The smallest housing estates designed by Ernst May. How to create an intimate residential complex

Bogna Ludwig



In the scenery of the suburbs of Lower Silesian cities and small towns we can observe a distinctive group of complexes of residential buildings. Small ground-floor or sometimes storied one-family or two-family houses with modest architecture that relates to forms of local classicism usually produce diverse systems of streets and squares. All these housing complexes came into being as a result of activities of two construction companies called “Schlesische Landgesellschaft” and “Schlesisches Heim” (“Schlesische Heimstätte”) within a relatively short time just after the end of the World War I when Ernst May worked as an architectural manager of both of these firms. They constitute an example of a very interesting solution to the housing problem and a specific alternative for development of cities. The housing estates which are the smallest ones constitute the best examples of implementing architectural and urban ideas of the so called small housing estates (Kleinsiedlung). They represented the first steps in the formation of the theory and practice of designing single-family housing estates. “Schlesische Heimstätte” during its whole activity dealt with construction of small housing estates and this aspect of its activity, in accordance with the government directives, was treated as fundamental. Small housing estates, depending on accepted orders, had different functions. Thus, they were agricultural housing estates (Dobroszyce, Czarne, Nowy Folwark near Jelcz), semi-agricultural housing estates on the outskirts of towns (Brzeg Dolny, Ząbkowice Śląskie, housing estates in the areas around Wrocław), workers’ estates near coalmines and factories as well as near railways (Stary Lesieniec, Małujowice, Oleśnica, Dzierżoniów, Nowa Ruda, Chojnów, Prudnik). Systems of the so called small housing estates were also introduced into the extensive development designs (Radków, Niemcza, Lądek-Zdrój, Kluczbork). Depending on a given area, type of terrain and adjoining developments, the urban arrangement of these estates differed and consequently various architectural solutions of buildings were employed. In the process of designing houses and applying urban solutions, principles of design inherited from Art Nouveau and regionalism were initially very important; however, with time, rules of functionalism played a more significant role. Small housing estates of the interwar period in Lower Silesia are certainly one of the most interesting examples of solutions of residential complexes. Their most characteristic feature, which adds to their particular charm, is the way of arranging their small urban interiors such as various small squares or street bends. All these solutions still remain as the ideas which are really worth imitating when designing architecture and urbanism of housing estates up to the present.

Full article view is only available on bigger screens.