Ernst May and the New Frankfurt am Main Initiative, 1926–1931
1 The Early Settlements. From Utopia To Realpolitik 35
1The Early Settlements From Utopia To Realpolitik What I saw in Europe in 1930 was so exciting that it transformed me from an aesthete into a housing reformer. . . . The most voluminous and interesting program, in Frankfurt under Ernst May, included a new system of construc- tion, all kinds of innovations in planning and community facilities, and even specially designed kitchen equipment, which was mass-produced and sold in packages. Housing schemes were quite carefully designed for varied social uses: old people, single women, families at different income levels and so on. Everywhere technical, economic and social research was going on, includ- ing Alexander Klein’s ingenious studies of minimal dwelling plans, based on analysis of family functions and household circulation.1 —Catherine Bauer At virtually the same time that Henry Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson were touring Europe, preparing what was to become Modern Architecture: Internation- al Exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art, the American Catherine Bauer, journalist and housing reformer, was attending the Frankfurt course for professionals on the New Architecture. In 1932, she would publish her influential Modern Housing and introduce her all-male cohort, including Lewis Mumford, Clarence Stein, and the other members of the Regional Planning Association of America, to exciting European developments in housing and planning. She would also organize the housing section of MoMA’s Modern Architecture exhibit. Among the cities she visited, she reserved her highest praise for the Frankfurt, particularly its new settlements of Praunheim and Römerstadt in the Nidda Valley. There, in a...
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