Houses with Balcony Access
Houses with Balcony Access

Initially, Hannes Meyer had planned ten houses with balcony access as an expansion of the Törten Housing Estate. Between the three and four-storey houses with balcony access, a single-storey terraced housing development with 531 houses was to be built – with the aim of creating social diversity.

Project of the construction department

In the end, five three-storey buildings with balcony access were built. They are located adjacent to the terraced housing estate designed by Walter Gropius between 1926 and 1928, which had a total of 314 residential units. While Gropius built the terraced housing estate with his private office, the Houses with Balcony Access were planned and implemented collectively at the architectural department of the Bauhaus, which was established in 1927. Hans Volger, Hubert Hoffmann, Bela Scheffler, Konrad Püschel and Philipp Tolziner, among others, worked on the project. The urban planning concept for the Houses with Balcony Access in Dessau goes back to the Bauhaus teacher Ludwig Hilberseimer.

Economic efficiency and use

“meet each other in public, as though they were on the pavement in the street.” (Hannes Meyer, undated)

Meyer’s slogan of “The people’s needs instead of the need for luxury” is also reflected in the Houses with Balcony Access, built by the Savings and Building Cooperative Dessau. The houses have six apartments on each floor, accessed via an arcade on the north façade. This was accessible via a free-standing staircase tower, where residents could meet one another. Some of the open arcades were also used as balconies. This form of access saved building costs. The houses are arranged in such a way that living space faces southwards for optimal use of sunlight, while the entrance and side rooms face north.

Each house had a garden courtyard with a children’s playing area, small kitchen gardens next to the house for growing fruit and vegetables, a communal washhouse, and a space for bleaching laundry.

Façades and building materials

The Houses with Balcony Access have unplastered brick façades, with window frames made partly of wood and partly of steel. The continuous reinforced concrete lintels of the windows and doors are left visible. The building design centred on economic efficiency and utility, which is reflected in the functional layout of the rooms, the use of local building materials (brick and wood), and the community-oriented nature of the housing units.

Housing for the subsistence minimum

The apartments, 18 in total, are based on an extremely economical floor plan. According to Meyer’s evaluation of housing requirements, a family of four should find everything they need in a total space of 48 square metres. While Walter Gropius’ terraced houses were intended as residential property for low-income buyers, the Houses with Balcony Access were rented out for just 37.50 Reichsmarks per month. This constituted a quarter of a worker’s average monthly income.

Although they were small, the three-room living units included a kitchen, a bathroom, a toilet, hot water, and self-contained central heating.

The Houses with Balcony Access now

Hannes Meyer’s five Houses with Balcony Access have belonged to the Bauhaus UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2017. The houses are still fully occupied today. A prototype apartment can be viewed as part of a guided tour.