Now, and by means of a few slight brushstrokes, I would like to mention another great pioneering European arquitecta: Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, deceased on January 23, 2000 in a hospital of Vienna, when it was on the verge of expiring 103 years. This arquitecta specialized herself in the design and construction of social housings and especially it is known for being the creative one of Frankfurt’s famous Kitchen, prototype of the functional and modern kitchen of our days.
The encyclopedias, agreements and histories of the contemporary architecture – already it is said – strange mention the pioneering arquitectas, not at least when they are known inside the profession, since it is this case or similar others, and if they name them they do it as if about architects males it was treating itself or when they have been the wives or companions of important masculine architects.
Kenneth Frampton like that, in his book “Critical History of the Modern Architecture” writes:
“The ultraefficient kitchen type laboratory, Frankfurt’s Kitchen, was designed by the architect G. Schutte-Lithotzky.”
Today we know that G. is the initial of a magnificent woman of the twenties, the first Austrian arquitecta, who was signing always with his diminutive one: Grethe Schutte-Lihotzky.
Born in 1897, she was the rebellious daughter of an Austrian civil servant. He studied architecture instead of following the governess’s formation, one of the scanty possibilities foreseen in the Vienna of beginning of the 20th century for bourgeois young women with professional ambitions. His original prompt talent was announced: it obtained several prizes in his natal city (medal of bronze and of silver of the city of Vienna in 1922 and 1923) and it had the great opportunity to work with the architect Adolf Loos, author of the book “Ornament and Crime“, I free that it would revolutionize the modern architecture giving place to the racionalist movement.
To a little time moved to Frankfurt, where there associated with also architect and town planner Ernst May. Together they embarked in an attractive social project with the one that could demonstrate his capacity and his professional value.
In Frankfurt, as in Berlin, the first European experiences were developing then in the construction of hygienic and standardized housings, with the fundamental aim to improve the quality of life of his inhabitants.
His intention was to transform the typology of collective housings of the 19th century, lacking in sanitary facilities heaped inside dark and humid apples closed with small interior courts of lights. They were trying to replace with housings in opened, sunny, white and luminous blocks, separated between yes and seated between wide common green spaces. With an eminently social mentality, there were created such collective spaces as washers, covered terraces and other community enclosures, as well as multiple exterior spaces, by the intention of favoring a healthy life and a social complete fabric.
The Grethe Schuthe-Lihoztky‘s most important work was the design of a neighborhood that developed under these premises and that it realized together with Ernst May in Frankfurt am Main for the authorities of the Construction of Frankfurt’s Building. EIn this neighborhood 15.000 housings were built, representing 90 % of the constructed ones in this city in that period. May’s minimal standards, thanks to which they produced such a quantity of housings, on having managed to cheapen costs, were depending to a great extent on the prefabricación of the elements of construction, on the reduction of the inhabitable surface, on the use of certain devices of storage, as beds and folding furniture, and especially on the efficient kitchen that Grethe designed up to the last detail: the “Frankfurter Küche“, reference.
This first example of standardized kitchen, it had 6.43 m2 and it was produced by Frankfurt’s Town hall by cheaper prices of which it was offering the private industry. It was destined to the new modern woman who was not having a lot of time of dedication to the domestic tasks, in order to rationalize and to facilitate his work and to improve his social position, on having had more time free to be able to develop a professional activity out of the home. “Every thinking woman”, was writing Grethe in 1926,
“debit of being conscious of the delay that the domestic methods have still and it must admit that these prevent his own development and, therefore, also that of his family.”
The “Frankfurter Küche” was the first version of the fixed modern kitchen, which has substituted the obsolete kitchens of the 19th century. In her, all the parts stay perfectly integrated and adapted in the minor possible space of agreement with his function, already be of storage, of work, of wash and ironing or of cooked.
Shutte-Lihotzky lived through the architecture as reflection of a particular philosophy of life in which he believed and of a few ideal politicians that it did not hesitate to put into practice. Affiliated to the communist party, it took an active position in antifascist campaigns that cost him four years of jail, from 1941 to 1945. Arrested by the Nazi in Austria it could get away, exceptionally, from the death sentence.
He dedicated the practice and the theory of his profession to the planning of housings for the least privileged sectors of the company, took part in big projects and was a teacher of architecture in Moscow, where so much she as Ernst May, from the 30s, they tried to repeat without very much success the program of construction of housings realized in Frankfurt. She tried it in China, Istanbul and in the Havana, before finding in Austria, his country, a late recognition, though warm.
His work was exposed by the first time in 1993, in the Museum of Arts Applied in Vienna. It was there where, in 1997, Margarethe, already respectable feminine colleague between his companions architects, celebrated his own centenary dancing a last waltz.
Cristina García-Rosales. Architect
Madrid. April 2014