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Building Culture

Ernst May and the New Frankfurt am Main Initiative, 1926–1931


Susan R. Henderson

This book is a history of the initiative, its projects and actors, notably the architect and planner Ernst May, and its achievements, set within the turbulent context of the Weimar decade. It chronicles its many accomplishments: the construction of housing settlements, innovations in construction and materials, the parks and garden colonies program, innovations in school, medical facility and church design, reforms in woman’s sphere, and a crafting of New Life culture. It examines the New Frankfurt am Main in light of the social and political debates that shaped it and the works it produced, and describes the relationship of work and theory to contemporary reform movements. Finally, the narrative underscores the gulf between the idyll of modernity and the political and social realities of life in a Germany on the brink of collapse.


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Acknowledgments ix Abbreviations xi Maps xiv Epigraph xvi Introduction 1 1 The Early Settlements. From Utopia To Realpolitik 35 Bruchfeldstrasse: Working-Class Enclave - 36 “Stadt im Grün.” The Nidda Valley Settlements - 41 More Settlements, East and South - 70 Housing the Poor - 83 2 House Building: Type, Form and Culture 95 The Frankfurt House - 99 Labor, the Municipality, and the Economy of Construction - 125 “Dampness, your name is May” - 129 3 The New Woman’s Home. Kitchens, Laundries, Furnishings 143 Female Redomestication and the Kitchen - 147 “Labor-Saving, Clean and Safe:” The New Utilities - 160 Useable Furniture - 176 4. Life in the Settlements 203 The Community - 205 Radio: The Settlers Tune In - 217 The Church: Spiritual Reform - 222 viii Building Culture 5 Parks and Gardens 245 Parks - 246 The Rationalization of Eden - 265 The Cemetery -286 The Poetics of the New Life - 293 6 Architectural Healing. Hygiene and the Pavilion 303 Physical Hygiene and the Clinic - 307 New Buildings Make New People: The School - 318 Social Hygiene. Housing Marginal Populations - 344 7 Rationalization Takes Command. 397 Zeilenbau and the Politics of CIAM Blue-Collar Workers and Zeilenbau Compromises - 400 White-Collar Workers and a New Planning Strategy - 418 Public Dialogues and the CIAM Congress - 426 447 Kulturstadt Frankfurt - 448 Das Neue Frankfurt: Crucible for the Modernist Narrative - 463 Metropolitan Frankfurt - 474 Civic Campaigns and Culture Wars - 491 9 “und...

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