Germany gets a new World Heritage Site in Stuttgart with Le Corbusier | DW Travel | DW | 17.07.2016
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Germany gets a new World Heritage Site in Stuttgart with Le Corbusier

Two of the houses by the architect Le Corbusier have been selected by UNESCO for its World Heritage List. The 41st German World Heritage Site was listed along with a series of his houses in seven countries.

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41st German World Heritage

Two houses designed by star architect Le Corbusier, part of the Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart, were added to the World Heritage List, said UNESCO on Sunday (17.07.2016). The decision was expected on Saturday, but the World Heritage Committee's meeting in Istanbul was interrupted by the attempted military coup on Friday night.

Houses turned into museum

These buildings are well known to students of architecture. The structure is an accurate representation of Le Corbusier's concept of what a modern apartment block should look like. In 2002, they were converted from residential units into a museum.

Last year alone, the exhibition drew more than 26,000 visitors; 11 percent more than in 2014. Museum director Anja Krämer hopes that the UNESCO nomination will create an even more substantial profile for the museum: "We're already well-known among serious students of architecture, but we'd also like to attract visitors who may simply want to enhance their knowledge of late 1920s architecture and design."

From Art Nouveau to 'residential machines'

The city of Stuttgart and Germany's UNESCO commission have been campaigning for World Heritage status for these buildings since 2002. The units that comprise the Weissenhof Estate were designed by renowned architects including Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and Mies van der Rohe.

The estate was built for an exhibition in 1927. The designers' aim was to avoid the excesses of art nouveau, and create living space that was open, well-lit, and functional. The Weissenhof Estate redefined the concept of modern German architecture.

Weissenhof-Siedlung in Stuttgart Le Corbusier, Copyright:picture-allianc/dpa/N. Försterling

The home's interior was reconstructed for display at the museum

The single-family unit and the duplex designed by Le Corbusier have taken on an iconic status in the world of modern architecture. The Stuttgart exhibition was Le Corbusier's first opportunity to implement his five key principles of modern architecture, including the use of horizontal windows, reinforced concrete columns instead of supporting walls, and roof gardens.

The interior areas make use of sliding doors and furnishings that can be easily moved around, creating arrangements that are suitable for day or night. The structures became known as "residential machines" that were both practical and functional, and could be mass-produced. It was a radical change in housing design: modern function over traditional form. Herbert Medek, the head of Stuttgart's monument protection authority says these buildings were enormously controversial at the time.

Third attempt to obtain World Heritage status

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier, died in 1965 at the age of 77. He was born in Switzerland, and became a French citizen in 1930. He was one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. Buildings designed by Le Corbusier can be found around the world.

Le Corbusier, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa/AFP

Le Corbusier was also an urban planner for the northern Indian city of Chandigarh

Germany's application for World Heritage Site status is actually part of an international effort, because it involves 17 Le Corbusier buildings from Germany, France, Argentina, Japan, Belgium, Switzerland, and India - all commonly declared World Heritage by UNESCO.They all dealt with the challenges of applying for the status. They applied a third time after two unsuccessful attempts in 2009 and 2011. This time, it worked.

World Heritage Committee decision filled with suspense

Katja Römer, spokeswoman for Germany's UNESCO commission says, the commission chose the 17 sites to be listed because they reflect five decades of unique architectural history, and represent some of the most important concepts of modern architecture on an international scale. Contributing to the success is India's first participation in the application, as a country outside of Europe, explains Medek form the Stuttgart heritage association.

The international group application finally convinced the World Heritage Committee. Germany now boasts its 41st World Heritage Site.

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