Ernst May House

ernst-may-gesellschaft, Foto: Reinhard Wegmann.


  • 1927 — 1928
  • Ernst May, Carl-Hermann Rudloff


  • 2005 — 2009
  • Claus Giel

The urban planning programme entitled Das Neue Frankfurt – The New Frankfurt – was conceived to address the city’s growing demand for housing space from the mid-1920s onwards. Under the direction of Frankfurt’s city planning commissioner, Ernst May, more than 12,000 dwelling units were built within five years. The initiative was one of the most comprehensive social housing construction projects of the Weimar Republic. Today, one of the dwellings built in 1927/1928 in the Römerstadt estate is open to visitors as the Ernst May House.

Working with roughly 50 architects and designers, Ernst May sought new concepts for housing and urban development. The aim was not merely to create affordable living space with improved social and hygienic conditions. Rather, May’s stated goal was the formation of a new and more modern society with exemplary living conditions.

The experimental buildings constructed for the New Frankfurt programme in the north of the city were built at relatively low cost. May and his colleagues opted for industrialised construction using prefabricated components. They hired local companies and brought in unemployed craftsmen to build the project. The dwellings were mostly terraced houses with their own gardens and equipped with bathrooms, kitchens and simple, functional furniture. The Römerstadt estate, where the Ernst May House is located, was the first completely electrified housing development in Germany.

Ernst May’s rejuvenation of housing did not focus solely on functional aspects. He was also a pioneer from an aesthetic point of view. May collaborated with different designers from the fields of architecture, industrial design and graphics. Among them was the Viennese architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, who was commissioned by May to design a functional working kitchen for the smallest of spaces. Her creation, popularised as the “Frankfurt kitchen”, was designed following ergonomic principles and practical considerations. Tailored precisely to fit the houses, it took up no more than six square metres.

With its holistic approach, the New Frankfurt programme stands alongside the Bauhaus as one of the most influential movements in 20th century design. The Bauhaus developed the New Architecture through teaching and experimentation, and it was implemented at a large scale for the first time in the New Frankfurt – which was, from the beginning, conceived to improve people’s everyday lives through skilful planning and thoughtful architecture. The housing estates remain inhabited to this day. [DB/DK]


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Im Burgfeld 136
60439 Frankfurt am Main

conveying formula

House at Housing Estate Römerstadt
Ernst May House, Frankfurt am Main: aerial photograph of Römerstadt Housing Estate, c. 1928
ernst-may-gesellschaft, Nachlass Rudloff.
Ernst May House, Frankfurt am Main: aerial photograph of Römerstadt Housing Estate, c. 1928
ernst-may-gesellschaft, Foto: Reinhard Wegmann.

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