Hannes Meyer’s “building” (1928)

Translated from the German by D.Q.  Stephenson.  From Hannes Meyer,

Buildings, Projects, and Writings,  (Teufen AR/Schweiz.  Arthur Niggli Ltd.: 1965).

• • •

all things in this world are a product of the formula: (function times economy).

• • •

so none of these things are works of art:

all art is composition and hence unsuited to a particular end.

all life is function and therefore not artistic.

the idea of the ‘composition of a dock’ is hilarious!

but how is a town plan designed? or a plan of a dwelling? composition or function? art or life?????

building is a biological process.  building is not an aesthetic process.

in its basic design the new dwelling house becomes not only a ‘machine for living’ [Le Corbusier], but also a biological apparatus serving the needs of body and mind.  — the new age provides new building materials for the new way of building houses:

[Meyer lists a number of new materials]

we organize these building materials into a constructive whole based on economic principles.  thus the individual shape, the body of the structure, the color of the material and the surface texture evolve by themselves and are determined by life.  (snugness and prestige are not leitmotifs for dwelling construction.)

(for the first, one looks to the human heart and not the wall of a room…)

(the second comes from the manner of the host and not his persian carpet!)

• • •

architecture as an ‘embodiment of the artist’s emotions’ has no justification.

architecture as ‘continuing the building tradition’ means being carried on the tide of building history.

• • •

thinking of building in functional and biological terms as giving shape to the living process leads logically to pure construction: these constructive forms have no native country, they are the expression of an international trend of architectural thought.  internationality is a virtue of the period.  pure construction [96-97] is the basis and characteristic of the new world of forms.

• • •

1.  sex life

2.  sleeping habits

3.  pets

4.  gardening

5.  personal hygiene

6.  protection against weather

7.  hygiene in the home

8.  car maintenance

9.  cooking

10.  heating

11.  insolation

12.  service

• • •

these are the only requirements to be considered when building a house.  we look at the daily routine of each person living in the house and this gives the function diagram for father, mother, child, infant, and other occupants.  we examine the interactions between the house and its occupants and the world outside: postman, passer-by, visitor, neighbor, burglar, chimney-sweep, washerwoman, policeman, doctor, charwoman, playmate, gas inspector, tradesman, nurse, and errand boy.  we examine the ways in which human beings and animals are related to the graden, and the reciprocal effects that human beings, pets, and domestic insects have on one another.  we calculate the annual fluctuations in the temperature of the soil and with these data work out the loss of heat through the floors and the depth of the foundation blocks.  — the geological nature of the garden subsoil determines its capillarity and decides whether water will percolate away or whether land drains are required.  we calculate the angle of the sun’s incidence in the course of the year and in relation to the latitude of the site, and with this knowledge we determine the size of the shadow cast by the house in the graden and the amount of sun admitted by the window into the bedroom.  we work out the amount of daylight falling on the working area of the interior and we compare the heat conductivity of the outside walls with the humidity content of the outside air.  we are already familiar with the movement of air in a heated space.  the optical and acoustic relationship with the neighboring house is arranged with the utmost care.  knowing the atavistic preference of the future occupants for our building woods, we accordingly select for the interior finishings of the standardized prefabricated house grained deal, stout poplar, exotic okumé, or satiny maple.  for us color is merely a means of deliberately influencing the mind or else a signpost.  color is never used to simulate all kinds of material.  variegated color is anathema to us.  paint for us is a means of protecting materials.  where color seems psychologically indispensible, we include its light reflecting value in our calculations.  we avoid a pure white finish for the house: we consider the body of the house to be a storage cell for the heat of the sun…

• • •

the new house is a prefabricated unit for site assembly and, as such, an industrial product and a work of specialists: economists, statisticians, hygienists, climatologists, industrial engineers, standards experts, heat engineers…and the architect?…he was an artist and has become a specialist in organization!

• • •

the new house is a social enterprise.

it gets rid of partial unemployment in the building industry during the off-season, and it does away with the odium attaching to unemployment relief projects.  by putting housework on a rational basis it saves the housewife from slavery in the home, and by putting gardening on a rational basis it saves the householder from the dabbling of the small gardener.  it is primarily a social enterprise because, like ever DIN standard, it is the standardized industrial product of a nameless group of inventors.

• • •

moreover, as one of the final forms in which the welfare of the nation is to be realized, the new housing estate is a purposively organized work which engages the energies of all and in which co-operative effort and individual effort join forces in a common cause.  this estate is modern not because of flat roofs or a vertical and horizontal division of its façades but because of its direct connection with human existence.  in it the tensions of the individual, the sexes, the neighborhood and the community and the geopsychical relationships have been deliberately patterned.

• • •

building is the deliberate organization of the processes of life.

building as a technical procedure is therefore only a partial process.  the function diagram and economic program are the main guiding principles in a building scheme.

building is no longer an individual task in which architectural ambition is realized.

building is a joint undertaking of craftsmen and inventors, only he who can himself master the living process in working jointly with others…is a master builder.

building has grown from being an individual affair of individuals (promoted through unemployment and housing shortage) to a collective affair of the nation.

• • •

building is only organization:

social, technical, economic, psychological organization.

[From bauhaus, Vol. II, No. 4, 1928 ]


~ by Ross Wolfe on October 20, 2010.

2 Responses to “Hannes Meyer’s “building” (1928)”

  1. […] Meyer, Hannes.  “building.”  Translated by D.Q. Stephenson.  Buildings, Projects, and Writings. (Arthur Niggli Ltd.  New […]

  2. […] Meyer, Hannes.  “building.”  Translated by D.Q. Stephenson.  Buildings, Projects, and Writings. (Arthur Niggli Ltd.  New […]

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