ADOLF G. SCHNECK AND THE WEISSENHOF ESTATE
Professor Adolf G. Schneck, noted member of the Deutsche Werkbund, was given his rightful platform at the Werkbund exhibtion, Die Wohnung (The Apartment), in Stuttgart, 1927. As part of this exhibition 17 of Europe’s leading Modern architects were asked to contribute to the Weissenhofsiedlung. This consisted of 21 buildings, comprising of 60 dwellings. Fronting the project was German architect Mies Van Der Rohe who coordinated budgeting, selected the architects and oversaw the construction.
Whilst the intentions to build family houses for ‘workers’, that illustrated standardization in domestic architecture, the projected figures were vastly underestimated and the market prices for the houses were greater than expected. It was for this reason that the result was an estate whose overall demographic were the ‘educated middle class’. Despite this shift in concept the estate broke boundaries in as much as it was the first time that fully functional buildings, experimental in their materials and layout, would instantly serve as regular lease apartments. It became a world-renowned icon of Modern Architecture.
Schneck (only architect on the project, of 17, who doesn’t have a dedicated Wikipedia page) doesn’t seem to be the most immediate choice for a project like this – his furniture prior being ‘unpretentious’, houses ‘unassuming’ and his competition designs ‘moderately modern’ (i). However, from the conception of the Weissenhof project through to the final selection of architects, he remained on the list – a list altered by Mies, and Gustav Stotz (founder of the project) on more than one occasion. Mies knew of Schneck’s previous involvement in working with government budgets and planning dwellings for civil servants.
This knowledge seems to have given Schneck autonomy over other designers involved. Schneck proposed that he build two houses: one of which was for himself and his family (House 11). Citing that the general idea for the settlement was that the houses were built as models for purchasers who were not chosen beforehand, the Stuttgart construction department turned down his plans. Schneck’s solution was to build just outside of the designated space, which coincidentally came up for sale around the same time. Mies was eager for Schneck’s involvement and know-how that he allowed Houses 11 and 12 into the project. Stotz, who had worked with Schneck on a few exhibitions before, (Die Form, 1925 in particular) was also especially keen. The drawback for Schneck, however, was that the two buildings in their entirety were at his own expense.
House 12 was still within the conceptual boundaries of the Weissenhof project. It was designed as a prototype for domestic housing to be used across the country and supposedly modeled on English estate dwellings. It could be terraced with some minor alterations. He was one of the architects, along with J. J. P. Oud and Mart Stam, whose buildings focused on the standardization of components that were easy to replicate. This concept was somewhat left on the back burner, by most involved, when Mies gave the architects the freedom to be experimental rather than adhere to the original proposal.
Schneck, who was teaching at the time, gave his students the opportunity to be directly involved in the project (his House 12, at least). He obviously taught well, because the kitchen met the approval of Erna Meyer, architect who co-designed the kitchen of J. J. P. Oud’s House 8. Schneck’s interiors have been described as using “tasteful colours” (ii) and he was even asked to design and furnish the interior for Mies’ Apartment 15.
A few years later, based on the Weissenhofseidlung, Josef Frank fronted a version of the project in Vienna, the Werkbundseidlung (1932). This estate focused more on the economy of materials and space, within the interior setting. The interior designer’s came up with various suggestions to furnish smaller spaces, with the help from the trade catalogs of contemporary producers of furniture, lighting, and textiles: the most contributing being Thonet-Mundus. Unlike the Weissenhof estate, and especially under the artistic direction of Frank, the concept for Vienna was not to be a white Modernist estate. Thonet produced colour-coated bentwood , as well as tubular steel, furniture.
Adolf Schneck was not involved directly in the Vienna project, however the impact he had at the 1927 exhibition is evident in the interiors of the Werkbundsiedlung. Frank’s dining chair A64 was used in Walter Loos’s house (no. 19 and 20), for example. The lightness of the furniture contributes to the flexibility of the interiors which were relatively small. Not many of the actual colours used were recorded, but most of the houses have been described as using pastel coloured furniture, and vibrant textiles.
The interiors for houses 17 and 18, designed by Otto Niedermoser and Karl Bräuer, show furniture designed by Schneck: fanned iteration of the A63F, the A413F as a side chair, and dining chairs painted “pale green”. His bentwood furniture designed has become synonymous with the Werkbund Estate, even though he was not directly involved. For years it was said that Josef Frank designed these, until TON unearthed the original design cards (see more here, along with our pair of A63Fs).
(i) + (ii) The Weissenhofsiedlung, Karin Kirsch, Rizzoli, 1989
1 HAUS SCHNECK – Die Form, 1927, http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/form1927/0277
2 Postcard from personal collection
3 Wardrobe in larch with walnut knobs, manufactured by his Daughter Ursula around 1940 – Adolf G. Schneck: Die Stille Reform auf dem Weissenhof, Andreas K. Vetter, Architekturgalerie am Weissenhof, 2000
4 Living room at Oud’s “5 Row Houses” – J. P. Oud: Poetic Functionalist, 1890-1963, NAi, 2001
5 Metal sofa for Model House no. 12, 1927 – Die Stille Reform auf dem Weissenhof
6 Chair design for Thonet, Josef Frank – Die Stille Reform auf dem Weissenhof
7 House 17 – Martin Gerlach jun., Wien Museum