Christa Kamleithner is an architectural theorist and cultural historian, whose research focuses on the epistemological and cultural history of built spaces. She studied architecture and philosophy in Vienna, from 2004 to 2005 she was research associate at the Institute for History of Art and Cultural Studies at TU Graz, and from 2006 to 2012 she was research associate and lecturer for art and cultural history at the College of Architecture, Media and Design of the Berlin University of the Arts. From 2007 to 2013 she was assistant lecturer at the Center for Metropolitan Studies of TU Berlin, and during the summer semester 2011, she taught as visiting professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg in the architecture and urban research master’s program. In 2018, she was awarded her doctorate with a work on the genealogy of the “functional city” at the Department of Cultural History and Theory at Humboldt University of Berlin, where she is currently engaged as an assistant lecturer. Her current project is dedicated to the history of the “user.” Publications: Ästhetik der Agglomeration (co-authored with Susanne Hauser, 2006); Architekturwissen. Grundlagentexte aus den Kulturwissenschaften (co-edited with Susanne Hauser and Roland Meyer), vol. 1, Zur Ästhetik des sozialen Raumes (2011); vol. 2, Zur Logistik des sozialen Raumes (2013).
Neues Bauen and the Aesthetics of Rationalization
After moving to Dessau, rationalization became an explicit program at the Bauhaus. Irrespective of this, Dessau—which was on its way to becoming a major city in the late 1920s—already resembled a rationalization lab. Industry was booming in the region, Junkers and his aircraft plant had created quite an international stir, the population was growing, and new settlements were appearing on the map. Dessau was part of the growing Mitteldeutsche Industriebezirk, a planning unit where new forms of regional planning that aspired to rationalization were tested out. Planning objectives were to separate living and working environments, protect green spaces, and develop the transport system, dividing everyday life into productive and reproductive phases and introducing new cycles and rhythms.
At the Bauhaus, too, where ergonomics as well as psychotechnics were taught, consideration was given to how to organize labor force in an efficient manner. Principles of frictionless organization should be applied not only to the realm of construction but to life itself, and any waste of energy should be eliminated. For this purpose, diagrams were made that translated individual daily routines into general patterns, along with studies that promised optimum use of sunlight and recreation, as well as maps examining potential rail and flight connections in the region. The key point argued here is that none of this was new. “Rationalization” was a popular catchword in the 1920s. However, the Bauhaus turned it into an aesthetic program, where the motif of rationalization served to generate forms, and designs were meant to arise directly from analysis. This was also the objective of the fourth CIAM congress in 1933: As maps of more than thirty cities—including Dessau—showed, the “functional city” already existed. It only needed to take shape.