnung der einzelnen Teile geschieht nach den Grundsätzen
sinngemäßer Küchenwirtschaft…
6. Das Zusammenschafen von Eltern und größeren Kindern in einem Raume muss durch
Bereitstellung einer genügenden Zimmerzahl ausgeschlossen werden.
7. Die Dreizimmerwohnung ist die Durchschnittswohnung für die Masse der Minderbeimitteln. Sie
kann schon in einer Größe von 44 qm in einwandfreier Beschaffenheit hergestellt werden […].
Dieser Typ sieht für Eltern und Kinder besondere Schlafräume vor…
8. Keine Wohnung sollte ohne eigenen Abort gebaut werden […] Bad und Waschgelegenheit
sollten wenn irgend möglich zwischen die Schlafzimmer gelegt und von diesen mittels
Kommunikationsflures zugänglich gemacht werden.
9. Jeder Wohnung soll ein Keller une eine Abstelkammer zugeteilt warden...11
The instructions expressed by Ernst May in 1930 as well as the standardization of housing
typologies produced a total of 21 dwelling types, as well documented in the drawings published
in Das neue Frankfurt and featured in the famous exhibition Die Wohnung für das
Existenzminimum at the second International Congresses of Modern Architecture held in
Frankfurt in 1929.12
The typological guidelines, developed in Vienna and Frankfurt, were not only fundamental in
improving social housing from a theoretical point of view. To understand the importance of the
type within housing policies, it is also essential to observe how much the general statements of
11 [Translation by the author: 1. The distribution of rooms is such that domestic economy processes are carried out with the least
expenditure of energy... 2. … the dwelling must be arranged so that it is also emotionally satisfying. This will not depend only on
the shape of the rooms and their respective position, but especially on the penetration of light and the sunlight in the dwelling. 3.
The groundplans of all multi-family houses are oriented so that possibly all the bedrooms receive the sunlight in the morning and
the living rooms receive the afternoon sunlight... 4. The dimensions of the main family living room emphasize its importance in
contrast with the other rooms... 5. The kitchen is fully equipped, allowing the rational exploitation of the limited space available.
The organization of single parts is based on a rational use of the kitchen... 6. The need to avoid parents having a shared bedroom
with their adult children is fulfilled by the construction of a sufficient number of rooms,... 7. The three-room dwelling is the average
model for the mass of less well-off people. It can be designed perfectly in an area of 44 m2. This type features separate bedrooms
for parents and children... 8. No dwelling should be without a toilet […] The bathroom should be between the bedrooms and be
accessible through a hallway. 9. Each house should have a cellar and a storage room…]. May, “Fünf Jahre…”, 38.
12 See the exhibition catalogue: Internationale Kongresse für Neues Bauen, ed., Die Wohnung für das Existenzminimum
(Frankfurt am Main: Englert & Schlosser, 1930).
845
A Wealth of Typological Solutions from the Twenties: Vienna and Frankfurt
housing programs correspond to a great variety and typological flexibility, as well shown by
most of the built solutions (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Typological comparison between Vienna and Frankfurt examples
Source: A. Porotto (2018)
846
Alessandro Porotto
2. Dwellings, sizes and types: a comparative perspective
Based on the wealth of typological richness characterizing the achievements of the two
experiments, the analysis focuses on the comparison of some carefully chosen examples.
The basic assumption is that the achievements in Vienna and Frankfurt constitute a typological
research that enable their intrinsic qualities to be highlighted. Indeed, all the examples in Vienna
and Frankfurt present remarkable solutions from a distributive and spatial-organizational point of
view, in particular for their clarity of the arrangement, that enable the solution of situations that
show a high level of complexity.
In Vienna the typical unit of the Viennese Bebel-Hof (1925-1927), designed by Karl Ehn, shows
a recurring pattern in the realized Höfe. Each staircase distributes four single-orientated
apartments, which therefore respect the continuity of the central structural wall (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Bebel-Hof (1925-1927), Vienna
Source: A. Porotto (2018)
The small entrance or Vorraum distributes the kitchen-living room and, in sequence, enables
access to the bedroom. The only variation that can be noticed is in the positioning of the toilets.
Indeed, in the courtyard-side apartments the toilets are accessible through the kitchen area,
while in the street-side apartments, the toilets are distributed directly by the entrance space. In
all cases, they are positioned along the facade to benefit the natural ventilation.
From a distributional point of view the Schüttau-Hof (1924-1926), designed by A. Rodler, A.
Stutterheim and W. Tremmel, is probably a unique example of the Red Vienna experience
(Figure 3).
847
A Wealth of Typological Solutions from the Twenties: Vienna and Frankfurt
Figure 3: Schüttau-Hof (1924-1926), Vienna
Source: A. Porotto (2018)
Where the built volumes form a “T”, the staircase distributes six apartments per floor without
renouncing the criteria of hygienic improvement laid down in the housing guidelines. Despite the
complexity of the system, this space is provided at the corners, on the courtyard side, with two
windows that allow natural lighting and ventilation. The apartment types demonstrate a high-
level of typological diversity: each floor consists of two double-exposed apartments and four
single-orientated apartments, two of which face onto the street, and the other onto the inner
848
Alessandro Porotto
courtyard. Here the presence or not of the Vorraum has an essential role in the dwelling
arrangements. Not only for the high number of dwellings distributed per floor, the Schüttau-Hof
is also remarkable for the clarity of the system designed to solve a situation characterized by a
high level of complexity.
In Frankfurt the single-family house of the Siedlung Römerstadt (1927-1928), designed by Ernst
May, H. Boehm, W. Bangert, C. H. Rudloff, F. Schuster and others collaborators, probably the
most famous Siedlung of Das neue Frankfurt experience, is based on typological principles
opposed to those of the Viennese apartments. This terraced house consists of two floors
(Figure 4).
Figure 4: Siedlung Römerstadt (1927-1928), Frankfurt
Source: A. Porotto (2018)
The access is on the south side in an entrance-distribution corridor which becomes the core of
the spatial arrangement. Indeed, all the rooms can be accessed from this space, eliminating the
enfilade sequence seen in the Viennese examples. A room used as an office is located to the
south, while to the north the dining room is directly connected to the garden and the Frankfurter
kitchen designed by Margarethe Schütte-Lihotzky. The general principle of separation of the
parts is in this case solved, thanks to the introduction of a corridor allowing an efficient spatial
distribution. Here it should also be noted that direct circulation between the rooms and the
kitchen is also provided for. This arrangement is also repeated on the first floor: the corridor
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A Wealth of Typological Solutions from the Twenties: Vienna and Frankfurt
distributes the bathroom, the parents’ bedroom, the children’s bedroom and another small
bedroom.
The projects realized in Frankfurt are composed of the so-called Mischbebauung (construction
mix), which combines single-family houses and high-rise buildings in the same layout. Hence in
this case we can notice the different approaches to the design of the apartment types.
Their features in the Siedlung Bruchfeldstrasse (1926-1927), designed by Ernst May, H. Boehm
and C. H. Rudloff, are completely different to the Vienna examples. The staircase is positioned
in the middle and symmetrically distributes two apartments per floor (Figure 5). The apartment
includes an entrance vestibule that is also the main distribution space. For these reasons, the
internal composition is very simple: one side of the apartment holds the dining room, the
Frankfurter kitchen and the bathroom, the other side holds the parents’ and the children’s room.
Figure 5: Siedlung Bruchfeldstrasse (1926-1927), Frankfurt
Source: A. Porotto (2018)
The solutions are effective in respecting the principles underlying the improvement of comfort
and the rational organization of the domestic space. We can identify two cases in order to
highlight the highest points of the rationalization processes carried out in both cities.
In the Karl Seitz-Hof in Vienna (1926-1932), designed by Hubert Gessner, the main distribution
system provides four apartments per floor (Figure 6). All the apartments consist of a Vorraum, a
ventilated toilet, a kitchen, a room and a bedroom. This configuration implements the general
guidelines for the Viennese Höfe. However, we note some innovative elements: firstly, the
Vorraum performs the essential role of defining the spatial arrangement; secondly, the kitchen is
designed as an autonomous space in contrast with the multifunctional Wohnküche; thirdly, each
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Alessandro Porotto
dwelling has a loggia designed as an extension of the dwelling into the courtyard. This example
clearly shows how the Höfe or courtyards can also meet and integrate certain architectural
criteria that characterize the Frankfurt plans, without neglecting the fundamental features
enshrined in the Viennese principles.
Figure 6: Karl Seitz-Hof (1926-1932), Vienna
Source: A. Porotto (2018)
In Frankfurt the Siedlung Westhausen (1929-1932), designed by Ernst May, H. Boehm, W.
Bangert, E. Kaufman, F. Schuster and others collaborators, consists of rows featuring the same
terraced house, in which the level of standardization and research towards the
Existenzminimum reaches its highest point (Figure 7). Indeed, the goal of typological design is
to reduce the construction and rent costs, by decreasing dimensions, but aboveall by radically
rationalizing the arrangement.
To address the economic problems of that time, the terraced house was conceived and
designed for two families, with one apartment per floor. However the house has a flexible
system that allows the apartments to be modified to create a two-storey, single-family house.
Therefore, the reduction in dimensions is accompanied by a new feature that corresponds to an
additional quality of the Siedlungen houses: their typological flexibility. In the configuration with
one apartment per floor, the arrangement is repeated on each level. The apartment entrance
provides access to the bathroom and to the dining room which also functions as a distribution
space to the kitchen, the children’s and the parents’ bedroom.
851
A Wealth of Typological Solutions from the Twenties: Vienna and Frankfurt
Figure 7: Siedlung Westhausen (1929-1932), Frankfurt
Source: A. Porotto (2018)
It is a fact that the rationalization and principles of the Existenzminimum contribute to a
significant decrease in the surface area of each part compared to the previous examples, in
particular the distribution of space is drastically reduced to avoid unusable space. Westhausen's
apartment is strictly calibrated by a dimensioned and proportionated scheme that allows no
exceptions, but only the opportunity to transform the house into a single family dwelling, in order
to regain the same qualities of the other Siedlungen. In contrast, in Vienna, the small apartment
does not provide for any change in compositional principles. By introducing precise architectural
elements the logic offers new spatial qualities inside and demonstrates that Viennese
apartments have a degree of flexibility that lies in their waiving the implementation of a fixed
framework of pre-established schemes.
Due to the similar dimensions and some similar features, these two types are able to offer the
same qualities and comfort, while remaining models in opposing spectrums. In both cities, the
typology is the basic unit for achieving a social model based on human dignity. In this
perspective, from an object of liberal-capitalist speculation of the bourgeois era, the dwelling
becomes the social instrument of the fundamental right to housing.13
Despite the obvious differences, the two models, as well as many other dwelling types, marked
in both cities a profound “revolution” concerning the Wohnkultur (living culture): the dwelling
comfort is not limited to the family, but includes an entire social class. Both experiences
13 Kähler, Wohnung…”, 159.
852
Alessandro Porotto
produced the most significant examples of the Twenties in their field and paved the way for a
modern vision of social housing architecture.
3. Conclusions
The comparison of the 1920s housing models in Vienna and Frankfurt made in this paper
doesn’t aim to determine which one prevails over the other, on the contrary it proposes a key to
interpretation without any prejudices. In addition to the large number of typological solutions and
variations compared to the general guidelines, the detailed analysis highlighted two
fundamental aspects.
The first is that in both cases typological research has a very specific objective: housing
rationalization. In Vienna, this constitutes the search for arrangements that can come close to
the most modern criteria of the time, while in Frankfurt, rationalization concerns the “efficiency”
of housing. Indeed, the compositional logic must be designed in parallel with the reduction of
construction costs and the rent itself.
This first hypothesis implies the second: the dimensions, surfaces and proportions of the rooms
play an essential role in the project from a typological point of view. Despite their opposition,
Höfe and Siedlungen aim to offer different dwelling types characterized by the most appropriate
dimensions for a modern living culture. The comparisons showed that the different solutions
focus on the arrangement and distribution of domestic space. All the examples propose a
qualitative improvement of the dwelling through a spatial configuration based on rational logic.
The term “mass housing” should not only be perceived in quantitative terms, in order to build
dwellings for “the greatest number” of people, but also as allowing the inhabitants to access and
enjoy a quality of life deriving from the very housing features and solutions.
The typological comparison of some examples built in Vienna and Frankfurt indicate that the
history of architecture has transmitted a distorted view of the great mass housing experiences of
the Twenties. Indeed, architectural history books offer us a limited understanding of mass
housing projects, especially with regard to typology. In particular, architectural critics have never
shown any specific interest or they have completely discredited the typological solutions
realized by the architects of Red Vienna, claiming implicitly that the modern terraced houses in
Frankfurt were more advanced from an architectural and typological point view. For example,
Oswald Mathias Ungers explains that
Apartment layouts meet minimal requirements and barely satisfy tenants’ needs. The architecture is
often banal and borders on the inferior. The methods of structural engineering employed are almost
primitive and below the progressive standards of that era […] Only by pre-World War I standards do
they seem advanced.14
Or, according to Manfredo Tafuri,
L’organizzazione delle cellule […] dimostra un profondo disinteresse per la ricerca tipologica. Gli
alloggi del Karl Marx-Hof, come quelli della maggior parte degli Höfe viennesi fra le due guerre, del
resto, si basano su una successione di vani del tutto empirica e ricca di inconvenienti funzionali.
Alla qualità e alla densità dei servizi collettivi […] corrispondono sorprendenti carenze nella
distribuzione e nell’attrezzatura degli alloggi. Le distanze prese dalla cultura che informa il
“movimento moderno” e le ricerche sul tema dell’Existenzminimum da esso condotte pesano non
14 Oswald Mathias Ungers, “The Vienna Superblocks”, Oppositions, n.° 13 (1978): 83.
853
A Wealth of Typological Solutions from the Twenties: Vienna and Frankfurt
poco sui progettisti viennesi. Lo Hof, in tutte le sue varianti, non sembra ammettere standard fissati
a priori; il basso coefficiente tecnologico che caratterizza la realizzazione del programma viennese
ha un suo correlato nella definizione tipologica...15
Assessments based probably on ideological criteria do not a priori reflect the real impact made
by these modern housing experiences. It can be noted that the domestic quality in both cities
represents not only an improvement of housing compared with the conditions before 1918, but it
also constitutes the genesis of modern housing in terms of dimensions, spatial configuration and
interior equipment and facilities. A clear analysis is provided by Carlo Aymonino, who states:
Il “minimo” è anche una questione di misure, di dimensioni, ecc. ma non in senso assoluto (tecnico,
ad esempio o strettamente biologico), bensí relativo a delle condizioni genericamente “civili” o
comunque indispensabili non tanto alla sopravvivenza quanto a un’esistenza sociale […] In questo
senso il valore reale di un alloggio non deve essere commisurato alla superficie, ma al numero dei
letti che può contenere. (Intendendo per letto non il semplice mobile, ma il rapporto tra questo e un
vano che lo renda fruibile in modo indipendente) […] È la “razione di abitazione” che diviene lo
standard cui commisurare ogni impostazione edilizia correttamente intesa; ma la razione di
abitazione trova l’altro parametro della propria “necessità” nella composizione numerica del nucleo
familiare. Sono i due parametri a condizionare e definire l’alloggio minimo come rispondente alla
necessità di indipendenza abitative di ogni nucleo.16
It is important to stress again that small rational dwellings do not coincide with a simple
decrease in size. The organization of space and equipment are the standards whereby
maximum comfort is attained. Thanks to the comparative study, we understand that for Vienna
and Frankfurt the surfaces of the rooms have been determined in the most appropriate
dimensions for the correct use of space in order to improve its use as well as the quality of
domestic life. This approach doesn’t belong to any speculative logic and refuses the application
of quantitative data in a mechanical way.
In Vienna and Frankfurt, typological research is the basis of a rational process capable of
controlling and intervening on different scales. «The process is articulated as a “summation”: the
more rooms make up a dwelling, the more dwellings form a typological unit (building), the more
typological units develop a complex, and the more complexes “are” the city».17
Typological research is therefore the direct instrument with concrete effects on the scale of the
private sphere of the house, but also on the scale of the city. In Vienna, typological research is
15 [Translation by the author: the organization of the housing units [...] shows a great lack of interest in typological research. The
apartments of Karl Marx-Hof, like those of the majority of the Viennese Höfe between the two wars, consist of a succession of
rooms that is completely empirical and characterized by functional disadvantages. The quality and importance of community
facilities [...] are matched by surprising deficiencies in the distribution and equipment of apartments [...] The Hof, in all its variants,
does not seem to accept a priori fixed standards; the low technical level that characterizes the buildings of the Viennese
programme leads to typological deficiences]. Manfredo Tafuri, ed., Vienna Rossa: La politica residenziale nella Vienna socialista
1919-1933 (Milano: Electa, 1980), 94.
16 [Translation by the author: the “minimum” is also related to an issue of measures, dimensions, etc., not in absolute terms
(technical or specifically biological, for instance), but rather of “civil” conditions in general terms or in any case essential not so
much for survival as for social existence […] In this sense, the real meaning of a dwelling must not be proportional to the surface
area, but to the number of beds it can contain. (I am not talking about a bed as a simple piece of furniture, but about the
relationship between the bed and the room that makes it independently accessible) [...] "Housing ration" becomes the norm for
every correct building design, but housing ration finds another parameter of "necessity" in the numerical composition of the
nuclear family. Both parameters influence and define the minimum dwelling as a response to the necessity of housing
independence for every nuclear family]. Carlo Aymonino, ed., L’abitazione razionale: Atti dei congressi C.I.A.M. 1929-1930
(Padova: Marsilio, 1971), 81.
17 Aymonino, L’abitazione…, 82.
854
Alessandro Porotto
based on a housing type belonging to the city culture and urban fabric (the large courtyard
block), while in Frankfurt it corresponds to the adoption of a model that is considered a priori as
the only solution to the housing issue (the terraced house as the ideal type). These choices form
a clear image that corresponds to a clear position related to the housing, the city and the
society. Consequently, in the Höfe and the Siedlungen the purpose is the search for the most
appropriate architectural and typological elements, in order to translate their position into urban
reality. For this reason, the dwellings conceived and built for the Höfe and the Siedlungen base
their spatial logics on concrete, even technical, components that are intrinsically part of
everyday life.
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Aymonino, Carlo, ed. L’abitazione razionale: Atti dei congressi C.I.A.M. 1929-1930. Padova:
Marsilio, 1971.
Blau, Eve. The Architecture of Red Vienna 1919-1934. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT
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Dreysse, Dietrich Wilhelm. Ernst May Housing Estates: Architectural Guide to Eight New
Frankfort Estates, 1926-1930. Frankfurt am Main: Fricke, 1988.
Gemeinde Wien, ed. Die Wohnungspolitik der Gemeinde Wien. Ein Überblick über die Tätigkeit
der Stadt Wien seit dem Kriegsende zur Bekämpfung der Wohnungsnot und zur Hebung der
Wohnkultur. Wien: Gesellschafts und Wirtschaftsmuseum, 1929.
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Thesis
This research has investigated the urban policies about mass housing at the beginning of 20th century. This was a unifying and crucial issue of several modern experiences to which many European cities developed adequate answers showing a wide range of distinguishing design approaches and solutions in terms of city planning and architecture. Given the concrete qualities and significant quantity of housings built, this research assumes Vienna and Frankfurt as the more convincing results: Hof and Siedlung constitute two alterative models, each of them refer to a specific way of envisaging the city. The principal goal of this research is the production of new knowledge about these two experiences. This has been achieved through re-drawings, which were elaborated starting from original archival items, and the comparison between them searching the highest degree of homogeneity. The main analytical criteria are: the density, the relationship between typology and urban morphology and the arrangement of outdoor spaces. Density occupies a central role in the nowadays debate, then calculating and comparing the data about the case studies will be useful, mainly thanks to objective documents, in order to direct design choices of the today urban development. The second analytical criterion has provided the documentary basis necessary for a thorough knowledge of Höfe and Siedlungen examples. In fact, referring to the current and specialised literature it is quite rare to figure out the spatial principles and the way of assembling as well as to draw their comparisons. The issue of outdoor spaces and their layout is equally fundamental and very few explored. It takes on a particular interest with regard to nowadays debate over the role and function of nature in the city. As a consequence, the research does not stick at investigating these experiences from a historical point of view, but it aims to consider the case studies analysed as urban organisms which fully-fledged belonged to the contemporary city. Vienna and Frankfurt are, hence, opposite phenomena, but complementary, as much for approaches as for results, from an architectural and planning point of view. In line with these premises, this research recognises Vienna and Frankfurt as "extreme polarities" by the means of them it is possible to go thoroughly into the understanding of the mass housings which played a crucial role in the European history. The dissertation proposes a brand-new interpretation and apt tools for architecture field through comparing the outputs of the two models in a homogeneous way and beyond any preconceptions. Ideally, the method employed in this research will be applied to other urban realities so as to broaden the knowledge and to return the complexity and inventiveness of architectural experiences designed in the inter-war period which so far have been investigated in a fragmentary way.
Article
The chosen trail of the first French edition - Paris, London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt - is one of continuously evolving modernity. It outlines a history, which, in one century (1860-1960), completely changed the aspect of our towns and cities and transformed our way of life. The shock has been such that we are still looking for answers, still attempting to find urban forms that can accommodate present day ways of life and at the same time maintain the qualities of the traditional town.
Ernst May Housing Estates: Architectural Guide to Eight New Frankfort Estates
  • Dietrich Dreysse
  • Wilhelm
Dreysse, Dietrich Wilhelm. Ernst May Housing Estates: Architectural Guide to Eight New Frankfort Estates, 1926-1930. Frankfurt am Main: Fricke, 1988.
Die Wohnungspolitik der Gemeinde Wien. Ein Überblick über die Tätigkeit der Stadt Wien seit dem Kriegsende zur Bekämpfung der Wohnungsnot und zur Hebung der Wohnkultur
  • Gemeinde Wien
Gemeinde Wien, ed. Die Wohnungspolitik der Gemeinde Wien. Ein Überblick über die Tätigkeit der Stadt Wien seit dem Kriegsende zur Bekämpfung der Wohnungsnot und zur Hebung der Wohnkultur. Wien: Gesellschafts und Wirtschaftsmuseum, 1929.
The Housing Program of the City of Vienna
  • Charles Hardy
Hardy, Charles. The Housing Program of the City of Vienna. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1934.
Building Culture: Ernst May and the New Frankfurt Initiative
  • Susan Henderson
  • Rose
Henderson, Susan Rose. Building Culture: Ernst May and the New Frankfurt Initiative, 1926-1931. New York: Peter Lang, 2013.
Fünf Jahre Wohnungsbautätigkeit in Frankfurt am Main
  • Ernst May
May, Ernst. "Fünf Jahre Wohnungsbautätigkeit in Frankfurt am Main". Das neue Frankfurt 4, n.° 2-3 (1930): 21-55.
Funktionalität und Moderne: Das Neue Frankfurt und seine Bauten 1925-1933
  • Christoph Mohr
  • Michael Müller
Mohr, Christoph and Michael Müller. Funktionalität und Moderne: Das Neue Frankfurt und seine Bauten 1925-1933. Frankfurt am Main: Fricke, 1984.
The Vienna Superblocks
  • Oswald Ungers
  • Mathias
Ungers, Oswald Mathias. "The Vienna Superblocks". Oppositions, n.° 13 (1978): 77-111.