kritische berichte. Zeitschrift für Kunst- und Kulturwissenschaften Volume 2, 2020

At the peak of the Great Depression, Lewis Mumford states in the catalogue accompanying New York MoMA’s International Style exhibitionthat ‘the building of houses constitutes the major architectural work of any civilization. (…) The laying down of a new basis for housing has been (…) one of chief triumphs of modern architecture.’ After tightening the connection of housing and modern architecture, Mumford further outlines a ‘new community’, planning and inhabiting houses which have ‘a firm outline, determined by the nature of things (…) [and by] the positive results of science, disciplined thinking, coherent organization, collective enterprise (…)’ (Mumford in Russell-Hitchcock, Johnson, 1932. Pp. 179-180).

What Mumford demands here is American publicly subsidised housing, based on the European model of settlement which sets the example for an International Style giving the exhibition its title.. While he sings the praise of technocratic administration in modern bourgeois-capitalist society, the quiet tones of ideology are nevertheless hearable when Mumford states that ‘the modern house is a biological institution’ (183), meaning a part of an ‘organically’ organized institutional complex. Catherine Bauer’s ‘Modern Housing’ of 1934 is a systematic analysis of European inter-war housing, making a similar call for American public housing (Bauer, 1934).

With this volume of kritische berichte, we want to address modern housing – stately subsidised or propagated by exhibitions, advisory bodies, scientists or political parties – as governed by various internal regimes. With regard to Mumford and Bauer that means a techno-bureaucratic ‘organic’ order prevails in administering housing to the masses. Whilst claiming the leading role of the modern architects in aesthetics, the sociologist suspiciously adds the ‘modern community planners’ (Mumford, 1932, pp. 193, 180) 

‘Regime’ is defined by the Oxford dictionary as ‘a government, especially an authoritarian one’ and as ‘a system or planned way of doing things, especially one imposed from above’ (Oxford Dictionary, 2018). The history, sociology and anthropology of urban planning have devoted much research to planning mechanisms producing a ‘rule of experts’ applying governing principles via urban and national infrastructure (Mitchell, 2002; Hebbert, 2019). 

An example for the implementation of housing provision as a systematic mode of governance – or as a regime – is the study ’Homeland: Zionism as Housing Regime, 1860-2011’ (London, 2017) by Yael Allweil, one of the editors of this volume. There, Allweil approaches Zionism as a “… massive housing project, (…) employing housing as the key mechanism for forming subjects (Zionists) and place (Zion)” (Allweil 2017, 5). Housing here is understood as “the cornerstone of the state-citizen-contract in Israel” (ibid.). Allweil traces the evolvement of Zionism as housing regime in a broader historiographic perspective, starting with analysing the consequences of changes in Ottoman laws in 1856, allowing landownership of non-Ottoman-citizens. That was when Zionist proto-state and nation-building begun, premised on housing as the building block of the regime. Further on, Allweil employs two competing housing regimes, that of the Zionists and that of the Palestinians, and demonstrates their constant intertwining. In doing so, she challenges the mainstream historiography of Israeli-Palestinian ‘conflict’.

In German architectural research on inter-war and post-war housing, it sometimes seems that we involuntarily believe in what Peter Marcuse defined as the “myth of benevolence” (Marcuse, 1978), characterizing our notion of (appropriate) behaviour of the state towards its citizens . When we study modern middle class housing, especially such as the Gartenstadt, or mass housing of the welfare state, our conclusions in some instances deploy a, let’s say, “triangle of goodness”: within this relationship, the architect, civil servant, and house owner/tenant act together, rather undisturbed for the good of the public. Even studies of civic protests against demolition and improper construction do not challenge the unspoken notion of housing, so as to successfully establish wohnen. The implication of the German verbum wohnen as actively inhabiting a house, sustains that notion. ‘Housing ‘, unlike wohnen, includes the sense of the German verb behausen, which brings the estate’s provider back into the picture. That is, the modern state (and its jurisdiction and building law), and its overarching goal of nation-building and establishing nationalism. Understood this way, housing has a double linguistic denotation and enables one to understand the production of ‘houses’ and the subjection of its inhabitants to a regime or even competing regimes, like that of East and West Germany during the Cold War.

This shift in terminology has its impact on methodology and is reflected in a concomitant split in German and Israeli research. While architecture studies on wohnen commonly focus on town planning and architectural housing design, housing studies in Israel often comprise a broader realm of research fields and methodology. We ask for papers which attempt to bridge that split. 

What can we learn from comparative research towards better understanding of the German and Israeli case studies? How can conceptions of housing as a regime of rule inform architectural inquiry? How can we trace such conceptions in architectural and urban forms?

We encourage researchers working on German or/and Israeli history of housing, on exhibitions as well as on architectural implementations of regimes like colonialism, capitalism/socialism or Zionism to contribute an abstract for an article in kritische berichte no longer than 300 words until September 1, 2019 ( Only abstracts in English can be included. 

Editors: Yael Allweil, Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology / Regine Hess, Department of Architecture, Technical University Munich, Germany