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European Themeroute | Housing

Industrialisation opened up unimagined possibilities for architects and engineers with the continuously improved materials of iron and concrete. At the same time, it revolutionised housing construction because more and more workers and job seekers were looking for a roof over their heads in expanding ... more

Icon: Housing Here we lived and worked. European Theme Route Housing

Industrialisation opened up unimagined possibilities for architects and engineers with the continuously improved materials of iron and concrete. At the same time, it revolutionised housing construction because more and more workers and job seekers were looking for a roof over their heads in expanding industrial regions.

In the beginning, there was still room for utopias. As one of the first entrepreneurs, the Briton Robert Owen carried out social reforms in his spinning mill in New Lanark around 1800 and conceived an ideal city for the workforce in the Renaissance tradition, but failed to realise it. More successful was Titus Salt, also a textile manufacturer, who had the "Saltaire" settlement built for his employees in West Yorkshire in 1851.

In France, Charles Fourier had developed similar ideas for production and living communities. Following his model, the factory owner Jean-Baptiste Godin realised the "Familistère" settlement next to his foundry in Guise in 1859: a ring of multi-storey residential buildings surrounds a wide courtyard with a glass roof that lets in a lot of light and serves as a communal space. Public facilities such as a school, kindergarten and shops are integrated into the complex.

The British urban planner Ebenezer Howard countered the uncontrolled growth of metropolises with the idea of the Garden City. Influenced by the American natural philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, he propagated small towns integrated into the landscape with detached houses and community facilities. Land was to be common property. The concept was implemented in Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire in 1903 and soon afterwards in Hampstead Garden Suburb in London.

Many 19th century entrepreneurs built flats because they felt responsible for "their" workers - they also hoped to retain qualified staff. For example, the factory owner Cristoforo Crespi, inspired by the idea of the garden city, built from 1878 a settlement with small workers' houses surrounded by greenery, a hospital, school and church, next to his cotton mill in Crespi d'Adda in northern Italy.

In Essen on the Ruhr, Alfred Krupp began building the first housing in 1855 right next to the smoking chimneys of his cast steel factory. In the rapid growth that followed, expanding factory facilities and further settlements eventually grew together to form a gigantic factory city, next to which the centuries-old Essen seemed like a village.

But soon paternalistic-minded entrepreneurs could no longer absorb the dramatically growing influx of workers. Hopelessly overpopulated slums sprang up in the urban centres, without clean water, effective ventilation or adequate sanitation. Diseases such as tuberculosis became rampant and the death rate skyrocketed.

An early attempt to house many people in a small area were the "back to backs" in the English Midlands: plain brick cottages, built in pairs "back to back" so that there were windows only on one side. Far more efficient for investors, however, were the tenements that sprang up in Victorian times in the slums of British metropolises such as London, Glasgow and Edinburgh. A prime example of the new form of housing construction born of the greed for profit, however, is Berlin, which was flooded with job-seekers at the end of the 19th century: There, mighty five- and six-storey blocks of brick houses were built - in the inner courtyards, the builders squeezed up to six multi-storey "back houses". Several thousand people lived in such complexes, often four or five to a room with a kitchen - and they also had to sublet their beds for the time they were working.

It was not until after the First World War that Europe's governments, together with non-profit cooperatives, systematically tackled the massive housing shortage. In Great Britain they mainly built housing estates with single-family houses, in Germany blocks of flats, preferably in parallel rows with enough space between them so that each row of houses had enough light. They often included communal crèches, shops or laundries.

The communal idea was particularly expressed in the residential courtyards of 1920s "Red Vienna". The most famous of these was the Karl-Marx-Hof, a "proletarian residential palace" consisting of five-storey houses around a wide, green courtyard. Shops and kindergartens, sometimes even libraries and post offices were integrated into the castle-like courtyards. Striking, creatively designed housing estates were created by Dutch architects influenced by the artist group "De Stijl": Initially often made of traditional bricks and sometimes crowned by a turret, later also made of prefabricated concrete elements with individual, colour-accentuated façades, as in the garden city "Watergraafsmeer" near Amsterdam.

Unlike in industrial construction, the new materials and production techniques of the era did not find their way into residential construction on a large scale until the 1920s: the representatives of the "New Building" now used concrete and mass-produced building elements instead of bricks. In housing estates such as those built by Ernst May in "New Frankfurt" or Walter Gropius in Dessau-Törten, standardised houses were built with white façades and flat roofs in clear shapes. The aim was maximum functionality at low cost - even in the furnishings: many architects designed furniture according to the same principle. Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky created the first ergonomically planned fitted kitchen with the "Frankfurt Kitchen".

Standardisation, however, led to reforming aspects such as lighting and greening taking a back seat again. Thus, the influential "Bauhaus" founder Gropius, who adhered to the idea of the "residential community", advocated the construction of "large houses". This concept reached a high point in the work of the architect and artist Le Corbusier. He realised his idea of a "house city" in 1952 in the "Unités d'Habitation" in Marseille: a huge concrete block with more than 300 flats, into which a kind of street network and two storeys of shops were built. Although glaring deficiencies soon came to light, the complex had a strong influence on housing construction.

In the Soviet Union, the ideal of communal living was further developed into the concept of the "socialist city": simple but comfortable flats, lots of green space and shared recreational facilities were ultimately supposed to produce a "New Man". The concept was put into practice after the Second World War when numerous satellite towns were founded for the workers of the gigantic new industrial plants in the socialist states: for example in Magnitogorsk in Russia, Nowa Huta in Poland or Eisenhüttenstadt in the former GDR. But in the centrally controlled urban development, all that remained of the once emancipative ideal were mostly long rows of standardised apartment blocks, built of prefabricated wall panels in park-like grounds.

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ERIH Anchor Points

Hornu | Belgium

A portico with three arches and a cobbled ...

Grand Hornu World Heritage Site
Rue Sainte-Louise 82
7301 Hornu, Belgium

Guise | France

The iron founder Jean-Baptiste Godin (1817-88) ...

Le Familistère de Guise
178-179 Familistère pavillon central
02120 Guise, France

Berlin | Germany

It is located in the middle of a residential ...

Nazi Forced Labour Documentation Centre
Britzer Str. 5
12439 Berlin, Germany

Delmenhorst | Germany

Twelve hours work in suffocating factory rooms ...

Nordwolle
Nordwestdeutsches Museum für Industriekultur
Am Turbinenhaus 10-12
27749 Delmenhorst, Germany

Guspini | Italy

The Anglosardo gallery in Montevecchio on the ...

The Mines of Montevecchio at Geological Mining Park of Sardinia
Miniera di Montevecchio
Piazza Rotundi
09030 Guspini, Italy

Monfalcone | Italy

You want to know how industrialisation welds a ...

MuCa - Museum of Shipbuilding Industry
MuCa - Museo della Cantieristica
Via del Mercato, 3
34074 Monfalcone, Italy

Cromford | United Kingdom

The first modern factory in history was built ...

Cromford Mills World Heritage Site
Cromford Mill
DE4 3RQ Cromford, United Kingdom

Llanberis | United Kingdom

How do you steal a mountain? You knock it off. ...

National Slate Museum World Heritage Site
Padarn Country Park
LL55 4TY Llanberis, United Kingdom

Port Sunlight | United Kingdom

A walk through Port Sunlight is like a journey ...

Port Sunlight
Port Sunlight Village Trust
23 King George’s Drive
CH62 5DX Port Sunlight, United Kingdom

Member Sites ERIH Association

Berlin | Germany

"Pfefferberg" refers to an area with listed ...

Pfefferberg
Schönhauser Allee 176
10119 Berlin, Germany

Dessau-Roßlau | Germany

Along with other architects of the "New ...

The Steel House | Törten Housing Estate
Stahlhaus – Info-Punkt der Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau für die Siedlung Dessau-Törten
Südstraße 5
06849 Dessau-Roßlau, Germany

Frankfurt am Main | Germany

In 1928, IG Farben was the world's ...

Poelzig Building, former IG-Farbenhaus
Norbert-Wollheim-Platz 1
60323 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Lutherstadt Wittenberg | Germany

This housing estate is a real stroke of luck. ...

Piesteritz housing estate
Karl-Liebknecht-Platz 20
06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany

Sonneberg | Germany

Sonneberg, the town of toys, was founded in the ...

Sonneberg Town of Toys
Bahnhofsplatz 1
96515 Sonneberg, Germany

Capriate San Gervasio (BG) | Italy

Crespi d’Adda is a community where textiles ...

Crespi d’Adda World Heritage Site
Crespi D’Adda, patrimonio dell’Umanità UNESCO
Corso Manzoni 18
24042 Capriate San Gervasio, Italy

Līgatne | Latvia

The 30 wooden houses that comprise the village ...

Līgatne Paper Mill Village
Touristinformation
Spriņģu iela 2
LV 4110 Līgatne, Latvia

Dudelange | Luxembourg

The Document Centre for Human Migrations (CDMH) ...

Document Centre for Human Migrations
Centre de Documentation sur les Migrations humaines (CDMH)
Gare-Usines
3481 Dudelange, Luxembourg

Katowice | Poland

Katowice is a city of more than 300,000 ...

Nikiszowiec Settlement
• Muzeum Historii Katowic, ul. Rymarska 4, 40-425 Katowice +48 (0) 32 - 2561810
• Stowarzyszenie Fabryka Inicjatyw Lokalnych, Plac Wyzwolenia 21
40-423 Katowice, Poland

Żyrardów | Poland

Friendly, hospitable Żyrardów invites you to ...

Zyrardow factory town
Resursa
1 Maja 45
96300 Zyrardow, Poland

Barreiro | Portugal

Companhia União Fabril (C.U.F.) in Barreiro ...

Baía do Tejo Industrial Museum at former Companhia União Fabril (CUF) Area
Museu Industrial Baía do Tejo
Parque Empresarial da Baía do Tejo
2830-314 Barreiro, Portugal

Ílhavo | Portugal

The Vista Alegre porcelain factory at Ílhavo is ...

Vista Alegre Museum
Museu da Vista Alegre
3830-292 Ílhavo, Portugal

Esparreguera | Spain

The Sedó Colony was the first and largest ...

Museum of the Sedó Colony in Esparreguera
Museu de la Colònia Sedó d'Esparreguera
Àrea Industrial Can Sedó, Calle Contínues
08292 Esparreguera, Spain

Getxo | Spain

Along the Quays of Las Arenas and Arriluze you ...

The Big Villas Promenade
Muelle de Las Arenas
48930 Getxo, Spain

Puerto de Sagunto | Spain

Puerto de Sagunto was a factory town in the ...

Puerto de Sagunto
Address Horno Alto nº2: Avenida Altos Hornos 46520 Puerto de Sagunto
Contact: FCV Patrimonio Industrial Puerto Sagunto Avenida 9 de Octubre, nº7
46520 Puerto de Sagunto, Spain

Santa Cruz de Mieres | Spain

Bustiello is one of the many mining villages in ...

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

Fagersta | Sweden

In 1927, the Västanfors area was established by ...

Västanfors Area
Västanforsområdet
Rune Lindströms väg
73730 Fagersta, Sweden

Ludvika | Sweden

Hammarbacken is part of old Ludvika ironworks ...

Hammarbacken
Bruksgatan 2
Ludvika, Sweden

Lanark | United Kingdom

A small village nestles in the heart of a ...

New Lanark World Heritage Site
New Lanark Mills
ML11 9DB Lanark, United Kingdom

Sites

Langenstein | Austria

The concentration camp at Gusen was a place of ...

Gusen Concentration Camp Memorial
KZ-Gedenkstätte Gusen, B8 Bergkristall
Georgestrasse 6
4222 Langenstein, Austria

Vienna | Austria

The municipality in Vienna in the period ...

Karl Marx Hof
12. Februar Platz, 1190 Vienna
Museum 'Das Rote Wien im Waschsalon' Halteraugasse 7
1190 Vienna, Austria

La Louvière (Houdeng-Aimeries) | Belgium

The entrance is a thick steel guillotine door, ...

Museum of Mining and Sustainable Development World Heritage Site
Musée de la Mine et du Développement Durable
Rue Saint-Patrice 2b
7110 La Louvière, Belgium

Maasmechelen | Belgium

The Eisden mine, which was located in the ...

Museum Miner's house
Museum van de Mijnwerkerswoning
Marie José-Straat 3
3630 Maasmechelen, Belgium

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