Margarete Lihotzky: social architecture beyond the Frankfurt kitchen

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Margarete Lihotzky

Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky (1897-2000) was the first female Austrian architect, known primarily for the design of the Frankfurt' Kitchen in 1927.

She was born on January 23, 1897 in Vienna. From 1915 to 1919, she studied as the first woman at the School of Applied Arts Architecture in Vienna with Oskar Strnad and Heinrich Tessenow. This was followed by several assignments for the construction of houses, gardens and kindergartens. In 1926 she was transferred by Ernst May to Frankfurt, where she displayed her famous Frankfurt kitchen in 1927. From 1930 to 1937, she was part of the May group as a specialist in buildings for children in Russia, after which she went into exile in Istanbul. When she entered Austria in 1940 as a member of a resistance movement, she was arrested and imprisoned until the end of the war. In 1945/46, he directed the Department of Institutions for Children of the Sofia Baudirektion. In the following years she received several commissionings in Austria, Cuba and Berlin.
'Every thinking woman must be aware of the delay that domestic methods still have, and she must recognize that they hinder her own development, and, therefore, also that of her family'. (Die Frankfurter Küche, page 16).

With these words, Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky presents her Frankfurt kitchen in 1927. Guided by the question of how to improve a woman's work by making suitable housing, she presents the model for our modern and equipped kitchen. Her kitchen would be installed in more than 10,000 apartments. A year earlier, Ernst May invited her to Frankfurt to work in the Construction Department, as a typist. In 1930, she followed a call to Moscow, again together with Ernst May and many other German architects, to plan the construction of new Russian industrial cities. Among other things, the German team was commissioned to build the city of Magnitogorsk. Schütte-Lihotzky herself was employed as an expert in buildings for children. In addition, she is represented in the Werkbundsiedlung in Vienna since 1932 with two houses.

In 1937 she left Russia and spent the next three years in Istanbul, where she became a member of an anti-fascist resistance movement and continued to design buildings for children.

In 1940 she was arrested in Austria and imprisoned until the end of the war. In 1947 she participated in the first CIAM conference in Zurich. Subsequently, she develops other facilities for children, including the famous but never executed modular system, a prefabricated system that can be combined in any configuration, for the city of Vienna. In 1956 she made study trips to China and in 1961 to Cuba.

She published "One million cities in China" in 1958, "Study area in life" in 1970 and  her "Memories of the resistance 1938-45" in 1981/82. In 1989 she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Graz and received the first prize at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam for her contribution to "allowing the majority of the population to have a better daily life" (Die Frankfurter Küche, page 58). In 1993, the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna dedicated a large exhibition to her.

In 1977 she was awarded the Joliot Curie Medal for her achievements in the World Peace Movement, and in 1980 she received the Architecture Prize of the City of Vienna. In 1988 she was offered the Austrian Medal for Science and Art, but she rejected it, as it would have been presented by the then Austrian president, Kurt Waldheim, who had been accused of hiding his Nazi past. Years later, she accepted it.

Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky died on January 18, 2000 in Vienna.



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