A design classic. 1927 and software?

More design ramblings.

Logo Weissenhofmuseum im Haus Le Corbusier


On friday I got to visit the Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart. It was built in the late 1920’s, opening in 1927. The architects involved were Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud, Victor Bourgeois, Adolf Gustav Schneck, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, Walter Gropius, Ludwig Hilberseimer, Bruno and Max Taut, Hans Poelzig, Richard Döcker, Adolf Rading, Josef Frank, Mart Stam, Peter Behrens and Hans Scharoun.

Le Corbusier and his fellow architects aimed to strip down the house to its simpliest form. There is beauty in the stark, simple lines of the buildings. Their goals were to create cheaper, healthier, more practical and liveable spaces.

This is Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s apartment block.


 Luckily the development has been saved after it was condemned to destruction by the nazis, bombed by the allies  and then neglected. It is an astounding spot, and it showcases some many of the innovations that we take for granted in homes today.

The buildings are by no means perfect, and sometimes the gap between the vision and the engineering and technical reality were too great to bridge. The tension between design and engineering is palpable. I wasn’t expecting to be awed, but I was. The tour was excellent, both for the architecture and the history. 


Le Corbusier house. It looks as if it was built yesterday, not in 1927.  You can go inside.

The visit to the mercedes museum and the Weissenhofstiedlung made me think a lot about software. Both the 300SL and many of the bauhaus buildings depend on a excellent chassis to function effectively.  Without a stable platform, nothing really works. The separation of the chassis from the body enabled Benz and co to make huge leaps foward in strength, shape, handling, cost and weight reduction in the car. The same point could be made about the use of a load bearing frame in buildings, with the walls etc merely acting as a skin. This dramatically expanded the realms of possibility, both for interior space and external volume.

The same argument can be applied to the need to split data, process and visualisation in software application design.

It also made me think back to a post I wrote in defence of concrete. Good software is partly about achieving a balance between design and engineering, with design helping to push engineering forward, and vice versa. 

At its core, the Bauhaus movement is about “art and technology – a new unity”. Weissenhof is a pretty good place to go and think about software.   Oh, and I need to read a bit more.  And next time I’m in Berlin, I’ll need to go here.

Enterprise software can learn a lot from Bauhaus.

Thanks to my colleagues for organising the trip, and to my brother for a quick Bauhaus recap and indoctrination. 


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