Sigfried Giedion’s “Weissenhof Housing Settlement, Stuttgart, 1927″ (1927)
The exhibition certainly gave us an insight into actual life. We believe that it has extraordinary significance because it has brought new methods of construction out from the secluded [596-598] of the avant-garde and caused them to be put into operation on a broad scale. The new architecture can never develop soundly without the active participation of the masses. Of course, the problems that have to be solved are not posed by any conscious expression of the masses. For many reasons their conscious mind is always ready to say “No” to new artistic experiences. But if the unconscious mind is once directed into a new path, then the laboratory product will be broadened and adapted to meet the needs of real life. The Stuttgart exhibition appears to us as the nucleus of such a process, and herein lies its importance.
The Weissenhof Housing Settlement gives evidence of two great changes: the change from handicraft methods of construction to industrialization, and the premonition of a new way of life.
Mies van der Rohe’s original plan was to interlock the house-plots so that a unified relationship could be created and the green areas would flow into one another. This plan unfortunately could not be realized for commercial reasons. Even so it is possible to experience how relationship and order are created by the level unassertive surfaces of flat roofs in places that would otherwise have been utterly chaotic. In flat towns, such as the Hague, one can observe ow flat roofs create wide interconnecting bands.
The Weissenhof Housing Settlement is dominated by Mies van der Rohe’s steel-framed apartment house. Even the apartment house, which today usually takes the form of a palace or a castle, is here transformed into a more loosely articulated structure. The steel frame permits one to eliminate all rigid inner and outer walls. For the outside, an insulated filling wall with a half-brick thickness is sufficient, and the inner and outer walls. These window strips are the only limiting factors. These window strips are wide and continuous in order to enable good light to penetrate as deeply as possible into the building. The problem of the apartment house is today (1927) even further from solution than that of the single-family house.  Mies van der Rohe’s steel skeleton shows a possible way of unraveling this problem.
Many architectural critics found the continuous steel supports that ran freely through the houses of Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier very unsightly. It seems that it is especially difficult for the architect to free himself from the appearance of traditional structural methods in which the walls were the bearing members of the house. It is fundamentally organic to our present-day conceptions of space that complete expression is given to the inner construction of our houses. The continuous steel support is definitely not an aesthetic focal point. It may be allowed to run quietly through the space. Just as the columns of ancient architecture give the onlooker a feeling of security by means of their ordered play of load and support, so the continuous steel or concrete shaft gives today’s onlooker an impression of powerful energy that flows uniformly through the house. The free-standing visible column is thus given a new expressive quality apart from its constructive objectivity. Here is continuous energy at work: nothing in our life remains an isolated experience: everything stands in a many-sided relationship — within, without, above, below!
Mies van der Rohe has followed the possibilities of his building through to the utmost detail. Plywood walls that can be screwed onto the ceilings enable the occupier to alter the disposition of his space at will. Doorless connections between rooms. One is continually amazed at the amount of space that this method makes possible within an area of 70 square meters (750 square feet). It acts upon us as a necessary stimulant — an impetus that can set industry into motion.
– Originally published as “L’Exposition du Werkbund à Stuttgart 1927″