What is minority housing

Behnisch & Partner 1952-2005

Dear Madam or Sir,
Dear friend,

On the 100th birthday of Hugo Häring, it will not be easy for us - as we were told - to deal primarily with our own time, with the basis and legitimation for our own work; especially if we compare the claim on which Hugo Häring's idea is based with. everyday practice.

Certainly, we can think of a few things to justify ourselves: e.g. that Hugo Häring could only rarely "try out" the claim formulated in his theoretical writings in the practice of his everyday life, that - unfortunately - there are only very few buildings of his own. This lack of practice could possibly lead to the fact that Hugo Häring's thoughts could have stood out from what we call reality.

But these considerations should not displace the strong impression that we experience when we recognize that Hugo Häring - precisely in this somewhat aloof position - has obviously succeeded in not destroying his ideals, those of his youth to allow them to be cultivated and expanded instead, perhaps also in order to be able to live with stability, purpose and goal, bound to these ideals. And that doesn't seem like a little to us.

It is also not as if Haring's thoughts were fruitless, that they remained without influence on architects and were not tried out.

Once, of course, he built it himself; but in the end the Philharmonie in Berlin was also built, not by Hugo Häring, of course, but by his chosen relative Hans Scharoun. And in this "essential shape", which certainly belongs to the greatest thing that has ever been built in our time, we also recognize Hugo Häring, his thoughts and concepts, the principle, for example, "building from the inside out", the problem of "finding a shape." ", the" individuality ", which is slightly different from the result of arbitrary design processes, the knowledge that perfection is not given to humans, that they should not then fake it, especially since they could only succeed in relatively insignificant parts of the whole , the conviction that things should find their shape and should not be assigned, the problem of the "form of performance" which was later expanded to an "essential shape", the knowledge that building leads to the necessity of having to make decisions that are self-evident Include confessions, etc.

A rich source that leads us away from power, violence and arbitrariness towards tolerance, freedom and individuality. That is a vast field that we cannot plow in 30 minutes. But this time is enough to pursue one of Hugo Häring's thoughts further and to be able to link it with your own considerations (in any case, considerations in our office are increasingly coming up against thoughts of Scharoun and Hugo Häring).

(Without direct connection with the word I will show pictures of buildings that were planned in our office as legitimation for what I say; without direct connection; but also not without connection. I will start with a few pictures of the Olympic Park in Munich. I ask you to accept these pictures as a reference to our new architecture award winner. We planned the roofing for the sports buildings with Frei Otto, Leonhard & Andrae - Jörg Schlaich.)

Perhaps stimulated by Jean Gebser, perhaps also in parallel with him, Häring developed the idea that a basic geometric shape would belong to every cultural epoch, that this basic geometric shape would be common to all phenomena of the respective cultural epoch, the structures of society and the "products" of it Culture - including architecture.
The Egyptians had the square, the Greeks the rectangle, the Romans the circle and the Baroque period the ellipse. And our time is based on the organic principle, although it should be warned against trying to equate the organic principle with plant forms.

Häring and Scharoun were of the opinion that we were living in a transition phase today. We were planning for a new society, the structures of which are not yet known to us.

Of course, this creates a "hole" between the task of planning for a new company and the knowledge that you are not able to know this company. Scharoun has apparently overcome this gap in practice without difficulty, perhaps intuitively, at least without proving it verbally.

We ourselves try to bridge this gap for our everyday lives. We think that we would be more likely to achieve this if we were to orientate ourselves towards closer goals, if we took smaller steps. First of all, it has to be said that architecture inherently adopts the structures of reality, the structures of society. We don't have to strive for that. In any case, empirical reality imposes its structures on everything. In fact, we see everywhere - and I do not have to expressly prove this here - the conditions of our reality shine through in architecture.

However, if we want to tackle the difficult undertaking of using architecture to correspond to the structure of a future society, then we have to create the conditions in advance of architecture that would correspond to a future society for the area in which architecture is created. So before architecture. And we can only do that if we become clear about the direction in which our society could develop, should develop.

Of course, we immediately see that the whole thing is taking on utopian traits, that we are then making architecture for a society that we want it to be, that doesn't exist, that may even never exist. But how could we live without utopias, without the belief in a future in which the shortcomings of our reality could be eliminated ?!
And in the course of these considerations we come to the question - presented here very briefly - whether there might not be a democratic architecture?

Some architects claim that there is no such thing as democratic architecture, and by the way it cannot exist, since 'democratic' is a political term, a term that is not architectural.
Certainly, this architect avoids dealing with the question of what he has to do in order to be able to plan a democratic architecture, perhaps even eludes this question, and thus perhaps finds the legitimation for his architecture, for the way he is worked on his tasks.

Others claim that there must be a democratic architecture, since the way we treat each other must also be expressed in architecture and that if we use democratic procedures, these must then also be reflected in architecture.

Is there a democratic architecture?
Is there a Christian architecture?
Was there a Christian architecture?
Was there an architecture of the Roman state?
Was there an architecture of absolutism and that of the centralized, administrative state after the French Revolution?
Was there an architecture of the Counter Reformation?
And one of the civil service state in the 19th century?
etc.

I mean, we have to answer these questions positively. The Roman state architecture with its forums, halls, temples, bridges, etc. with its almost administrative order, with the symbol-laden column architecture adopted from the Greeks and the more practical arches, pillars, barrels and domes.
The architecture of Christianity in the Middle Ages, its cathedrals. The architecture of the absolute rulers in Versailles, e.g. the city plan of Karlsruhe, the splendor of the veneration of Mary in the Baroque of the Counter-Reformation, the cold, absolute, inhuman, bureaucratic architecture after the French Revolution, which is more ambiguously called revolutionary architecture, the cool classicism of Official state
etc.

Sure, these architectures existed.
They were the result of a specific cultural, political, historical, economic, etc. situation.

And if these architectures existed, then there simply has to be the architecture that belongs to a democratically functioning state and society.

And we must be able to recognize in the architecture of this state and social system whether it really follows democratic tendencies or whether it only has the appearance of outwardly democratic techniques.

If we relate the problem to our situation, then we must
we ask:

  1. Will we have a democratic architecture and if not - why not?
    and
  2. what the essence of such a democratic architecture would be
    and
  3. how it would look from the outside, how we could recognize this architecture as democratic?

To the first question:
Democratic architecture could emerge if we - in the run-up to architecture - were democratic. But that's a problem.
Carlo Schmid pointed out that everyday life can be democratic, even if governments have not come about in a democratic way and we know that in our country where governments and parliaments are democratically elected, details are usually not be done democratically, including those that affect us all.

I am thinking here of corporations in which decisions are made by a few, nothing is published and nothing is justified; Decisions, the consequences of which we must all bear, are made internally.
Refineries are built, of course on the best soil, put into operation and then closed again; as the profitability of the group requires. Poisonous acids and other chemicals are poured into rivers and seas - when dumped it is called indistinct - against the will of the population and against their interests. Collapsed, dislocated - as these terms, which are supposed to "civilize" the brutality of the process, are all called:
It may be economically efficient, but it is not democratic.

But I also think of the fact that the areas we have chosen have ceded entire areas to supranational organizations, to organizations that make decisions, keep them secret, do not justify them, do not publish the criteria and consequences, although there are e.g. B. in the area of ​​armaments is about our life and possibly our death.
Perhaps this procedure is also efficient, it is not democratic. Are we now storing poison gases and nuclear missiles, where are they located?
Where are the positions of the nuclear missiles of the West at which the nuclear missiles of the potential enemy (also a term that is more veiled than illuminated) are aimed? Which parts of the country and population will be destroyed immediately and which will only be destroyed in the second blow?
Doesn't that affect us directly?

And I think of individuals' homes. To a large extent, these are assigned by authorities, corporations and property developers. I would like to remind you of the Märkisches Viertel, Neuperlach and many other examples. That too may be efficient, but that is not democratic either. Yes, how should a democratic architecture be created with such conditions?

2.:
And if we ask what the essence of democratic architecture is, then we have to ask about the essence of the "democratic".
And again Carlo Schmid helps us further: "The technology of democratic procedures has its ultimate purpose in bringing people together in such a way that the dignity of everyone is satisfied and everyone, including minorities, is given the institutional opportunity to do so To be able to develop one's wealth in freedom. "
Dear little bit, let's look at our reality, in social housing z. B .: human dignity!
The dignity of minorities! Where do you get that?
What role did human dignity play when the Märkisches Viertel was planned? How are minorities treated with us? B., perhaps with the expansion of an airport, with the construction of nuclear power plants, of processing plants; where these minorities are looking for housing e. B. Who is actually thinking of human dignity? With such conditions, how is democratic architecture supposed to come about?

And 3rd:
Does the architecture created through democratic procedures have a special appearance? Could there even be a democratic style?
As an alternative, perhaps to metabolism, rationalism, cubism, brutalism, etc. to architectural directions that can be classified into groups from the outside. We suspect it: such an attempt will not continue. The question of democratic architecture is not aimed primarily at the exterior of architecture, not at a canon of forms; the democratic lies in the procedures.

So we have to ask: have we made use of democratic procedures.
And further: have we oriented our work towards the goals that correspond to our understanding, our ideals of democracy today?
And again Carlo Schmid. He says: "Through the reception of human rights, democracy has become a moral category alongside a political one."
So: it is not enough for a democratically established committee to issue a planning mandate.

Even after that we have to
1. Use democratic procedures
and
2. Use the chance that these democratic procedures offer, which aim to humanize the state, our coexistence and our buildings, architecture and human reality.

And if we assume that architecture reflects the forces that were effective in the future when it was created, then such democratic procedures should also shine through in architecture, in the house, in the urban area.
And they do that too.
Let us look at urban planning solutions in Switzerland, at social housing in Holland and at university buildings in England and compare these with "our properties" in the Federal Republic of Germany.

We can easily see the difference and no longer have to ask where the democratic is more at home and where human rights are. are more natural.

But that's not how we work. We are working on other things, on architecture. I have the impression that we in the middle of Europe are always particularly bothered by the short-lived tendencies in architecture. Certainly, these tendencies, which appear again and again, are favored by the fact that z. For example, problems in architecture can also be made visible - and thus "banned" that have been neglected in our reality.
The loss of material and plastic quantity and quality caused by the analytical, structural architecture certainly contributed to the fact that in brutalism the material and the plastic were aestheticized. The loss of the necessity of having to master geometric laws and to learn for them certainly also led to the fact that these laws are now being rediscovered and materialized in architecture.
And the loss of the overview of our complex, complicated and also quite chaotic (i.e. but also vital) reality led to the fact that simplified conceptions of order are brought to the fore in architecture (axes, simple geometric bodies and references, etc.).
This series can be continued.
I believe that such architectural tendencies are on the one hand understandable, on the other hand they have to be short-lived. They lose their legitimacy the moment the problem becomes visible and has been dealt with.

But above all, there is something common to all of these currents, namely the desire not to deliver architecture exclusively to the conditions of reality, not simply to leave architecture to the influence of power, but rather to bind architecture to something else, to something higher.

We can also look at architecture from this point of view, as well as trying to read out the "higher" in it, the "higher" that was effective when it was created, that which lifts architecture beyond what is already given to it by reality .
And then a lot emerges: higher and elevated, also all the substitute gods: technology, geometry, organization, manageability, variability, plasticity, etc., aspects that have their place in the whole, which also have their own laws, but which then, when they are emphasized, given a higher priority, attained a prominent position that they are hardly entitled to; Aspects which, from this position, subordinate everything else with their laws and thus deny the existence of weaker forces, show a one-sided worldview. (Which then leads to the short-lived tendencies mentioned.) These substitute gods are seductively clear and "verifiable". The superordinate higher, the meaning of our endeavors ... but these cannot replace them.

If we want to look for the constant tendencies in architecture, we have to look for the constant superordinate forces, for the goals, ideals of our time.
According to goals to which we are all committed and which without our help fade into the background. Here belongs the striving for freedom and dignity for everyone (and also for everyone) and our hope to be able to approach this goal.
(Freedom is not to be described with the possibility of being able to act arbitrarily, but with the possibility of being able to live and work out of oneself. And dignity is closely connected with it.) And this dignity is to be granted to everyone and everything.

This tendency can be traced through history; and also the recurring attempts to deny freedom and dignity - in a different interest.
Freedom and dignity for oneself and for others, for everyone and for everything, including things.

Modern and new building were initially committed to these tendencies. In this sense, May's housing estates in Frankfurt and Scharoun's Philharmonie in Berlin and Häring's thoughts are landmarks of our cultural history.

If we feel obliged to this tradition, then we have to oppose the continually newly building up constraints of reality, reject them, create space, space for development, scope for everyone and everything in reality; and the possibility for everyone to be able to find themselves, their shape and their place in society (and of course then also in the architectural shape).

(It is questionable whether we will achieve this goal.
But:
This doubt does not free us from the task of trying to get closer to this goal. If we did not do this, the constraints that keep building up again and again would push us further and further away from the goal.)

For this, actions before architecture are probably required first. We can then no longer accept without further construction tasks that come our way, simply "extend" them and cast them in architecture. A large part of the construction tasks must be corrected and transformed in the state of the task.

But such an approach is also reflected in architecture. For architecture, too, the ideas, orders, priorities etc. that develop from the conditions of the time must be examined, rejected and transformed, with the above-mentioned tendencies. To grant freedom and dignity to everyone and everything and to commit oneself to it.

This tendency will then also shine through the finished work. Solutions then emerge that have these tendencies as their own, in which the parts of the whole are also free for themselves and will stand for their function as a whole. An ideal image of our society.

Additional harmonization measures, geometrical, formal or of any other kind are then out of place. Such harmonization measures would even spoil the essence of such architecture by depriving architecture of the freedom inherent in it and its parts.

Such architecture could then be compared with a landscape (tendency) in which each stands for itself and in connection with the other and with the whole - until overpowering ones intervene. A tree should be allowed to remain a tree, a support a support, a rose a rose and a chair a chair.
etc.

A diverse architecture, a uniform architecture. The diversity of appearance has its unity in the common freedom, dignity, hope and tolerance - tendencies that are also goals of our coexistence.

Yes - there is an architecture of democracy and it is different, functions differently and also looks different from the architecture of the apparatuses of the state, production and corporations, different from the architecture of the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, different from the architecture of the Counter-Reformation and of course different from the architecture of metabolism, brutalism, rationalism, cubism
etc.
While the latter focus on an actually quite minor aspect of the whole, the interchangeability of parts, for example, the plastic quality, the geometrical-formal quality, the self-sufficiency of the architecture - which means: the will, architecture from everyday life and to detach from people and their ideals, etc., a democratic architecture will make use of democratic procedures and put people - more precisely: the rights and dignity of people, their individuality - at the center:
such an architecture is different.
And such an architecture also looks different.
Such an architecture will be fairer, more open, less opinionated, more tolerant, less on the pedestal, by no means totalitarian, it will be more differentiated, less harsh, less monumental. It will be more human, more natural, Hugo Häring would probably have said: more organic.

In principle, it can't be difficult.
In reality then; we must oppose all this and all those who prevent this in everyday life, the powers of daily politics, production, administration, etc., all those who are not picky about the means to achieve their goals.

But I do think it's worth working for. What else do we want to get involved in?

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