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Aspects of Urban Planning

The overall plan for the Vienna Werkbund Estate was drawn up by Josef Frank. He not only had to take into account the problematic shape of the site, an open expanse of grassland at the foot of the hill called the Roter Berg, but also completely reposition the houses, which had been designed for a different layout on the original site in Vienna’s tenth municipal district. Frank designed gently curving paths to lead from the existing roads – Veitingergasse and Jagdschlossgasse – into the centre of the estate, where he placed a small open space. Planned as a self-contained organism, the estate hardly relates in any way to its surroundings; these were however relatively undeveloped at the time. 

Distinctive architectural accents

The houses were positioned to give the impression of being part of a show estate with discrete and varied types and models, while also retaining the character of an organic settlement. The layout of the houses followed a strict pattern: although almost all the houses were oriented towards and opened onto the garden, the buildings were positioned strictly parallel to the streets, thus helping to enhance the sense of order. Although the houses along Veitingergasse form a long row interrupted at several points, the others are more loosely positioned. From the first, Frank strove to emphasize and demarcate the site by architectural means, setting at its western tip the tall house by Oswald Haerdtl that seems to guard the estate like a watchtower. At the western edge of the site, where the visitors to the exhibition entered the estate in the summer of 1932, was the duplex by Oskar Strnad with its striking articulation, a building that was destroyed during the Second World War. On the central square the houses designed by Gerrit Rietveld and Adolf Loos form important anchor points.

Criticism

Josef Frank strove to avoid uniformity in order to evoke the character of an exhibition with model houses. A uniformly designed estate would have necessitated a completely different site plan on regular lines. Nonetheless, some of the criticism was directed at the village-like nature of the complex.

Text: Andreas Nierhaus