Otto Neurath - City Planning: Proposing a Socio-Political Map for Modern Urbanism

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There pots could be placed if they had to be kept warm. Hay box, cooling counter and stove made up the three-part stove complex that enabled the cooking of food, saving costly materials. The living area of the kitchen also offered comforts. A bench could be converted into a bed at night and furniture could easily be shifted when more space was needed.


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With a tiny adjacent bedroom and an extra bed for a small child in the master bedroom upstairs, core-house Type 7, even at its most rudimentary stage, could accommodate a family of six or seven people if necessary. This was a true maximization of space.

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And yet behind the curtain of the live-in kitchen lay the future: a larger house with a new kitchen, with a cooking-niche and a fully prefabricated scullery Figure 6. The cooking-niche had fourteen fixed elements. They were rationally organized and stood in direct relationship to one another. In addition to the stove, the cooling counter and the hay box, which remained in the live-in kitchen, the niche had a laundry stove, a preparation table, a washing trough, a box for collecting kitchen wastes for the animals or compost, a dish draining board, a drawer for special utensils, a sink, another hay box with additional drawers, a water conduit with swivel tap, ten running metres of shelves for kitchen equipments, and even a tub.

All elements were poured in one concrete block. The floor was cast in concrete as well. Cleaning was easy Lihotzky 2. Through an outlet in the floor the water could be drained when washing up or taking a messy bath. There were no longer any furniture feet that would make sweeping laborious. Kitchen furniture was in effect eliminated 2.

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There were little tricks as well. The dish draining board could be put in an inclined position so that dishes would dry more quickly. When completely folded out, it could function as a small table for food preparation. Similarly the laundry stove, could also be converted into counter space, when its kettle was covered with a plane wooden lid. On the bottom, the laundry stove had an outlet that dispensed hot water to fill a bucket for the tub.

The tub in the kitchen was not ideal, but it was assumed that the funds and the space for a separate bathtub and an oven to heat it were not available to the settler. A collective bathhouse was anticipated.

Urban Studies and Theory

If it were built, the space of the tub could be utilized as a cooling device or additional cupboard space Lihotzky 1. In addition to water, it saved heat energy, hence time and labor. If laundry was done in the tub, a washing trough decreased the depth of the tub. To hang the laundry it was just one additional step to the outside and to the garden. However, the cooking-niche exhibited in core-house Type 7 represented a yet unprecedented comprehensive solution to the multiple tasks of preparing food and washing dishes, laundry, and even bathing children.

Already in its design caught professional attention at a smaller settlement exhibition where the cooking-niche and the scullery were showcased.

I have worked through your plans meticulously and regard them as a critical step in the direction of practical household rationalization. The single laws that the science of home management has given us, such as time and motion efficiency [ Ersparnis ] and material economy […], are adhered to in best manner in your cooking-niche and the scullery facility. I hope that your plans can be extensively used and realized, because they would be able to alleviate somewhat the housing shortage we are facing almost everywhere in the world today.

Witte 1 More than a quarter million people came to see the new kitchen at the exhibition. Plans and axonometric projections were published, core-house kitchens were shown in three large, detailed sketches, and advertisements illustrated core-house architecture and its financing scheme Figure 7.

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The connection between the design of core-houses and the Viennese problems of scarcity and general dwelling conditions was most clearly drawn in the British newspaper The Manchester Guardian , which was one of the few foreign voices that covered the exhibition. The production of core-houses, managed by the Austrian Settlement and Allotment Garden Association and GESIBA, was an example of what could be achieved by communal economy and cooperation, and the building of settlements facilitated the process of creating a common conscious.

The director of the settlements office, Max Ermers, on the other hand, saw in core-houses, and their cooking-niches in particular, another potential more closely constructed along capitalist lines. Household technology in the prefabricated kitchen, he argued, which saved time, even enabled settlers to reserve hours for activities in the garden 4. Nonetheless, the core-houses did not become a commercial success. Although GESIBA advertised that it could prefabricate core-houses and their kitchens, having to pay for them in cash was difficult for settlers.

Accustomed to paying for houses by putting in their own labor time and using appliances that allowed them maximum flexibility, settlers simply could not be persuaded to make such a large, static purchase. All tasks, even washing dishes, would eventually be completed in the living room. Prefabrication did not yet pay off. This was about to change. Settlements in Frankfurt were different from those in Vienna. In extent the building program put forward in Frankfurt was similar to the large communal housing projects undertaken in Vienna, but, unlike in Vienna, the dominant typology in Frankfurt became settlements.

Most of them conformed to a row house typology with flower gardens. To implement projects on such a scale, May and his employees developed prefabricated and standardized elements of an unprecedented character. Compared to Vienna, where prefabrication had only meant the use of standardized wooden beams, doors, and windows, in Frankfurt prefabrication incorporated reinforced concrete beams, walls, and even entire dwelling units.


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They were lifted and shifted with cranes and other modern construction equipment, and assembled by salaried workers. Mounting procedures were standardized as well But her first assignment was to perfect the kitchen. The first three items, the stove, the cooling counter and the hay box, were again grouped together as stove complex and located on the opposite side of the long main working space, the wet complex. The third element, the hay box, was rotated, with its shorter side now facing the cook Figure 8.

A crucial element of the main working block and wet complex was the sink, with its draining board for dishes. Her space-saving tricks of additional fold-out work spaces also functioned in Frankfurt in , as they had in Austria in Photographer: H. Collischonn, Frankfurt.

Urban Planning

She included a radiator and a gas stove, which meant no more cooking with firewood. A bathtub filled by hot water from the sink was now located in the adjacent room. These were not small changes; in fact, these amenities stood at the core of the designs for New Frankfurt.

They were part of an extensive central municipal undertaking to rationalize housing built into a smooth infrastructural system. This system included the production of architecture through factories planned by May and his team to distribute not only materials, but also everyday amenities such as electricity and central heating Gantner First, it still lacked a refrigerator.

In the absence of a totally dry or cool space, a special drawer was coated with tannic acid to ensure the storage of flour in large quantities. The cooker hood, which did not operate electrically, also incorporated a creative solution to a yet unresolved problem of ventilation: the insertion of a little tube as a direct conduit to the outside.

Although the most luxurious version, for two maids, was never realized under the auspices of New Frankfurt, its conception indicated that these kitchens served an audience that could afford servants and was thus quite different from inhabitants in Viennese settlements, many of whom had been unemployed and poor. In addition, in the more prosperous years of Weimar Germany the considerations for scarce resources waned.

Commercially, the kitchen was a success as well. Accustomed to working and living in the same space, they tried to fit their chairs and family dinner tables into the Frankfurt Kitchen, just as the Viennese had used the cooking-niche for storage and continued to utilize the living room for cooking Hessler All of its elements had gone through countless iterations, making the Kitchen a masterpiece of flexibility.

Yet an important variable — people — had been increasingly left out of the Frankfurt equation. Omitted from consideration were the whims, idiosyncrasies, and desires of people to always restructure, re-envision and reinvent their homes according to their own tastes and needs, even if only by adding small, new, and flexible technologies. In Frankfurt, however, which represented the perfection of the arrangement of adaptable household appliances, such flexibility had become an impossibility.

According to politicians, settlements were unsuitable for the creation of mass housing. They were not dense enough and they required comparatively large amounts of space and infrastructure for accommodating only a modest amount of people.

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In contrast to Frankfurt, therefore, settlements officially failed in Vienna as a political model to combat housing shortages on a large scale. Yet, from a theoretical point of view, settlements in Vienna provided a wholly new model of organizing and producing housing for the public. Clubhouses, co-operative supermarkets, and facilities for legal consultation, which were featured in almost every settlement club, were introduced to the Viennese dwellings, and communal entities such as laundries, libraries, and health advice on buildings were distributed throughout the entire city.

By capitalizing on simple building procedures, settlements had also prefigured a central trope of the larger construction undertakings in Red Vienna, which would use scarcely any prefabrication and predominantly featured brick rather than reinforced concrete. Made with waste materials, from components fabricated locally and manually on site, or provided with building elements by the cooperatively owned GESIBA, they stood in even greater contrast to New Frankfurt, where dwellings were produced in cooperation with the construction industry and where, despite partially left-wing agendas, architecture was manufactured along capitalist lines.

She attributed the difference to the specific condition of scarcity during the war, which had partially been translated into peacetime. In Vienna the goal was to provide, as quickly as possible, a humane roof over the heads of the poor. In Frankfurt, the task was to set an example for modern living with the most progressive means of contemporary technology, because a modern building industry had emerged there, including all necessary experiments. Building in Vienna was more primitive; therefore, solely live-in kitchens and cooking-niches and no bathrooms, but public baths in each block, central laundries, but no central heating.

There were club libraries and meeting rooms to enable a social life, something which could not even be discussed in Frankfurt at all. The average inhabitant of the Frankfurt settlements wanted to be distinguished from the neighbor, wanted to lead an individualist life without discussing common problems, without the wish to build cultural and a better life for all together.

The Viennese housing subsidy, largely financed by extensive taxation, made all the difference Tax revenues made it possible to finance dwellings for the poor with good amenities on a vast scale. The situation was much different in Frankfurt, where the tax burden was placed on the lower class, which the building program was supposed to target in the first place. Only from the factory foreman, the white-collar worker and the intellectual upwards were such rents manageable. A new form of organizing the production of architecture had come into being through self-help and cooperation, as an immediate response to the postwar state of emergency.

Settling was therefore not simply a working-class response to the conditions of scarcity, but a process by which formerly petty bourgeois groups of people were united around joint interests, creating a common consciousness, as Neurath had envisioned. With its cooperative supermarkets, kindergartens, and building companies, and imbedded in large organizational complexes such as housing unions and multiple levels of representation, the settlement movement even surpassed counter-capitalist strategies of the nineteenth century constructed along class lines and moved into the realm of the early twentieth century.

Yet this discontinuation had less to do with either their actually feasibility or their failure, but more with a Social-Democratic government, which despite far-left views wanted to maintain full control over its vast building program. But in times of prosperity, while Frankfurt characterized the century to come, Vienna fought a losing battle. In this essay, therefore, Vienna and Frankfurt were not places between which Lihotzky moved in , but architectural paradigms that already encountered each other in — in the ambiguous zone between the simple live-in kitchen and the first prefabricated cooking-niche.

Despite its manifold connecting vectors, this zone marked a great divide. On one side stood a modernism that encouraged messy participation, while the other drew on prefabrication. The former privileged the garden over the dwelling, small, flexible technologies over mass production, and, of course, cooperation over prefabrication.

They were deeply related yet contrary worlds. The line between them ran along a curtain in core-house Type 7. At the time of her early work in Vienna, she was unmarried. I want to thank Mary McLeod who brought this issue to my attention and advised me on the matter.

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