Architecture Pilgrimage: the Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart, featuring Le Corbusier

Architecture Pilgrimage: the Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart, featuring Le Corbusier

At the Mercedes-Benz Museum, I saw a photo of a housing development that I remembered studying in Design History class: the Weissenhof Estate. I'd forgotten it was in Stuttgart! So I went online to check out the place, called to verify that they were open (since it was Monday, and also the May 1 holiday), and hurried to take the train and bus back over to the west side of town.

The Weissenhof Estate was a model development by the city of Stuttgart planned by Mies van der Rohe, and designed to experiment with new models of housing. It was an image of this townhouse complex designed by J.J.P. Oud that made me suddenly remember the slides in Design History class.

The whole estate is situated high up on a high of Stuttgart. You can get some pretty views along the bus route to the estate. I was surprised to see agricultural activity within the city!

And here is the building that Le Corbusier designed, containing two homes side by side.

Le Corbusier was the one who thought of a house as a machine for living, and he did try out some innovative ways to maximize functionality and efficiency.

This space below is a living/dining room during the day. By night, the beds are pulled out from the closets, and a dividing wall slides over (where the black post is), separating the parents' bedroom in the foreground from the child's bedroom in the back.

As efficient as the living/dining/bedroom was, I found the arrangement of other areas in the house extremely awkward and inefficient. For example, this was a breakfast nook, which looked like leftover space next to the staircase.

This narrow room housed a toilet and small sink. To get to the bathtub on the other side of the house, you have to cross the kitchen.

Next to the living/dining/bedroom combo space, there was an extremely narrow hallway. Why? Who would use that and when? At the very end of the hallway was a tiny sink. There was just too much space allocated to hallways and staircases, and not enough for actual living, in my opinion.

I did like the color palette that was used in the house...

The two houses within the same building had separate entrances, but they were connected at the top by a roof garden, with views of the hills.

Now, one of the two houses is kind of a museum exhibition about the Weissenhof Estate, while the other house is a restoration of the house to the time when it was built.

Besides the Le Corbusier building, 11 of the 21 original buildings of the development are still standing - and still being used as housing! You can't enter them obviously, but each one has a sign with descriptive text and floorplans so you can learn more about each one. They vary from J.J.P. Oud's townhouses, to apartment buildings, to single-family houses.

I hadn't planned on visiting the Weissenhof Estate originally, so I only got to spend about an hour 15 minutes there, before heading back. I'd recommend about 2 hours to visit this important piece of architectural history. And even if the Le Corbusier house-museum (admission €5) is closed, I think it's still worth a visit to walk around the estate and read all about the different buildings

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