Modern Living: 70 Years Later


Another trip to the suburban hillside lead us to this… Behold! The Werkbund Siedlung Exhibition of 1932! As you can see, it’s um…seen better days, to put it mildly.

The Exhibition was organized by Loos friend and scholar Josef Frank, who wanted to demonstrate the possibilities of modern, economical living. Architects featured in the exhibition include Loos, Rietveld, Hoffman, and Richard Neutra. Each housing unit is incredibly small….i mean, “economical,” and clad in de riguer white stucco.

What once stood as a gleaming beacon, a white city-on-a-hill, is now very much, well…broken in. Many houses have yards that have collected with junk over the years. The owner of the house in the photo on the right has decided to forfeit their yard in favor of dirt mounds, which I’m assuming is favored by their pet ducks and chickens. (pictured) Other notable enhancements include: A Neutra house painted lime green, a clothesline hung between balconies of the Rietveld House, numerous plastic garden gnomes scattered through the entire development, lacy curtains in almost every window, and a decidedly relaxed attitude towards the upkeep of the buildings and their properties.

It was amazing to see such a harsh juxtaposition between old photographs of the exhibition and the exhibition as it stands and functions today. Personally, I loved the lived-in Siedlung, and I think it’s well past time to embrace the culture of the plastic lawn ornament. ( well…maybe that was a bit of an over-statement. I need to think about this some more.)

I’d like to hear what other people think of Modern Living in theory vs. Modern Living as it’s realized.