The Weissenhof Estate Built
The Weissenhof Estate (or Weissenhof Settlement; in German Weißenhofsiedlung) is a housing estate built for exhibition in Stuttgart in 1927.
It was an international showcase of what later became known as the International style of modern architecture.
The estate was built for the Deutscher Werkbund exhibition of 1927, and included twenty-one buildings comprising sixty dwellings, designed by sixteen European architects, most of them German-speaking. The German architect Mies van der Rohe was in charge of the project on behalf of the city, and it was he who selected the architects, budgeted and coordinated their entries, prepared the site, and oversaw construction. Le Corbusier was awarded the two prime sites, facing the city, and by far the largest budget.
The twenty-one buildings vary slightly in form, consisting of terraced and detached houses and apartment buildings, and display a strong consistency of design. What they have in common are their simplified facades, flat roofs used as terraces, window bands, open plan interiors, and the high level of prefabrication which permitted their erection in just five months. All but two of the entries were white. Bruno Taut had his entry, the smallest, painted a bright red.
Advertised as a prototype of future workers' housing, in fact each of these houses was customized and furnished on a budget far out of a normal workers reach, and with little direct relevance to the technical challenges of standardized mass construction. The exhibition opened to the public on July 23, 1927, a year late, and drew large crowds.
Of the original twenty-one buildings, eleven survive as of 2006.
The Stuttgart Weißenhof Estate, built in 1927, is a prime example of "Neues Bauen" (New Architecture) and "Neues Wohnen" (New Living). This exemplarity is largely due to its origin: The Deutsche Werkbund (German Work Federation) organised the exhibition "Die Wohnung" (The Apartment) in Stuttgart in 1927, into which they integrated the entirely new municipal housing program, attaining to show not only the theory but also the practice of what would be the future of urban living according to the international architectural vanguard. At the same time, there were high hopes to find solutions for the urgent housing shortage and social problems that occurred in the context of the tense economic situation.
The Weißenhof Estate was not the only project in the exhibition of the Work Federation: The "Internationale Plan- und Modellausstellung Neuer Baukunst" (International Plan and Model Exhibition of New Architecture) made for an integration of the concept into the context of "Neues Bauen" (New Architecture) an exhibition of building equipment and appliances and functional interior fittings as well as an "experimenting area" for new methods and materials that would complete the "Die Wohnung" (The Apartment).
Thw Weißenhof Estate, however, was the main item of the exhibition. The exhibition's art director was the still young and quite controversial Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who would later become director of the Dessau Bauhaus. The housing plan, making use of the territory's sloped structure by means of terraces, broke with architectural traditions and was realized by 17 important architects, among them, besides Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Peter Behrens, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius, in only 21 weeks. The Weißenhof Estate's 63 apartments had new and ground-breaking floor plans that rationalised the living space by attaining optimal usage of every square meter in compliance with the latest medical and hygienic findings.
The furnishing of the 21 houses is to be valued just as much in terms of its architectural importance, as it followed ideas of the concepts of the "Neues Bauen" (New Architecture) and the "Neue Wohnen" (New Living). Mart Stam, for instance, presented the "Kragstuhl", a similar design object, the "Freischwinger" (Cantilever Chair) was introduced by Mies van der Rohe.
The public's interest in the exhibition was enormous, even though conservative forces declared the housing estate an eyesore right away. Especially the modern flat roofs were a topic of heated discussions and disagreements. The traditionalist Kochenhof Estate was planned as a counter project as early as in 1928, a plan that was put into practice only in the year of Hitler's takeover.
The Weißenhof Estate was lucky to survive the Nazi era, as its demolition had already been planned, and suffered severe damages in air raids in 1944. The remaining eleven houses were refurbished on occasion of the estate's 60th anniversary, allowing today's observer to experience this project's progressiveness.