Along with other architects of the "New Building" group, Walter Gropius, the director of the Bauhaus Dessau Design Academy, was a leading figure in the building of housing estates in the 1920s. After the First World War housing was scarcer than ever. Between 1926 and 1928 Gropius designed the Törten experimental housing estate for the up-and-coming industrial town of Dessau. Each of the single family houses was allotted a garden to help the residents feed themselves. Furthermore, these so-called "Reichsheimstätten" would eventually pass over into the residents’ ownership. A total of 314 terraced houses were constructed in three different building periods. Living areas ranged between 57 and 75 square metres depending on the type of house. The aim was to establish the suitability of industrial materials like steel, glass and concrete, and to keep costs as low as possible by using prefabricated elements. Both these features fitted in extremely well with the "New Building" style favoured by Walter Gropius and others.
The steel house was built during the first period of construction of the Törten housing estate, and completed in spring 1927. The design goes back to the painter and Bauhaus master Georg Muche and a student of architecture by the name of Richard Paulick. Muche’s original idea was to create an extendable house that would grow with the family, but this could not be realised for budgetary reasons. The design makes the most of steel plate construction potentials and at the same time emphasises the material in a striking manner.
The steel house belonging to the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation has been restored along monument preservation lines and nowadays serves as the information centre for the Törten housing estate. The housing estate itself has lost most of its original uniformity because of the discrepancies between Gropius’ plans and the needs of the residents who made many changes to the original designs shortly after the houses were completed. In 1997, however, the town of Dessau was able to restore one of the houses in its original state. Since then several private owners have followed this example.
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