Summer School 2010 – Home is Everywhere

In 1932, Martin Wagner organised the competition ‘The Growing House’. ‘Growing’ stood for ‘natural building’, a form of building which would offer an adjustment strategy in times of abrupt swings from crisis to boom.  This idea was conceived during a time of radical change in housing policy after ‘the Golden Twenties’:  The Great Depression had brought on a crisis in the building industry. Housing construction dropped down to a third of what it had been in the 1920s.  The housing shortage was unloaded onto the suburbs, into allotments and small summerhouses.  The competition was followed by an exhibition of model houses which presented solutions to those on a low-income who dreamed of their own home: houses which were flexible enough to adapt to shifting economic conditions and a constant change in family structures, and needed a minimum of resources to do so.

The global financial market crisis of 2008 had internationally almost analogous consequences. The collapse of the property market placed many homeowners with mortgages in a desperate position.  This showed once again the fragility of an urban development based on speculation.  In addition, different mobility options and flexibility demands have a severe impact on today’s living conditions. New combinations of sedentariness and mobility, migration and living can be observed, which go hand in hand with changes in space use and spatial requirements.

Dessau, the Bauhaus city which, in the 1920s, was a showcase for innovative experiments in social housing, is a good example of this development.  Today, Dessau is not only affected by out-migration and shrinkage, and a loss of value on the property market associated with it, but with new nationally and transnationally oriented institutions a mobile class has evolved which commutes between the large urban centres Berlin, Leipzig, Hamburg and Frankfurt and the big small town. Students, academics, university lecturers, civil servants, cultural sector workers, artists, asylum seekers, migrant workers and commuters make up the growing number of ‘Dessauers’ without having a permanent residence in the city.

The second international Summer School invites young students from various disciplines to come to Dessau and take part in an idea contest on site. Starting from the ‘Growing House’ from 1932, fantasies shall be developed of four different kinds of a multi-local living in Dessau: allotment summer house XXL, CouchSurfing, boarding homes and the international ‘Plattenbau’. 

Sponsored by

IKEA Foundation an ZEIT Foundation


In four workshops, the issues, discourses and ideas around the ‘Growing House’ were updated within the context of the Urban Redevelopment of the Bauhaus City (IBA 2010). The subject of the exhibition in 1932, that is the search for new types of homes which would bring about a change in settlement types, has not lost its relevance over the years. Once more, we are forced by the current swings between growth and shrinkage, boom and bust, and staying and leaving to come up with new types of settlements. In this respect, the summer school can be understood as a contribution to Dessau’s IBA Urban Redevelopment Project, which tries to answer the changed/broadened patterns of the habitat with a perforated urban landscape. International teams worked on four different aspects:

Garden shed XXL

Today, many local residents work in Switzerland, Austria or in the South of Germany but keep close family ties and friendships in Dessau. The allotments are places destined for leisure and recreation. When the own flat is too small to accommodate temporary homecomers and to offer them a good time and a temporary home the cottage on the allotment can be used as an occasional extension of one’s home.

Team leader: Philipp Reinfeld

Boarding houses

Local residents and housing associations will act as hosts providing temporary accommodation for commuters, students and tourists. Given the high vacancy rate in Dessau the flexible management and use of flats shall be tested in cooperation with municipal housing corporations.

Team leaders: feld72

Home comforts on the move

Walter Gropius’s Master’s House in Dessau demonstrated what modern living in the 20th century should looke like, a way of living which was above all characterized by mobility. Frequently publicised in the media, the Bauhaus has shaped internationally the notions of modern interior design. Life on the go was considered modern, this found its expression in the material world. What do we need to feel at home wherever we are, even if it is only for a short time? An interior design consulting service in keeping with the tradition of Modernism will answer this question: different experiences and habits of ‘making oneself at home’ when travelling will be compiled and exhibited in a show flat.

Team leaders: MUF

Global home ‘Platte’

Dessau can look back on a long tradition of industrial manufacture in its housing construction history. The Törten Estate is one of the earliest examples of the industrial prefabrication of residential buildings. And more than elsewhere, the prefabricted DDR-'Platte' has dominated Dessau's post-war urban development. At the same time, this type of housing can be found all over the Eastern bloc: Standardized layouts promised equal living conditions for everyone, be it in Budapest, Warsaw or Dessau: home is everywhere. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Platte's reputation has changed drastically from being a modern privilege to being a sign of poverty and exclusion. Based in a 'Platte' in the "Am Leipziger Tor" estate, this workshop will research how residents have dealt with this transformation and develop ideas for the future of the neighbourhood with locals.

Team leaders: Adam Page & Eva Hertzsch