With its circular arrangement, the Leipzig housing estate known as the Rundling (1929/30) is unique in both its dimensions and its design. Here, the architect Hubert Ritter realised his ideas of functionality and a new way of living. The Rundling was created by the municipal authorities in response to the housing shortage of the late 1920s. Today it is an important example of the Neue Sachlichkeit, or New Objectivity, and is a listed historic monument still in residential use.
In 1927, while serving as city planning director, Ritter convened a “Siedlungswoche” (Housing estate week) that brought together international delegates to debate issues of modern residential and housing estate construction. The Rundling – also called the Nibelungensiedlung (Nibelungen estate) for its streets named after German mythology – was developed on the basis of those discussions and is among the most spectacular building projects of its time.
The housing complex is built on a knoll, which Ritter emphasised by making the inner ring of buildings four storeys tall so it rises slightly above the two outer rings of three-storey buildings. Twenty-four buildings were arranged in three concentric rings with an outer diameter of 300 metres. The entire design is founded on the notion of community. At the centre of the complex was a circular pool that was later turned into a flowerbed. The circle is divided into quarters by two intersecting central streets that both provide access and open up lines of sight. On the west side, two commercial buildings flank the street to form a gateway-like entry into the complex. Ritter designed eleven different floor plans for the 624 flats in response to the buildings’ cross sections and other individual requirements. Unlike living in the dimly lit rear courtyards of a typical urban district, here residents had ample greenery, air and light.
The Second World War left the estate badly damaged. A partial reconstruction took place in 1965/1966. In the 1980s, the Rundling complex was added to the register of historic monuments, thus protecting it from demolition. After German reunification, the restoration continued in several stages. Five housing blocks destroyed during the war were rebuilt. Elaborate details, such as the wooden corner windows, the house numbers and the green exterior blinds, were all restored to their original state. [KL/DK]
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