Housing with balcony access by Hannes Meyer

Built 1929-30

Laubenganghaus in der Siedlung Dessau-Törten
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The five houses were built on behalf of the "Spar- und Baugenossenschaft Dessau" (Dessau Savings and Building Society) by the Bauhaus building department, directed from 1927 by Hannes Meyer, who later became director of the Bauhaus.


The balcony access is a traditional type of access for flats, whereby the entrance doors of a number of small units face onto a common, open gangway that leads to a staircase. The history of balcony access houses reaches back to the Middle Ages; they experienced a renaissance in the social housing of the 1920s.


The five apartment houses, with a total of 90 flats, were part of a mixed development conceived by Hannes Meyer for the extension of Törten, whereby a one-storey terrace would be built between three- and four-storey balcony access houses. The partly-realised development bordered on the estate of suburban terraced housing designed by Walter Gropius between 1926 and 1928, which consisted of 314 residential units and the Konsum Building, and which was already finished.


The balcony access houses are “real” Bauhaus buildings, since they originated in the Bauhaus department of architecture founded in 1927 (as opposed to the Bauhaus Building, the Masters’ Houses and the Törten Estate, which were designed in Gropius’s architectural office).


Meyer’s motto of “putting the needs of the people before the need for luxury” was also adhered to in the balcony access houses and led to the construction of so-called "Volkswohnungen" (people’s apartments), which were rented by workers and employees on low salaries. The floor plans for the flats were markedly small. According to Meyer’s calculations of actual living requirements, 48 m² in three rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom should be spacious enough for a family of four. While Walter Gropius consciously aimed, with his estates of terraced houses, to provide owner-occupied housing (for low-income buyers), the balcony access houses were rented out for the relatively low monthly sum of 37.50 reichsmark.


The tenants’ assessments of the balcony access houses were consistently positive – a point backed up by the fact that very few structural changes have been made to the houses to this day.


Hannes Meyer’s architectural concept differed from that of his predecessor, Walter Gropius, in that it accentuated different materials (yellow brick, visible steel window lintels) and signaled a departure from the ribbon window and the white cube.


For these apartments, as for the terraced houses on the Gropius estate, space-saving and functional model fittings designed in the Bauhaus workshops were also on offer at a reasonable price.


Today, the houses belong to Wohnungsgenossenschaft Dessau eG. In renovation work carried out in 1988, one of the apartments was restored to its original condition. This can be viewed on a guided tour given by the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation.