Otto Steidle (1943-2004) was a German architect and educator. Typically known for his later oeuvre, it is the early work and specifically his work with prefabricated structural elements 'in combination with the attitude of the bricoleur' that is of interest in the context of spatial agency. Projects include the Genter Strasse houses in Munich (1969-72), which were executed together with the Swiss architects Doris and Ralph Thut. The structural system of the row of 7 houses is openly expressed and provides the frame for a purpose made system of different infill elements. Starting with the idea of collective development which included a joint garden and other shared facilities, the big idea behind the scheme was that users could adapt their house to changing needs over time. By developing a system of loadbearing and non-loadbearing elements that could be understood visually and intuitively Steidle and his collaborators provided the inhabitants with the knowledge that would enable them to alter or add onto their respective house without having to consult with the architects or structural engineers again. This open system of support and infill has led to a set of buildings which is aesthetically still intact. Yet, volumes, interiors, and uses have changed considerably over the past 40 years.
The Genter Strasse buildings are exemplary for Steidle's wider interest in a type of architecture that would ‘eliminate the distinction between buildings for work and buildings for living’, which meant moving away from the determinism of most buildings towards a manner of building which would foreground collective social and urban interests.
Genter Strasse housing scheme in Munich, Germany
Elementa '72, experminental housing scheme in Nürnber, Germany
urban master plan for documenta urbana, 1979-1982, in Kassel, Germany
Universität Ulm, Germany
Florian Kossak, Bewohnbare Bauten / Structures for Living (Zurich: Artemis, 1994)
---, ‘An Architect’s Tagwerk: Notes on Otto Steidle’s Work Between the Urban and the Rural’, Architectural Research Quarterly, 15 (2011), 327–340.
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