Tamás Perényi, Tamás Niczki, Zsófia Dankó, Boglárka Szentirmai (2013)
Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Department of Residential Buildings
Table of Contents
A unique building designed by Otto Wagner, a prominent architect of the Viennese Secession (Jugendstil) movement, Majolika Haus was built in 1898–1899. Distinguishing features of this apartment block include the ornamental tendrils and floral motifs wrapped over its entire surface and the flat façade articulated by simple openings. A characteristic decorative material of the five-storey front is the eponymous majolica, a type of durable, colour- and weather-proof glazed ceramic. Another distinguishing feature of the streetscape is the predominate green wrought-iron balcony railing evoking botanical forms – found on the bottom two floors of the street elevation, but only on the topmost storeys of the two lateral spans of the house. Designed to contain elegant flats with all the conveniences, this house rose to fame because of its exemplary dwelling unit featuring a glass-walled bathtub.
Graham Court is the result of extensive real estate developments at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, a stylistically flourishing era when the adaptation of classical architecture was a tool to design large-scale buildings, which in turn also showed the influence of extravagance and monumentality. This was the first project of Clinton and Russell in the style of Renaissance palatial (palazzo) architecture, which evolved into a prototype of residential buildings with similar designs. The house, focussed on a central court, was equipped with elevators to satisfy contemporary demands for luxury. The high standards of both the materials used and the realisation met upper-class expectations. The symmetrical layout, the hierarchy of the faces and the classical components all reflect the stylistic features of historic palace façades.
This apartment block is significant for the generous use of the then-new R-C frame (Hennebique’s system); the weight of the ceilings is supported by free-standing columns. The technology allowed for a reduction in wall surfaces, thus opening the interior spaces more towards the street. Due to the spatial organization resulting from the structure, it may be regarded as the prototype of free horizontal organisation, which is favoured by Modernism. Turning towards the street, the U-shape plan of the house made it possible to utilize the dimensions of the site more efficiently. As a result of the layout, the stairs, the lifts and the water blocks are housed at the rear, so the dwelling spaces have more advantageous views and light conditions. The in-between levels of the nine-storey building contain the apartmants with the parlour, the dining- and the bedroom at their centres.
Barcelona’s Casa Milà (La Pedrera – The Quarry) ranks amongst Gaudí’s most famous residential projects of symbolic significance. (It presently functions as a public building.) The five-storey apartment house* is an elegant iconic building with an undulating floor-plan and two skylit interior courtyards. An essential design in the architect’s oeuvre, this building uniquely blends the forms of nature and architecture. The frame consists of steel columns, buttresses and vaults. The façade is graced with a profusion of ornaments (floral motifs, cave-like balconies, sculpturesque chimneys) and organic components. Casa Milà, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built after some drafts by Gaudí who supervised the construction process himself without working drawings.
This complex was designed by Michel de Klerk, a prominent figure of the Modernist architectural movement in the 1920s, who headed the prestigious Amsterdam School, which orchestrated the young generation. Evoking the expressive forms of naval designs, the complex named Het Schip (“The Ship”) was built on a triangular site. Housing a total of 102 apartments originally meant for workers, it includes a post office fitted to the acute-angle of the site (presently the Museum of the Amsterdam School), as well as a community hall. The apartments are accessible from the intermediate zone, along which the central courtyard is oriented. The arc-shaped retraction of the whole development, which created an entrance plaza, is accentuated by a tower motif. The complex as such shows the influence of Expressionism. The overall impression of Het Schip is defined by its versatile masonry, ornamental spires, round forms, unusual window designs and unique motifs. Wrought-iron and carpentry work (with a palette of black, dark green and white) are characteristic features of the simple decoration.
Designed by Henri Sauvage, this terraced apartment block was built in 1922 on Rue Vavin, Paris. By applying the monolith reinforced concrete frame, which was a novelty then, the architect was trying to unleash the potentials of this material in terms of volume. Besides constructing cheap social housing, another important concern of the project was to create healthy living conditions. Originally a follower of Art Nouveau, Sauvage later on experimented with terraced houses and realised a building this time with minimal reliance on architectural devices combined with a vocabulary of sophisticated forms. In line with his ambition to improve the environment, the terraces on the receding façade made both the apartments and the street breezier and more advantageously exposed to sunshine. The white glazed tiles enriched with dark-blue ornamentation and the natural vegetation which enwraps the balustrade are extraordinary formal components of the façade. The seven storeys of the apartment block contain 78 apartments altogether. The interior zone, freed up by the terraced form resembling a stair-stepped pyramid, has become a venue for healthy lifestyle. It contains a 33 × 10 m pool.
Built by the Deutscher Werkbund in Stuttgart as an exemplary housing project, Weissenhofsiedlung was designed under the supervision of Mies van der Rohe as curator and by famous architects such as Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. Containing a total of 21 buildings completed within a short period of 21 weeks, this project marked the accomplishment of both modern housing and Modernism. Erected on the north-south axis of the site as a free-standing structure, the five-storey building designed by Rohe is uniquely atmospheric and evokes the designs of linear developments. It is also the largest of all the residential buildings here. The rhythm of its façade is defined by the projecting balconies and openings accentuating its horizontal nature. The floor-plan layout of the apartments allowed a broad scope for spatial organisation. The steel-frame structures on the façade walls, the centre and the stairwell made the dwelling units fairly flexible. With the exception of the kitchen and the wet areas, the flats may be freely rearranged to meet their users’ needs. This mode of floor-plan configuration offered an excellent solution to realise both long- and short-term interventions. Residential units could have versatile layouts and variable dimensions.
After the 1920s, demand for homes with modern conveniences called for the first housing estates. Managed by Bruno Taut, an exemplary project of social housing was realised in Britz, a district of Berlin, on the so-called Horse-Shoe Estate (Hufeisensiedlung). Built in seven stages, this ensemble contains more than 1,000 flats with 4 different floor-plans. Besides detached houses, 600 residential units are contained in three-storey apartment blocks here. Breezy and spacious greeneries in between the buildings, providing a sensitively connection with the garden city environment, highlight the importance of gardens. Using architectural means economically, Bruno Taut achieved spectacular effects through the use of various plastered surfaces, integrating mullioned doors and windows and adopting a palette dominated by “Berlin red“. When designing this simple and functional housing estate, standardized floor-plans, prefabrication technology and the rationalisation of the building system came into focus. The prevailing logic of the configuration of the apartments placed the important living spaces and niches, the balconies or loggias, along the elevation facing the garden. The entrances, staircases and service functions are situated along the street façade. The rather small (49 m²) dwelling units have been popular ever since. Significant as an historical monument, this housing estate was listed by UNESCO as a protected World Heritage Site in 2008.
A prominent figure of the Russian avantgarde (materialistic and pragmatic) architecture, Ginzburg also headed the OSA group (the association of contemporary Russian architects). The main objective of this organisation was a communal housing project to construct modern flat types and thus realise a new form of housing. Narkomfin Dom Kommuna in Moscow is one of the variations of the strojkem standardized apartment type, designed by a research team under Ginzburg’s management. The designer focussed on such issues as the integration of communal and individual dwelling spaces, while propagating the principle of gradually introducing collectivity and the communal use of amenities. A distinguishing feature of this communal house is the two-way internal street connecting duplex apartments. The green-roof building unit containing a restaurant, a library, a gym hall and a day-care nursery is also strung along the circulation axis. Due to its severely dilapidated condition, Narkomfin Dom Kommuna has been scheduled for demolition.
Showing characteristics of Modernist architecture and featuring different vocabularies of forms designed by several architects (Scharoun, Gropius, Forbat, Bartning, Henning and Häring), the highly versatile Siemensstadt estate created new standards in social housing. Based on a concept by Hans Scharoun, a residential complex with open spaces floating in green was constructed. Divided into three parts, the five-storey apartment block, arranged on a north-south axis to optimise building orientation, offered exemplary forms of housing, primarily containing dwelling units with 2+1 rooms. Since distinguishing features of the design – such as the loggias, roof superstructures and the proportions of openings – are reminiscences of naval architecture (ship forms), this tenement house earned the moniker “Panzerkreuzer“ (or armoured cruiser). As a significant Modernist residential estate of Berlin, the Ring Estate (in German: Großsiedlung Siemensstadt, also known as Ringsiedlung) was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2008.
As a result of intensive housing projects after World War I, more than 60,000 new homes were built in the capital of Austria. The majority of municipal tenement complexes (Gemeindebauten) of ”Red Vienna” (Rotes Wien) were designed by Otto Wagner’s apprentices. Typologically, the Karl-Marx-Hof (“Court”) complex may be regarded as a large-scale block development. The apartments are organized around huge interior courtyards which span almost 1 km long and 11 m deep. The street front – with gates leading into the courtyards and rhythmically spaced spires – represents both monumental architecture and social housing. The design programme contained a total of 1,382 apartments, the overwhelming majority of them with two rooms. The premises include a variety of communal amenities such as laundromats, baths, shower rooms, two kindergartens, a library and 25 business offices.
Highpoint 1 may be regarded as the first realised designs of Le Corbusier’s five architectural points in England. The transversal wings allowed for ideal separation of the adjacent apartments. The majority of the residential units are open on three sides, which makes them both breezier and lighter. Highpoint 1 was meant for affluent clients, as well as for women wanting modern and comfortable housekeeping. The floor-plan layout of the two- and three-room flats created an exemplary formal and functional order. The interior spatial organization of the flats is logical and clear. The design of the bedroom-bathroom-hall, separate from the spaciously furnished living and dining room has proven exemplary. As a follow-up, Highpoint 2, built on an adjoining site, contains duplex apartments with symmetrical floor-plans.
Designed by Giuseppe Terragni, a member of Gruppo 7 and a prominent figure of Modernist Italian architecture, Lavezzari House in Milan was erected on an acute-angled site as a development in unbroken rows with a symmetrical, flat-roof structure. With its modern vocabulary of forms and materials, it is one of the five most remarkable multiple-family dwelling houses in Milan, which Terragni co-designed with Pietro Lingeri. On each strorey, three apartments open from the circulation core, centred around a three-flight stairwell and a lift. Jutting out from the front, as well as in the direction of the side streets, cantilevered balconies with upturned R-C sheets provide the leitmotifs of this corner building, which is divided into three parts. The side façade is gradually stepped back towards the neighbouring houses.
Built after one of the Rationalist designs by Terragni, Casa Rustici realises two innovative architectural concepts: transparency and the integration of glass surfaces. With this strictly organised, Modernist-style seven-storey block of flats, Terragni interpreted the communication between the environment and the building’s space in his own characteristic and original way. The building is made up of parallel cubes, which open towards the street, creating transparency and a living space bathed in light. The volumes perpendicular to the street front and the court that they surround are strung along bridges and terraces that are open in the direction of the public space.
Designed by Marshall & Tweedy, this building in St. John’s Wood contains 84 modern luxury apartments. The seven-storey block stands out against its environment with its elegant and yet restrained style, volume and materials. Clinker-clad and trimmed with cast stone borders, the projecting main front overlooking the street features semi-circular windows, loggias and balcony doors. The leitmotifs of the façade are the semi-circular, cantilevered balconies joining the glass partitions. They turn around the angles of the building with their horizontal metal railings. Owing to its simple and smooth brick cladding, the front overlooking the court remains a restrained composition. The elongated H-shape of the block contains a variety of apartment types, ranging from studio units with minimum floor space to the largest five-bedroom flats. The modern and generous apartments are furnished and equipped with all the modern conveniences. Besides, tenants have an underground car garage at their disposal.
Taking up a whole city block, this residential complex containing small flats was built after integral designs of a linear development. The main principles of design work typical of Modernist architecture were to position parallel buildings aligned on a north–south axis, as well as to position empty spaces rhythmically and volumes succeeding each other in rows. This standardized residential district contains ten buildings in three rows inside the slab along the perimeter of the housing estate. Featuring simple Modernist architecture, the complex has a floor-plan system contained in a rectangle which mediates the finely articulated, composed facade and the well-balanced volumes. The distances between the buildings are in proportion with their heights, thus optimising light and ventillation. The block’s general types are made up of three-tiered parts. The flats of one, two or three rooms have a floor space of 25, 45 and 55 m² respectively. The minimal studio units include an integrated bathroom-kitchen block, as well as a living room with a loggia, while the living areas include the dining hall and the hallway. By the early 1980s, the buildings had deteriorated to an extent that they were in a dangerous condition.
Viceroy Close was built in downtown Birmingham as the first multi-storey block of flats in the interwar period on the sites of former Victorian houses. It was also the first to include a vast expanse of garden, offering tenants a suitable space for privacy despite the high density development. The entrance core of each building is a lounge from which flats are accessible via the staircase and an elevator. The robust brick-clad volume of the building is articulated by the refined tracery in the shifting planes along the façade. Of the eight flat types this block contains, the single-room units feature a bathroom, dining room and living room, while the five-room flats contain two bathrooms and two living rooms.
An apartment building with Modernist tones, Oslo Court graces St. John's Wood, one of the most exclusive districts of London. Designed especially to meet the needs of young married couples, residential buildings containing luxury apartments were constructed here intensively during the 1930s. Oslo Court is a development that illustrates this. The fan-shaped floor plan allowed 112 of its 125 apartments to have direct views over the neighbouring Regent's Park. The units are accessible from the two staircase cores via a corridor between them. The two main entrances open from the park, but there is a third entrance from the opposite side leading on to the garage level. The building contains flats with five different floor plan layouts; the single-room (one-bedroom) units include a living room, a kitchen, a separate bathroom and a balcony.
This free-standing, four-storey, flat-roofed, multi-tenant apartment building was built in the Modernist style with a symmetrical layout to contain six apartments in a compact volume only differentiated by the staircase in its central axis, which is a different height. Yet, there are no shifts in the plane along the façade. Two-tier, three-room apartments have a clear and logical floor plan layout. Each apartment has a loggia that faces the garden and runs along in front of the wing. Rooms overlooking the street feature French balconies. The simple plaster-clad volume is closed on the end elevations, while it folds out towards the garden with frames that open up. The character of the façade overlooking the internal courtyard is mediated by solid and pierced parapets outside the apartments, as well as by the rhythm and harmony of the open stairwell’s railings. There are parking spaces in the ground-floor street lane, aw well as light-bathed communal spaces that open towards the courtyard.
Located in downtown Como, Casa d’affitto Giuliani-Frigerio is the last realised apartment block by Terragni. It shows the influence of forms used by Italian Modernism, as well as those of buildings designed by Le Corbusier (who was respected by Terragni as an exemplary architect), especially with regard to the composition of the roof garden and the ribbon windows. In line with Terragni’s philosophy of architecture, the house is composed of parallel volumes and rows of empty spaces, which in this case he combined with the rotation of the building. The architect was fond of asymmetrical designs, which he also applied elsewhere. The five-storey Frigerio house contains 14 apartments. Its northern façade ranks amongst the most sophisticated compositions by Terragni.