Hundred years deutscher werkbund

Twenty-three years ago I wrote in the “Zeit” on the occasion of the anniversary of the Deutscher Werkbund: “At 75 one has reached the desirable peak: one is worthy, recognized and honored; one is respectfully loved; even the worst enemies are reconciled. Nevertheless one is old. Is the Deutscher Werkbund old?!”

Now one must ask whether the Deutscher Werkbund has become senile. With the centennial coming shortly, this fear is natural. The error in this argumentation, however, lies in confusing an institution with a human organism. The changing membership alone ensures a renewal, providing a constant replacement of cells. Now, if all the same the Deutscher Werkbund is perceived as the personification of an idea and if the concern for its well-being and travails easily slips into the area of medical diagnostics, then presumably this is due to the fact that it was mainly carried by outstanding personalities. These spared it the anonymity of other comparable institutions. From the beginning it was a union of idealists with a sense of realism, whose efforts neither got lost in regulations nor admitted fantasies. Especially in the early years there was a healthy sense of the impact on the world at large.

What was just said assumes an acquaintance with the history of the Deutscher Werkbund: Its establishment in 1907 in Munich as an association of artists (primarily architects), industrialists and publicists. Their common concern was the aesthetic improvement of the environment. This applied to all things great and small. Thus the new and more conscious design was to range from sofa cushions to urban planning. This pedagogical intention was most effectively presented in the form of publications and exhibitions. The latter especially established the impact, indeed the fame, of the Deutscher Werkbund. Particularly memorable were the Cologne exhibition of 1914, for which almost an entire city district was constructed, and the Weißenhofsiedlung in 1927.

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