Vienna’s Werkbundsiedlung, a workers’ association housing complex, is one of the few Werkbund ensembles from the 1920s and 1930s that remains intact. Thirty-one renowned architects, including Josef Hoffmann and Adolf Loos, worked under the direction of Josef Frank and constructed the modernist architectural complex in 1932. Thirty houses remain, ranging from one to three stories, and sit on a triangular plot of land in the periphery of Vienna. The houses exemplify the architects’ modernist philosophy combined with the Viennese estate house style. They created a comfortable and suitable living space with minimal financial expenditure. Although the different types of houses were made uniform through the similar treatment of facades, fencing and roofs, the architects personalized each house through the creative use of colors.
Today, a majority of the houses are owned by the city of Vienna, and are treated as public housing. The residents are largely unaware of the architectural significance of their surroundings. Repairs and routine maintenance of the buildings are lacking. A participatory planning process that includes the city of Vienna, the private residents, and local and international stakeholders, is sought to ensure the preservation and sustainability of the estate.
Since the Watch
Following its inclusion in the World Monuments Watch, in August 2010 the city’s public housing agency announced plans to restore the Werkbundsiedlung. Exterior and interior restoration began in 2011, starting with four houses designed by Gerrit Rietveld and Josef Hoffmann, and will be completed in five years. The restoration project will cost €10 million, most of which will be covered by the city. After the completion of the project the current tenants will stay in the buildings, which will remain publicly owned. City authorities are now attempting to convince the owners of privately-owned buildings in the Werkbundsiedlung complex to join the restoration effort. The project has required complex coordination among city authorities, residents, and other stakeholders. To coincide with the 80th anniversary of the housing estate, the Wiener Werkbundsiedlung “Virtual Museum” was launched in 2012. This website is paired with a downloadable app, which includes an audio guide and map for visiting the site, comprehensive building descriptions, photographs, architects’ biographies, and historical background on the Werkbund building program. November 2014