240912: Wien Museum Karlsplatz Werkbundsiedlung Wien 1932 – A Manifesto for New Living

Wien Museum Karlsplatz Werkbundsiedlung Wien 1932 – A Manifesto for New Living 06.09.2012 – 01.01.2013 A Failed Utopia By Susanne Rohringer The renovation of the entire housing estate was completed this summer - eighty years ago, the Werkbundsiedlung opened its gates, in what we would now call a sales exhibition, for the first time from June until August. The houses were completely furnished - obviously in an attempt to impress potential future owners or tenants. Even price lists were enclosed in the exhibition catalogue and 14 houses were sold before the exhibition closed. The remaining houses were later purchased by the City of Vienna and offered for rental. The commercial success of this classic example of Modernism in 1932 was rather meek. But the political and economic circumstances during which the Werkbundsiedlung was constructed were highly unfavorable: the stock market crash in 1929, the collapse of the Austrian Creditanstalt in 1931, the beginnings of the economic depression and the emerging threat of Fascism no longer allowed for an architectural utopia to promise a better life. At that time, one house was priced at 120.000 euros and was therefore only affordable for the upper middle class. And in 1938 some of the tenants had to hastily flee the country. The “Werkbundsiedlung”, namesake of the “Austrian Werkbund” founded in 1912, underlined handcrafted art in its individual form and was an attempt to set something against industrial mass production. During a meeting of the German Werkbund in Breslau in 1929, the president of the GESIBA (Gemeinschaftliche Siedlungs- und Baustoffeanstalt), Hermann Neubacher, Vice President Josef Hoffmann and Josef Frank agreed to go ahead with the construction of the Werkbundsiedlung. And what was absolutely unique about this decision was that each of the 70 houses was to be designed by a different architect. The project involved the “who’s who” among international and national architects, including Josef Hoffmann, Oswald Haerdtl, Gerrit Rietveld, Otto Breuer, Oskar Strnad, Adolf Loos, Walter Loos, Gabriel Guévrékian, Josef Frank, Richard Neutra, Ernst Plischke und, as the only woman, Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky. The modest footprint of the houses was characterized by a basement, two floors and a garden. Some of the houses were especially designed for couples whose children had already left home, others for single women. Guiding spirit for the realization and planning of the housing estate was the architect and designer Josef Frank and the sociologist and economist Otto Neurath. The uniqueness of the Werkbundsiedlung, among other things, was based on being able to bring together the intellectual elite that supported a liberal life style as well as progressive thinking, prior to the year in which Hitler was elected Reichskanzler and the storm descended upon Europe. One third of the Werkbundsiedlung designers were forced to leave the country or were murdered. Of the 164 people that lived in the Werkbundsiedlung in 1938, 19 were Jewish according to the Nurnberg regulations. Karl Schanzer, born 1929 and one of the former inhabitants of the housing estate, witnessed the violence of the 1930’s as a child. His mother, who was Jewish and Adolf Loos’ sister-in-law, committed suicide because she could no longer stand the Jew-baiting, leaving Karl and his sister up for adoption - enabling them to emigrate to Australia. In 1941, Karl Schanzer arrived in New York. The rest of his family survived. The aryanisation of house number 46 was completed in April 1941. (House 45/46 Jacques Groag). One would have hoped for more details about the fate of the inhabitants as well as the architects and designers - this would have, at least partially, led to a different exhibition. The presentation at the Wien Museum primarily deals with the exhibition in 1932 and the organizers reconstructed what was marveled at in those summer months. Furthermore, the Wien Museum shows an architectural model of the Werkbundsiedlung, which, for the first time, offers a birds-eye view of the entire location. Wien Museum Karlsplatz 1040 Vienna, Karlsplatz Tel: +43 1 5058747-0 Fax: +43 1 5058747-7201 http://www.wienmuseum.at Opening hours: Tue - Sun 10.00-18.00 hours

Wien Museum Karlsplatz
1040 Wien, Karlsplatz
Tel: +43 1 5058747-0, Fax: +43 1 5058747-7201
Öffnungszeiten: Di-So 10.00-18.00 Uhr

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