The Steel House is a remarkable testimony of the innovative ideas prevailing at the historic Bauhaus. Built in 1926–27, painter Georg Muche and architecture student Richard Paulick used it to test the applicability of steel for residential construction. For this they relied on a radically modern formal language.
In the 1920s, the New Architecture engendered various model houses that were built to test new materials and construction methods, and the experimental housing estate in Dessau-Törten by Walter Gropius was part of that backdrop. Walter Gropius gave Bauhaus members Paulick and Muche a plot at the entrance to the Törten estate where they could erect their Steel House. Their objective was to create a prototype for low-cost and expeditious mass production. Moreover, the 90-square-metre building was originally designed as a house that could “grow” by being expanded at a later date. With the steel construction systems available on the market at the time, however, it was not possible to implement their idea.
But it was possible to realise a completely new, radically modern formal language. Paulick and Muche were not the first to develop a steel house. What was new, however, was the appearance, which completely dispensed with traditional elements such as gables or double-pitched roofs. The Steel House is made up of two nested cubic forms of different heights. Inside, this yields different ceiling heights: while the living room and main bedroom are in the higher part, the other rooms are accommodated in the lower part. The humble character of the unpretentious grey house is deliberately intended to make reference to industrial means of fabrication.
The Steel House never went into mass production. There were plans for more steel houses in Dessau-Törten, but due to technical defects caused by the design – in the house it was too hot in the summer and too cold in winter, plus problems arose with moisture and corrosion – none were built.
The Steel House, which was still used as a private residence until the 1990s, was structurally altered in places by its residents. In 1993 the building was substantially restored to its original condition, in accord with its status as a historic monument. Today, the Steel House can be visited on guided tours of the Dessau-Törten Estate. [KS/DK]
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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.