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European Themeroute | Housing and Architecture

The continuous improvement in the processing of iron and concrete during the Industrial Revolution opened up new and previously undreamt-of potentials for architects and engineers. At the same time industrialisation caused a revolution in the construction of housing as a result of the grave deficit in ... more

Icon: Housing and ArchitectureHere we lived and worked. European Theme Route Housing & Architecture

The continuous improvement in the processing of iron and concrete during the Industrial Revolution opened up new and previously undreamt-of potentials for architects and engineers. At the same time industrialisation caused a revolution in the construction of housing as a result of the grave deficit in decent housing caused by the thousands of workers who migrated to booming factory regions.

One of the first entrepreneurs to concern himself with social questions was the early British socialist, Robert Owen. At the end of the 18th century he conceived an ideal town for his workers in the utopian tradition of the Renaissance. The idea, however, was never implemented. A textile manufacturer by the name of Titus Salt was much more successful in this respect. In 1851 he built an estate of terraced houses called "Saltaire" for his workers in West Yorkshire.

In France Charles Fourier developed similar ideas for cooperative production and housing. Following his example, in 1859, Jean-Baptiste Godin set up a housing estate next to his foundry in Guise, called "Familistère". This consisted of housing blocks several storeys high, each surrounding a large courtyard covered with a transparent glass roof and serving as a common space for all the inhabitants. Public facilities like schools, kindergartens and shops were integrated into the site.

The British town planner, Ebenezer Howard, responded to the uncontrolled growth of cities with the idea of the garden city. Influenced by the thoughts of the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, he propagated the philosophy of small towns integrated into the countryside, and consisting of single-family houses and community facilities. The land itself was to be owned in common. The concept was made reality in 1903 in the garden city of Letchworth in Hertfordshire. This was soon followed by another garden city in Hampstead, north London.

Architectural potentials increased with the use of iron, whose quality continuously improved during the Industrial Revolution. Using iron and glass it was possible to construct buildings like the translucent Palm House in Kew Gardens (1848) and the even more famous "Crystal Palace" built by Joseph Paxton in 1851. Paxton used prefabricated panes of glass with iron or wooden structural supports: a forerunner of the standard industrial buildings in the 20th century.

A second new material used by architects from 1867 onwards was reinforced concrete, a compound material first developed by a French gardener called Joseph Monier for garden tubs. Thanks to steel reinforcement bars or fibres integrated into the concrete to take up the stress and resist compression, it became possible to construct gigantic cantilever domes from the resulting compound. The start of the 20th century saw a steady increase in the amount of factory buildings, bridges and houses built of reinforced concrete.

Around this time the contrast between engineers and architects – between functional building and building art - came to a head. During the 19th century the profession of "civil engineer" had developed in Great Britain. This was a person who was not only versed in engineering above and below the ground, but also in factory engineering equipment. One of its most prominent representatives was Sidney Stott, who began his career by building multi-storey spinning mills in the Manchester region, and was later responsible for building textile factories in the border region around north-west Germany and the Netherlands.

As a reaction to this, more traditional architects preferred to refer back to the craft qualities and building arts of the mediaeval age. At the end of the 19th century the arts and craft movement exerted considerable influence in Great Britain; and in France, Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-Le-Duc analysed Gothic construction principles. "Jugendstil" flourished above all in Germany and Austria – even in industrial buildings like the engine house in the Zollern colliery in Dortmund.

At the start of the 20th century a group of committed architects got together in Germany with a common idea of combining artistic design with modern materials and functional construction. The pioneer was a man named Peter Behrens, who served on the artistic advisory committee of the gigantic AEG power company from 1907 onwards. In Berlin he constructed a turbine factory from concrete, steel and glass. Functionally it was a long open production building with windows stretching to the roof; and yet it was designed with a feeling for tradition, with massive corners and powerful pillars.

His colleague, Walter Gropius, further developed this concept in 1911 in the form of the "Fagus works", a shoe last factory in Alfeld. He designed the complete facade with glass windows filled with thin iron frames supported by narrow brick mullions. In this way he was able to give the building an impression of transparency and lightness. The corners of the administration building have since become an icon in modern architecture: they consist completely of glass windows without corner pillars, because Gropius shifted the structural supports to the inside of the house. Using this as a starting point he was able to develop an uninterrupted expanse of clear glass known as the "curtain wall", one of the most influential forms of architecture in the 20th century.

The most radical solution in industrial building was invented in the USA. In 1908 Albert Kahn built a factory near Detroit for the Ford motor works which was absolutely suitable for conveyor-belt work: a long hall at ground level, in which all manufacturing steps could be conducted in sequence, and cars could be put together from pre-pressed pressed steel parts in a short amount of time. The building could be extended with new modules when required.

After the First World War the lack of places to live was so great that governments and corporative companies were compelled to invest huge amounts of money in housing construction. In Great Britain large estates of single-family houses were built; and in Germany blocks of flats where erected, preferably in long parallel lines placed in such a way as to allow sufficient daylight to reach each row. The blocks of flats often contained children's crèches, shops and laundries.

Cooperative philosophies were especially expressed in the housing blocks built in Vienna in the 1920s. The best known of these was the "Karl-Marx-Hof", a monumental "proletarian housing palace" consisting of five-storey houses, each of which surrounded a broad grassy courtyard. Shops and kindergartens, even libraries and post offices were also integrated into these fortress-like housing blocks in "Red Vienna". The Dutch constructed expressive housing blocks. At the start they were often made from traditional red bricks and occasionally crowned with a little tower: later ready-made concrete bricks with individually accented coloured facades were also used, as in the "Watergraafsmeer" garden city near Amsterdam.

By contrast, the housing estates erected by representatives of functional architecture contained cube-shaped houses with flat roofs and white rendering. Standardisation went so far that progressive aspects like facing the housing towards the sun or grassing over courtyards became background considerations once again, even in the housing estates designed by Gropius. In addition, Gropius, who still clung on to the ideal of cooperative housing, committed himself strongly to the building of tower blocks. This trend reached a climax in the work of the architect and artist Le Corbusier. His idea of a housing city was finally implemented in 1955 in the form of the "Unités d’Habitation" in Marseilles. This was a massive concrete edifice containing more than 300 housing units, connected by a network of "streets" and containing two floors of shops. Although it soon became clear that there were blatant deficiencies in the architecture, the site had a huge influence on housing construction. 

The brick Expressionist style, used in Amsterdam and elsewhere in the Netherlands in the early twentieth century, for a time influenced architects all over Europe. Het Schip, an apartment block, designed by Michael de Clerk (1884-1923) in 1919 and completed the following year, is one of the ...

The Ship. Museum of the Amsterdam School of Architecture
Het Schip
Spaarndammerplantsoen 140
1013 XT Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam-Westerpark | Netherlands
The Westergasfabriek is a former gasfactory in the center of Amsterdam. The complex is most popular by trendy young public. Regular (music)events are held there because of it´s central location. Between 1883 and 1904 the Imperial Continental Gaz Association gave an assignment to build the ...

Haarlemmerweg 8-10
1014 BE Amsterdam-Westerpark, Netherlands

Frederiksoord | Netherlands
Frederiksoord and Willemsoord, respectively 6 km north-east and 6 km north-west of Steenwijk, are well-preserved examples of the Dutch pauper colonies that aroused interest in many other European countries in the first half of the 19th century. The depression that followed the end of the ...

Pauper colonies Frederiksoord and Willemsoord
Museum De Koloniehof
Koningin Wilhelminalaan 87
8382 GC Frederiksoord, Netherlands

Haarlem | Netherlands
The EBH-terrain is currently being redeveloped. In the monumental buildings dance-events and fashionshows as well as (business)fairs are organised. EBH, also knows as The Lichtfabriek is a popular place for trendy visitors. The in London residing multinational opererende Imperial Continental Gas ...

Minckelersweg 3
2031 EM Haarlem, Netherlands

Rotterdam | Netherlands
The Van Nelle factory is one of the outstanding industrial buildings of the Nieuwe Bouwen, the Modernist style of the Netherlands. The Van Nelle company originated in 1782 when Johannes and Hendrica van Nelle established a shop in Rotterdam selling coffee, tea and tobacco. In the 19th century the ...

Van Nelle Factory
Van Nelleweg 1
304 BC Rotterdam, Netherlands

Wormer | Netherlands
The former Hulling Works in Wormer are worth a visit for all who is interessed in industrial development at the beginning of the twentiest century. In the warehouse Batavia a grand cafe is established. From the middle of the 19th century most hullingworks were erected. Before that time rice was ...

Hulling works
Veerdijk 35-43
1531 MS Wormer, Netherlands

The site dated back to 1903 is a part of the mine funded by Prince Hugo von Hohenlohe zu Öhringen. The mine closed down in 1996. There are machines and equipment left in the power plant, and among them the most impressive one – Wanda flywheel.

Elektrownia Contemporary Art Gallery
Galeria Sztuki Współczesnej Elektrownia
ul. Dehnelów 45
41-250 Czeladź, Poland

Czerwionka-Leszczyny | Poland
The complexes of multi-family housing for staff and inspectors of the former mine „Dębieńsko”, called familoki (family block), which survived in Czerwionka, are an extremely important and distinctive part of the urban buildings of the district and town of Czerwionka-Leszczyny. These housing ...

“Familoki” Settlement
Tourist Information Centre
Mickiewicza 10
44-230 Czerwionka-Leszczyny, Poland

Katowice | Poland
A miners’ colony of the Giesche mine, exceptional in Europe, with the unique atmosphere of a “garden-town”. It was designed by Emil and George Zillmann in the years 1906–1910. A few building quarters of dwelling houses, a former inn, the buildings of the forest inspectorate and school as well as ...

Giszowiec Settlement
Osiedle Giszowiec Miejski Dom Kultury Szopienice-Giszowiec
Plac pod Lipami
40-321 Katowice, Poland

Ruda Śląska | Poland
This settlement was estab­lished in the years 1860-1867 for the workers of Gottessegen mine. The owners of the mine were industrialists from the line of the Donnersmarcks, who also founded the settlement. The colony consists of sixteen houses and is one of the oldest preserved patronage building ...

Workers’ Settlement Ficinus
Kolonia Robotnicza Ficinus
41-710 Ruda Śląska, Poland

Siemianowice Śląskie | Poland
It was established in the building of the former engine room of the liquidated Michał Mine, whose history dates back to middle of the 19th century. At present, there are four floors in the facility which house, among others: a modern entertainment and conference room for 160 persons, a steam ...

Tradition Park
Park Tradycji
E. Orzeszkowej 12
41-100 Siemianowice Śląskie, Poland

Zabrze | Poland
It was built in 1920s and it is a complex of buildings and equipment of the Concordia mine. Due to the revitalization and preservation of historic buildings – today, it looks as in the times of its heyday. Now, we can see here the well-preserved building of the shaft top along with the hoisting ...

Maciej Shaft
Szyb Maciej
Srebrna 6
41-819 Zabrze, Poland

EC1 Łódź is a power station of which construction commenced in May 1906. The generation of power began on 18 September 1907. The plant was extended in 1928-30. From 1953 it was adapted to produce process steam for various factories in Łódź, and operations ceased completely in 2001. The power station ...

EC1 Łódź - City of Culture
EC1 Łódź - Miasto Kultury
1/3 Targowa Street
90-022 Lódź, Poland

Colonia Vidal, often abbreviated to Cal Vidal, is one of the most important of the textile workers’ colonies in Catalonia. It was established on the banks of the Llobregat river in the 1890s by Ignasi Vidal I Balet (1836-96), and its factory specialised in the production of high quality cotton ...

Museum of the Vidal Workers’ Colony
Museu de la Colònia Vidal de Puig-reig
Carrer de Santignasi 2
08692 Cal Vidal, Spain

L’Espluga de Francoli | Spain
L’Espluga de Francoli is a wine-making town some 30 km north of Tarragona. The ‘wine cathedral’ is the name often given to this amazing early twentieth century building, which consists of three vaulted bays in red brick in the Gothic style. It was begin in 1913 by the architect Lluis Domenech I ...

Museum of Wine | The wine cathedral
Museu del Vi "La catedral del Vi"
Josep M. Rendé, 5
43440 L’Espluga de Francoli, Spain

Madrid | Spain
The Atocha terminus is the largest in Madrid, but from the point of view of industrial heritage it consists of two separate stations which comprise one of the most extraordinary industrial heritage spectacles in Europe. It occupies the site of the first terminus in the Spanish capital, opened in ...

Atocha Station
Estación de Puerta de Atocha
Glorieta del Emperador Carlos V
28012 Madrid, Spain

Murcia | Spain
Water power has always been important in the history of the city of Murcia in south-eastern Spain. There were eight mills on the River Segura and its associated canal in the late middle ages. The Molinos Nuevos (new mill) is first documented in 1363 when it was used for fulling woollen cloth, but it ...

Museum of Water Power
Museo Hidraulico
Los Molinos del Rio Segura c/ Molinos 1
30002 Murcia, Spain

Santa Coloma de Cervello | Spain
The Colonia Guell is a workers’ settlement in the Garden City style built by the Catalan textile entrepreneur Eusebi Güell (1846-1918) around his principal factory that he re-located to Santa Coloma de Cervello from a site at Sants in present-day Barcelona in 1890. The new factory, in brick in the ...

Colonia Güell
Colonia Güell SA
08690 Santa Coloma de Cervello, Spain

Santa Cruz de Mieres | Spain
Bustiello is one of the many mining villages in the province of Asturias, and is situated near Mieres, south of Oviedo, not far from Spain’s northern coast. It is a good example of industrial paternalism. The village was built between 1890 and1925 by the mining company Sociedad Huellera Española on ...

Bustiello Mining Village Information Centre
Centro de Interpretación del Poblado Minero de Bustiello
33612 Santa Cruz de Mieres, Spain

Vila Rodona | Spain
This is one of about 50 architecturally-distinguished buildings constructed in Catalonia in the early 20th century for agricultural co-operatives. Most had spacious interiors to allow air to circulate freely around the wine vats.The building at Rocafort de Queralt, 30 km north of Tarragona, was ...

Wine Cathedral
Cooperativa Agrícola i Caixa Agrària de Vila-rodona, SCCL
Avda Enric Benet, 4
43814 Vila Rodona, Spain

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