Self-help housing in the Weimar Republic: The work of Ernst May

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Abstract

This paper examines the work of the architect Ernst May with regard to self-build housing initiatives during the Weimar Republic (1918-33). Among the many attempts to assuage the housing shortage in early 20th-century Germany, self-build housing initiatives were the last resort, emerging only in times of dire economic crisis. During the hyper-inflation years from 1919 through to 1924 and then with the onset of the world depression in 1930, the state encouraged housing authorities to develop self-build strategies, along with experiments in 'recovered' vernacular building materials and techniques. This paper examines the work of the architect Ernst May with regard to these initiatives. May's career is unique in its productivity, in the inventiveness of his strategies and the relentlessness with which he pursued economising measures. At the same time, it is typical in the types of self-build experiments he developed to deal with the crisis. Further, the paper traces through May's career the formative impact of the political and social context that shaped and delimited the building programme, its meaning and ultimate utility to society self-build programmes in the Weimar years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-328
Number of pages18
JournalHousing Studies
Volume14
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies

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