dancing with architecture: the 1927 weissenhof, stuttgart, germany

Ah: The Weissenhof! Built in 1927 to demonstrate the New Architecture, this is one of the foremost, if not the foremost, collection of Modern and Modernist buildings on the planet (Silverlake in Los Angeles is on that list as well). I don't want to dwell too much on the background of the 'hof since I've written about it elsewhere. Instead, I want to loosely walk you through the development and share some observations.

Sadly, about half of the structures are gone, destroyed during World War II (sad the structures were lost, not sad about the circumstances that brought about the bombing [although generally sad about our inability as a species to get along, but I digress....]). The image above shows what was destroyed (hashed) and what remains (solid). Amazingly, with the exception of the Walter Gropius house (and perhaps the Bruno Taut), the bombs miraculously missed the key structures, namely the two Corbusiers, the Mies van der Rohe, the Hans Scharoun, the Mart Stam, and the J.J.P. Oud. As mentioned in last's week post about Corbusier's duplex, a stroll through the Weissenhof is a great opportunity to compare and contrast the work of various early Modern and Modernistic architects.

Let's begin, shall we! As we progress around the 'hood, I'll be referring to the location numbers on the postcard below so you know where we are at. With the exception of Corbusier's duplex, these structures are still used as residences.

Stop No. 4 is, of course, the Corbusiers. You can peruse a gawdawful number of photographs of Corbu's groundbreaking duplex here.

Corbusier also designed and built a single-family home. The trees about the house occlude a good view of the structure, but we were able to get a few peeks from the duplex and the street:

Strolling up the road to No. 1 is a duplex by Josef Frank, an Austrian architect who set up the Vienna School of Architecture. More protoModernist than Modernist by my eyes, he nonetheless shed ornamentation and strove for simplicity. 

The next structure up the road at No. 10 is one of my top ten favorite Modern houses, a swooping single-family home by Hans Scharoun. Functional yet sculptural; gorgeous from every angle. I would eat a handful of bumblebees to get inside (but I couldn't find any bees while I was there [and the owner would have probably been "WTF!" if he saw me eating bees in his front yard]). 

Hoofing it up the hill takes us to Peter Behrens' apartment building at No. 5. Behrens role in Modernism is firmly planted in his 1909 Modernist design of the AEG Turbine Factory where he was the first to use glass curtain walls. He also mentored van der Rohe, Corbusier, and Gropius in his atelier.

There's nothing special about his building (I know, I know: that's kinda harsh). It serves as an example of how far those crazy kids Rohe-Corbu-Gropius were ahead of their mentor. Nonetheless, this was my first Behrens. We all remember our first Behrens.

A plaque showed how later owners had de-Modernized the structure by pitching the roofs and building more balconies. Fortunately, the structure has been returned to its original design.

Bending around the Behrens takes us to a next-door contrast, the Mart Stam at No. 3. This is a long three-unit collection of townhouses that is simple and straightforward Modern. Mies asked, but didn't demand, that the colors of Weissenhof buildings be white or off-white to tie all the structures together. Stam did this on the outward facing sides of the building; however, he punk-rocked the back with a Cariibean blue.

The most interesting element of this building, besides comparing it to the old man next door, is the carry over of the windows to the open patio (see far right on the photo below), something I thought Richard Neutra pioneered with his houses. Excellent example of carrying the architecture visually to the outdoors.

At the top of the hill at No. 9 is the large apartment building by Mies van der Rohe. Clean, crisp, and Modern. I'm hoping that Stuttgart is able to someday open one of the apartments for tours. Lilli Recih designed the interiors of these apartments. It would be great to see examples of her work since so few exist.

At the end of the street at No. 2 is a collection of Modern townhomes by J.J.P. Oud. These townhouses often appear in architectural textbooks, and for good reason. The street-side facade is extremely abstract and, arguably, fabulously unfriendly.

What is generally not shown with this (and many other) Oud is the warm and welcoming backside bordered by a pedestrian-friendly walkway:

Oud pushed his project to the street to create ample garden space for the denizens. Pushing the building to the street comprises privacy, hence the guarded exterior. Of all the architects we saw, the bride liked Oud the best because of his gardens.

I've skipped over the destroyed buildings, but I want to dwell a moment on the no-longer-with-us Gropius. The Holy Crap moment for me was that Gropius' project sported a steel superstructure! What's remarkable about this is that I often read that Richard Neutra was the one who spearheaded this type of construction with his Lovell Health House finished in 1929. Gropius' house may also explain why Neutra worked so hard to get biographers to list the date for the Lovell Health House as 1927 rather that the usual date of completion: Gropius had beat him to the punch! Neutra very well may have borrowed the concept from Gropius [although I would call it theft since he didn't give credit]. I'm sure there was a small cheer from Silverlake when news of the destruction of this house reached Los Angeles.

Someone needs to look into that.

And for grins, here's a photo of Bruno Taut's house, also destroyed during the war:

Finally, here's No. 13 by Schneck, the obligatory local architect (who actually did quite well fitting in with the avant guardists). 

So there you have it: Das Weissenhof! I liked it so much, I went twice (the bride stayed in the hotel with a bout of food poisoning for my first trip). This place is simply glorious.

if you go:

The museum

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