Garden City Piesteritz
The Piesteritz Workers’ Housing Estate is seen as a paragon example for the implementation of the social reform ideas of the garden city movement. Between 1916 and 1919, the urban planner Georg Haberland and the architects Otto Rudolf Salvisberg and Paul Schmitthenner created dwellings here for the approximately 2,000 employees of the Central German Nitrogen Works. The company housing development was intended not only to satisfy the factory workers’ needs for living space but also to enable them to enjoy a balance of living, recreation and working in a unified urban environment.
The result was a self-contained community that seemed to have grown organically over time. In the spirit of reform architecture, the design relied on traditional materials and a simple architectural style that deliberately averted historicism but still showed tendencies towards the monumental, always following the belief that the creative means would exert a positive influence on individuals and society. The estate is composed of terraced houses, but each street was given a different character, for example by varying the style of front doors and window shutters. Great importance was attached to promoting interaction amongst the residents: in addition to the housing, the designers included communal squares, green spaces and public buildings such as a school, a medical centre, a department store and a marketplace.
The estate consisted of 363 terraced and single-family houses. The largest, with a size of about 160 square metres, were reserved for the plant managers. Within close proximity were the large workers’ flats with about 50 square metres each. Unmarried women employed in the factory were accommodated in the so-called home for ladies (Damenheim). Each of the dwellings had its own toilet, laundry room and bathtub – unusual luxuries for the time. In addition, each house had its own vegetable garden for leisure and self-sufficiency.
The housing estate, which remains fully inhabited to this day, is still regarded as a showcase project – in contrast to the nitrogen factory for which it was built, which is notorious for its pollutant emissions. In conjunction with the Expo 2000 world’s fair, Piesteritz, now a part of Lutherstadt Wittenberg, was restored and the ensemble’s original character was re-established. [DB/DK]
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