The idea

A Werkbundsiedlung. Something old-fashioned seems to resonate in the word “Werkbundsiedlung” (Werkbund housing development), which, in contrast to the general practice in current German, has no English components and appears somewhat unwieldy as if its history and significance could be discerned in it directly. Or should we say something ‘timeless’ resonates in it because “Werk” (“work”), “Bund” (“union”) and “Siedlung” (“settlement”) designate fundamental aspects of human cohabitation? Timeless perhaps because projects such as Weißenhof in Stuttgart, which still sets standards today, are associated with it? And big names such as Le Corbusier or Mies van der Rohe?

A retrospective, after all, would be quite appropriate on the occasion of the centennial. But the Werkbund has always been known for its topicality, for its intensive and critical confrontation of current issues. It was a highly topical phenomenon that resulted in the establishment of the Werkbund, which was to be overcome by the

programmatic “refinement of the quality of craftsmanship”: The “alienation between the executive and the inventive spirit” that was a concomitant of industrialization. Weißenhof and the other Werkbund housing developments also sought to “solve certain fundamental questions of living under the conditions of the current period” – and their enduring significance results precisely from this connection to the issues of the day.

What is topical is what is close to human interests. For all its penchant for theoretical discussion, the Werkbund has always been above all concerned with human beings. The creation of high-quality products was not pursued for its own sake, but was regarded as an economic and social necessity. Quality in the industrial process was demanded since otherwise “work [becomes] a degrading drudgery,