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Exhibition Vienna

Josef Frank A63
Josef Frank A63

"Vienna Werkbundsiedlung 1932 -A Model for New Living"


From 6.09. 2012 to 13.01.2013

From 6th September 2012 to 13th January 2013 in the WIEN MUSEUM the exhibition "Vienna Werkbundsiedlung 1932 -A Model for New Living" was shown. Most of the rooms of the houses, which were presented as an example of the new living are furnished with bentwood furniture. Many of these pieces were displayed in the exhibition.
Jiri Uhlir and Heimo Keindl had beeen involved in planning as external consultants.

"The most important construction exhibition in Europe"
The Wien Museum presented the first exhibition of Viennese Werkbundsiedlung that was opened in Lainz in the summer of 1932 and could be seen for eight weeks - exactly 80 years ago. There were more than 100,000 visitors who came to the "largest construction exhibition in Europe" (as a contemporary commentary says), which was intended as a manifesto of the new living: a better life in the spirit of modernity should be demonstrated. It was not just about design and aesthetic innovations, but also about the social utopia of a happy life in a single family house with a small garden in the village association. Thus the Werkbundsiedlung was a statement against the housing program of "Red Vienna" with its "super blocks" in the manner of Karl Marx Hof

Modern living from a Vienna perspective
Founder and namesake of the “Werkbundsiedlung” was the Austrian Werkbund, founded in 1912. His aim was to enforce contemporary design in the production of goods. This should be achieved by the interaction of architecture, handicrafts and industry. The project management was in the hands of Josef Frank, the most representative of moderate Viennese architecture of the interwar period. The Vienna “Werkbundsiedlung” was - like the groundbreaking Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart from 1927 - an international exhibition, which included architects from France (André Lurçat) Germany (Hugo Haring), the Netherlands (Gerrit Rietveld) and the USA (Richard Neutra). The vast majority, however, came from Austria.

It is noteworthy that three generations of the local architects were invited to participate. In addition to the competitors Adolf Loos and Josef Hoffmann architects like Josef Frank, Oskar Wlach, Ernst Lichtblau or Oskar Strand, as well as younger architects such as Anton Brenner, Ernst Plischke, Oswald Haerdtl and Walter Loos got their chance. Only one woman was represented: Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky. The overall direction was given by Josef Frank, a pronounced representative of the moderate modernism which rejected the pure functionalism and the machine aesthetic.

The show presented 70 fully furnished houses; each of them had a large garden, approximately 200 square meters. 30 different types of settlement houses offered little floor space but a maximum comfort. The living area ranged from 57 to 126 square meters;. All the houses were painted colorful, had a flat roof, terraces and some had balconies. The living rooms were oriented towards the garden, occasionally there were chambers for the service staff. No exhibition had previously been shown so many furnished model homes.

The “Werkbundsiedlung” was not only for the architect a platform, but also for the Austrian device companies: For the duration of the exhibition model ensembles were compiled, that combined the local craft traditions with modern needs. Around 50 designers developed a wealth of suggestions how to set up small living spaces efficiently and to different taste. They selected from the catalogues of carpenters, lamp manufacturers and textile producers or let the companies execute their own special designs.

An example of the connection between tradition and modernity was the contribution of the global furniture manufacturer Thonet Mundus: Modern, color painted bentwood chairs were used as well as the new tubular steel furniture. The "ease" of this furniture line with the request to keep the living area flexible - an ideal, which also Josef Frank and Oskar Wlach had prescribed with their in 1925 established company "House & Garden" in the Bösendorferstraße (the three houses in the “Werkbundsiedlung” were endowed by this company). The public reaction to the “Werkbundsiedlung” was split: While it internationally was generally positively received ("modern garden city in the world"), the local newspapers scoffed about the "model colony of dwarf houses" or the "cube development".

Werkbundsiedlung at Vienna Museum
The exhibition at the Vienna Museum was focused not only on historical aspects of architecture, but combined in their presentation architecture with interior design. As a main attraction for the exhibition a model of the entire settlement was made especially. Another highlight was the reconstruction of a room from the “Werkbundsiedlung”. In addition, many unknown drawings, photographs and plans were to be seen. Topics were the first residents and the problems of conservation - up to the current renovation by the City of Vienna