Building – Stuttgart, Germany

1981 – 1983

Bauhäusle is a self-build student housing scheme at the Technical University of Stuttgart. It was designed and built by students, between 1981 and 1983, under the supervision of Peter Sulzer and Peter Hübner. A number of factors came together allowing the project to occur, including strong support from the University and an existing long running first year project where students designed their own rooms. The lack of accommodation in Stuttgart that year prompted the students to ask whether they could build their designs.

The project, which formed part of the teaching curriculum, consists of one building providing communal uses with a series of smaller buildings around it, containing three to four bedrooms each. Overall, the Bauhäusle provides space for around 30 students in rooms of 15 to 28 m2. The buildings were constructed using the Walter Segal timber self-build method. He was invited to teach and to help adapt the system to the specifications of the materials available in Germany, most of which were donated by the building industry. Splitting the project into a series of smaller blocks meant splitting the responsibility, with different members of staff overseeing each part. This gave a very different character to each of the blocks, but crucially for the students, also meant that negotiation and compromise had to occur at the interface where buildings met. The full participation of students in the design of their own buildings meant that they experienced the advantages of involving users in the design of their buildings, as well as learning hands-on the design, technical and constructional aspects involved. Spatial agency here is found in the process of learning through doing, the emphasis is on practical knowledge gained through experience rather than simply a professionalised or academic knowledge.

Although there are typically few to no architecture students living in the building, its repairs are still carried out by its residents and when the original permission of fifteen years ran out, the current students petitioned to extend it, with one of the original students helping out with the building permit. With its tongue-in-cheek name of 'Little Bauhaus', the project reveals how self-build methods and participation give users a sense of ownership. The two teacher/architects took a supervisory role, letting the students make their own decisions and mistakes. This resulted in the Bauhäusle having a communal atmosphere that has persisted long after the original student-builders left, and it became a precedent for many such projects in Germany, such as the ESA in Kaiserslautern or the Baufroesche, a building project using adobe in Kassel.

References About

Blundell-Jones, Peter, "Voyage of discovery." Architects Journal 181, no. 4 (1985): 42-47.

Haustein, Norbert, and Thomas Pross, Bauhäusle. (Köln: Rudolf Müller, 1986).

Sulzer, Peter, "Notes on Participation," in Architecture and participation, eds. Peter Blundell-Jones, Doina Petrescu, and Jeremy Till (London: Routledge, 2005).


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