Mart Stam’s “Three Houses at the Stuttgart Exhibition” (1927)
Translated from the Dutch by C. v. Amerongen.
From Mart Stam: A Documentation of His Work, 1920-1965.
(Royal Institute of British Architects. London: 1970).
• • •
Germany with its many great towns and many thousands of families, is experiencing a need, an intolerable dearth, unknown to Dutch architects, so well catered for, and sated with inessential fantasies.
Certainly we hear talk in Holland of house-building and workers’ settlements, but in reality there is very little interest in space-planning or interior design.
Germany is experiencing an acute housing shortage; a legacy from the years when the building trade was practically closed down. In every town there are thousands of families, young married couples, who have no home of their own and are forced to spend the best years of their lives as sub-tenants. But now the town of Stuttgart has decided to fight this shortage and realize clearly that it can be overcome only by a mass building campaign. A number of architects were invited to design specimen houses for this scheme. In a very short time plans were drawn up and the model houses erected.
However, it had been somewhat forgotten that a model house cannot just be designed; it can only be created by constant alteration and improvement.
It was also forgotten that houses designed for use by a large part of the population must be closely adapted to their special habits and way of life.
Some of the houses in the Stuttgart Weissenhof housing estate intended as model dwellings were only partly so adapted.
In the case of the three types of Stuttgart house designed by myself, I was fully aware on the one hand that they must suit the German way of life with its customs of laundering at home, making preserves and storing supplies for the winter, and on the other that these domestic occupations can only be truly economic if they are carried out by large enterprises. The Weissenhof settlement is a beginning, but only by the give-and-take of everyday use over a long period can it give rise to a model that is a complete entity in itself, as has happened, for instance, with the bicycle.
I therefore based my designs on regularly spaced points of support, on a framework very simply constructed out of angle iron and on a continuous floor made of precast concrete planks. The exterior walls are sandwich walls with concrete blocks, the blocks being covered with a thin sealing coat. When a large number of identical houses are being erected this system, if well carried out, should result in rapid, and therefore economical, building. A simple construction system of this kind, with a uniform arrangement of piles produces a smooth, simple form with a minimum of projecting parts. Economic considerations will confirm that the large, closed mass is the shape to be aimed at. If the building is broken up into several smaller masses it will require a much larger area of exterior wall, and certainly be much more expensive. The houses are intended (to judge by the requirements set) for the middle classes. It is assumed that there will be no resident maidservant, but that the housewife will probably employ a daily helper or, the domestic arrangements being so convenient, will do the work herself.
The ground floor includes, besides the necessary cloakroom, w.c. and small, functional kitchen, a big room for dining and living. This room is much the largest in the house and includes the staircase (though it could be divided off by a sliding partition), and in two out of the three houses there is a basement work-or garden-room. On the top floor there are three bedrooms and a bathroom-cum-dressing room. We hope to supply illustrations of these and other indoor installations later.
[From i, No. 10 1927, p. 342]