Houses with Balcony Access
The social reformist credo of Swiss architect and second Bauhaus director Hannes Meyer was simple: “Put the needs of the people before the needs of luxury”. In his Houses with Balcony Access (1929/30), he succeeded admirably in fulfilling his ambition to place social issues at the centre of the architecture and work at the Bauhaus. The ensemble is the first joint project undertaken by the Bauhaus building department, which had been created with Hannes Meyer as its first director. The Houses with Balcony Access have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2017.
In 1928, the City of Dessau commissioned the Bauhaus to expand the Dessau-Törten Estate. Five 3-storey apartment blocks were built, designed explicitly for workers and people with very low incomes. They have a total of 90 flats, which are accessed via the outdoor corridors in the form of extended balconies that give the buildings their name. These access galleries not only fulfilled Meyer’s principle of economic efficiency but also had an important social function: as communal balconies, they were intended to promote neighbourly communication and solidarity.
“Community” is also an important keyword in the history of the buildings’ development: they were designed and implemented collectively. In addition to Hannes Meyer, twelve Bauhaus students were involved, including Konrad Püschel and Philipp Tolziner.
The design clearly stands out from the neighbouring cubic white forms of Walter Gropius’s standardised houses. Unplastered brick was used for the façades of the Houses with Balcony Access. Light-coloured reinforced concrete bands above the rows of windows on the rear façade contrast with the red colour of the brick walls. The differentiated palette of materials and the colours of the window frames, which are partly made of wood and partly of steel, contribute to a varied appearance.
With a size of 47 square metres each, the three-room flats are small but are laid out to be highly efficient. The goal of saving space and costs was also factored in when fitting out the so-called Volkswohnungen, or “people’s flats”, with what was then very modern equipment, including central heating, a fitted kitchen and a bathroom with indoor toilet. To this day the houses remain fully inhabited. The buildings were refurbished in 1998 and it is now possible to visit a reconstructed model flat as part of a guided tour. [KM/DK]
- UNESCO world heritage site
Contact and opening hours
The Houses with Balcony Access are located at Peterholzstrasse 40, 48, 56 and at Mittelbreite 6, 14 and just freely accessible from the outside.
The Dessau-Törten settlement with the model apartment in the Houses with Balcony Access and the steel house can be visited as part of a guided tour.
The Bauhaus Dessau Foundation is a non-profit foundation under public law. It is funded by the State of Saxony-Anhalt, the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media (BKM) and the City of Dessau-Roßlau.