Contested Architecture: The ‘Woba’ Residential Colony in Basel, 1930

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

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Contested Architecture: The ‘Woba’ Residential Colony in Basel, 1930


  • Rhea Rieben Department of History, University of Basel, Switzerland


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Abstract:  In 1930, a housing exhibition called ‘Woba’ took place in the city of Basel. Unique for Switzerland, the commercial aspect of the furniture industry was complemented by a newly constructed residential colony. In accordance with discussions held one year before at the II CIAM congress in Frankfurt a. M., the Wohnung für das Existenzminimum was brought to life. Thirteen architectural offices experimented with different spatial designs in order to develop cheap and hygienic housing for the working class. For one month, some of the houses were open to the public. In the Swiss press, a vivid and controversial debate arose. On one side, its supporters advocated for standardized and rationalized housing as an appropriate way of living for modern individuals. On the other side, conservative forces saw a communist scheme at work in this housing in the style of Neues Bauen. By analyzing contemporary press articles on the Woba, this paper shows that the question of society’s future was being negotiated through architecture and furniture.

Keywords:  anti-communism; Baubolschewismus; Hans Schmidt; minimal housing; modern society; Neues Bauen; social engineering; sociology of architecture; Typenmöbel; Woba

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v4i3.2141


© Rhea Rieben. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.