Adoul Jibrel

What we have learned from the past – a master student at architecture in Frankfurt

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A House as a single unit and housing as an urban complex has always been an interesting topic for me in architecture. Though, I do not look at it in only architectural perspective, but my questions constantly tend to stretch to sociological and physiological aspects. While “Home” is not a “House” and “Home” is a vague word. It could be interpreted in many ways. It’s a word we take for granted in our daily life and never think so deep about. Our sub conscious and previous experiences in life play a role in defining it. On the other hand, there are some moments where we just set silently trying to find meanings and definitions of the word “home” other than a space you dwell in it. It could be for some people where they spend their nights and sleep and work, but for others it could be where they feel safe and peacefulness. Yet is it a place where we find harmony of mind, body and spirit? could it symbolize something for us other than just a space for living?

Picture 1 Sign of Römerstadt from the U-bahn station

In fact, housing kept on changing over the history. Each housing typology came as an architectural solution for social, physiological or even economical problem at a certain time. Housing complexes forms the city looks and sense. Housing typology in a city reflects the definitions of public and private zones. As well it defines the main characteristics of the area. It marks what are the needs of a person and wants in his private space, in some point. In that case, a visit to Römerstadt Siedlung- 1926-1931- in Frankfurt am Main has been made. It is an initiative by the city planner and architect Ernst May (1886-1970). They used to call it the “new Frankfurt”. At that time, the number of the housing complexes were less than the required, and the people needed housing units that can be built in a short time. Therefore, Römerstadt Siedlung came out as a solution to the need of housing complexes as an urgent situation.

Picture 2 Pathway through the back garden of the houses

Under those circumstances, Römerstadt Siedlung was thought out carefully and futuristically. It fascinated me how the city planner and architect Ernst May imagined the complex would function in future. He designed everything in a detailed way. Römerstadt Siedlung has a different atmosphere than what Frankfurt city offers to you. You could sense the garden city ideology once you are in the space.

Nevertheless, the row houses were designed in a repetitive way. I found it as an interesting repetition due to a diverse identity that has been added by the resident him/herself in their front garden. The façade of the row houses has a concrete finish and featured a very defined horizontal projected porch lines. All windows were identical and derived from the same dimensions and elements. However, the entrance privacy was approached in different means. Some units have a front large garden acting as an offset space from their entrance way to the street other units have a small corridor with wall for the public private separation. The urban layout of the complex followed the existing land typology and the roman archeology that has been found on spot after some excavations. In addition to that, Römerstadt Siedlung featured the first kitchen in the world. The Frankfurt kitchen was designed by the architect Grete Lihotzky (1897-2000). It was designed for the housewife as a fully operable in a 7 square meter space. In addition, it is an efficient working space for all the housewife needs.

Yet, I still wonder how the residences feel in those units, and whether the urban layout help them to form a community within each other! After all, from the past stories we always learn for the present time situations. Besides it makes us think about futuristic ideas and thoughts. After the visit to Römerstadt Siedlung, I started to think about how would housing look like in 40 or 50 years from today. Would we be a visionary people, to design something futuristic now, or would we be on mars or moon by that time. As time passes by so fast, and technology is developing in a rapid manner no one knows what the future for architecture would be. Still I would like to dream of a futuristic house that would function for all the needs and wants of a futuristic person. Adding artificial intelligence to tiny dwelling spaces. Still, would our houses talk to us, cook for us or even drive us to work? All of these are conceptual ideas come across my mind of how ours futuristic living spaces would act and function.


Adoul Jibrel
Master student at the Frankfurt University of Applied Science

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