The graphical method propounded by Russian German Israeli architect Alexander Klein during the late 1920s evaluates the qualities of architectural plans through a process of diagrammatic analysis following purportedly objective criteria. In Evaluator, Choreographer, Ideologue, Catalyst: The Disparate Reception Histories of Alexander Klein's Graphical Method, Christoph Lueder examines the reception and adaptation of Klein's method. Ernst Löwitsch reinterpreted Klein's analytical notation as choreography of domestic life. Following Klein's forced emigration from Nazi Germany, Frank Gloor rediscovered Klein's graphical method and transformed and adapted it into a scientific method classifying degrees of flexibility. Catherine Bauer disseminated the method to the English-speaking world under a new title, “Functional Housing for Frictionless Living,” which led to Robin Evans's enduring indictment of Klein's diagrams as emblematic of reductive functionalism. Throughout its reception, the graphical method has been viewed at various times as a methodology of scientific evaluation, a choreography of everyday life, an indictment of functionalist ideology, and a catalyst for new working methodologies.
Klein…lectured sometimes in Russian and sometimes in German, while we students for the most part understood only Hebrew. Jochanan Elon…, who was Klein's assistant, translated his lectures into Hebrew for us. We sensed that Klein was a highly qualified architect and urban planner, and held him in high esteem, though he never told us anything about his professional achievements in Germany. But we students took a more skeptical look when Klein began to teach us how to arrange the furniture in various rooms so that the sunlight would not create shadows on the floor.1
The graphical method for the evaluation of apartment plans, which the architect Alexander Klein first formulated toward the end of the 1920s, has been received in multiple, contradictory ways, ranging from critique and adaptation to extension and inversion.2 Klein's graphical method was widely published and discussed among architects and critics in 1920s Germany and, after 1928, disseminated abroad to Denmark, Italy, the United States, and France.3 Yet debates on diagrams, planning, and typology often fail to recognize Klein's contributions, perhaps because of the rupture created by Klein's forced emigration from Germany to Israel in 1933. As his student Myra Warhaftig recounts in the quotation above, his method was received with skepticism outside the context of interwar German modernism. The reception histories of Klein's work in the English- and German-speaking worlds diverge sharply. While the architectural theorist Robin Evans's seminal essay “Figures, Doors and Passages” of 1978 has consigned Klein's graphical method to an enduring role as the embodiment of functionalist ideology, certain postwar German authors have critiqued, augmented, and adjusted it to new agendas.4 A comprehensive exegesis of these fragmented reception histories promises to yield a better understanding not only of the work of an underappreciated architect and theorist but also of the fluid roles of Klein's diagrams as they have been received in different contexts: as scientific instruments, as choreographic notation, as emblems of ideology, and as catalysts for thought.
Biographical and Historical Context
The life and work of the architect and theorist Alexander Klein make for a compelling narrative. Born in Odessa in 1879, Klein studied architecture at the Institute of Civil Engineering in St. Petersburg, Russia.5 In 1906, shortly after his graduation, he won a competition for a hospital complex consisting of administrative, service, and residential buildings as well as a hospital building for two thousand beds on a 22-hectare site; his scheme was subsequently built.6 Klein undertook several trips to Western Europe and Italy from 1910 to 1913, taking a special interest in visiting Palladio's villas. Palladian influences are conspicuous in the façades of Klein's tenement building at Kronwerkskij 5 in St. Petersburg, built 1913–14 (Figures 1 and 2).7 Contrasting with these classical tropes, the “space group plan,” which Klein fully developed in his later German minimal dwelling plans, made its first appearance here. The space group plan consolidated spaces and activities into three groups—living, sleeping, and servicing—thereby allowing each activity to occur without disrupting others.8 The integration of services into the space group plan differs from Palladio's floor plans, which usually relegated services to ancillary wings and separate volumes, thereby allowing a sequence of formal and generously proportioned spaces to unfold within the villas that corresponded to the proportions expressed externally. By contrast, at Kronwerkskij 5 the axis of symmetry does not correspond to the division between the two apartments on each level, and the enfilade of spaces seems retroactively inserted into a formally constrained volumetric envelope. The openings in the formally composed façades conflict with the inhabitation of the rooms inside, as evidenced by windows that are blocked to prevent views into the apartments of the neighboring wing. Later in his career, Klein characterized as “paper architecture” such contradictions in the work of contemporaneous architects that sought to uphold classicist structure, proportions, and vocabulary despite radical changes in social structures and patterns of inhabitation.
In 1917 Klein relocated to Kislovodsk (Caucasus) to master plan an extension to a spa town. In 1920, three years after the October Revolution, he immigrated to Germany, and in 1922 set up his architectural office in Berlin. The following year he designed his first, modestly scaled, German project, a series of terraced houses in Berlin-Wilmersdorf; completed in 1925, this work continued to draw on the language of historicist architecture that Klein had studied during his visits to Italy.9 In the period from 1922 through 1927, Klein entered projects in a total of seven competitions in Berlin and Moscow, none of which were built.10 From 1925 onward, his interest shifted from the design of domestic buildings for bourgeois clients to the need for affordable housing arising from the drastic housing shortages of the Weimar Republic. Before World War I, speculative developer housing in Germany failed to address the needs of the working class. The shortage of housing for workers was exacerbated first by the war and then by a lack of means to build affordable apartments in the postwar period of hyperinflation. German architects responded to the housing crisis in various ways. Architects such as Heinrich Tessenow equated industrialization with the inhumanity of industrial warfare.11 Along with others, such as the young Walter Gropius in his 1919 founding manifesto for the Bauhaus, Tessenow argued for a return to traditions of craftsmanship.12 In contrast, proponents of the “Neues Bauen,” such as Bruno Taut, Hugo Häring, Martin Wagner, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the critic Adolf Behne, and, later, Gropius, turned their attention to mass-production affordable housing. From 1924 onward, Siedlungen (housing estates) were promoted on a large scale by the Social Democratic government. Although Klein did not realize his first housing project until 1928, the German journals Wasmuths Monatshefte für Baukunst and Bauwelt published his competition projects as well as his earlier Russian buildings. In these journals, Klein reported to his German readership on Russian architecture and the Russian competition system, which in Germany was considered exemplary; its promotion of objective evaluation criteria had a profound influence on Klein's views.13 He forged a crucial professional relationship with Werner Hegemann, the editor of Wasmuths Monatshefte für Baukunst, who endorsed the work of traditionalist architects, such as Tessenow and Paul Schmitthenner, but also sought to turn his journal into a platform for discourse and controversy.14
Klein purposefully provoked a number of debates during his time in Berlin; these do not align with a traditionalist/modernist divide, as evidenced by his discussions with Taut, Häring, and Franz Löwitsch, which I examine later in this article. Klein's interests evolved around the evaluation and optimization of spatial organization, predominantly in the floor plan, which enabled him to forge a unique position in the architectural debates taking place in Weimar Germany. His peculiar position within those debates may help to account for the diminished attention that Klein's theoretical work received following his forced emigration from Germany in 1933, despite the professional success and honors bestowed on him. His later work included master plans for numerous large settlements and housing projects in Israel, and master plans as well as faculty buildings for the Technion in Haifa. Klein had a distinguished professorial career at the Technion as head of the Division for Town Planning and Housing in its Faculty of Architecture. He became the first representative of Israel at the International Union of Architects in Lausanne in 1948, received an honorary doctorate from the University of Stuttgart, Germany, in 1954, and exhibited his work at Columbia University in New York in 1949 and in 1953.15 In 1947, Klein presented his views on urban planning in an article titled “Man and Town.”16 After he moved to Israel, however, his work and publications did not provoke the intense debate that they had sparked in Germany.
Inception and Iterative Development of Klein's Graphical Method
In May 1927 Werner Hegemann curated an exhibition of buildings by J. J. P. Oud in Berlin, which he published in Wasmuths Monatshefte later the same year.17 He commended Oud for the clarity and simplicity of the unadorned building volumes of his housing estates at Hoek van Holland and the Weißenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart, but he was concerned about the unusual arrangement of the floor plan at the Weißenhofsiedlung. Earlier, Hegemann had published a number of studies and articles on small apartments by Klein and had been impressed by Klein's expertise. Therefore he commissioned Klein to evaluate Oud's houses at the Weißenhofsiedlung in comparison with one of Klein's own projects, terraced houses for a site between Wurnemünder- and Selchowstraße in Berlin-Dahlem. Klein's report appeared in 1927 under the title “Versuch eines graphischen Verfahrens” (Attempt at a graphical method). He argued that
in the customary judging of housing floor plans, of competitions, proposals or realized buildings, a number of concepts and expert terms are used, such as clarity, economics, spatial form, spatial sequence, circulation routes, utilization of surface area, overall impression, etc.…Experts tend to assign many of these concepts merely subjective value.18
To overcome the limitations of such subjective evaluation, he proposed his graphical method as “a means of objective substantiation of the hitherto subjective appraisal.”19 In its first iteration of 1927, Klein chose to disregard the height of spaces, color, treatment of walls, and furniture, as he argued that these factors can be easily changed and therefore are of only secondary importance to the floor plan. The report was accompanied by three diagrams, showing the layout of (1) “pathways,” (2) “concentration of areas for free movement,” and (3) “the geometrical similarity and coherence of the elements of the plan” (Figure 3).20 In the diagrams, Oud's plan for his Weißenhofsiedlung project appeared on the left, and Klein's plan for Berlin-Dahlem was on the right. The pathways diagrams mapped the trajectories of daily routines in plan; Klein evaluated the pathways according to the convenience of apartment use and according to “the purely physical expenditure of energy.”21 The diagrams of the concentration of areas for free movement mapped the floor areas left over after the essential pieces of furniture, such as beds in the bedroom, had been set up. Klein argued that feelings of comfort and spaciousness depend on the concentration and consolidation of these free areas. Finally, the diagrams labeled “geometrical similarity and coherence of the elements of the plan” traced the outlines of spaces as they are perceived when an occupant enters them. Klein argued that “nervous stress” increases with the number of spatial impressions encountered—such as the proportions of spatial enclosures—and the sequence in which these are experienced, changes of level, the meandering of circulation, and changes in lighting. In all three categories, Klein's diagrams demonstrated the superiority of his own plans over Oud's. The sum of pathway length in Klein's plans was shorter; the consolidated areas of free movement in his plans contrasted favorably against the broken-up, residual spaces in Oud's plan; and spaces in Klein's plan were more similar to each other in terms of proportion and dimension than were the starkly contrasting spaces in Oud's plan. However, the favorable outcome of the comparison depended on a number of prejudgments. Klein omitted an alternative entrance to Oud's houses from the garden side; if he had included it, the pathway length in Oud's plan would have been shorter. He also left unstated the fact that his own plan allowed access to the upper-floor bathroom only through one of the bedrooms; this served to reduce total pathway length but arguably also constrained use of the bathroom.
The next iteration of Klein's evolving diagrammatic system appeared in a 1927 issue of Die Baugilde. In this article, he extended the number of criteria in his graphical method from three to six (Figure 4). He added “traffic areas” (criterion 2), “shadows on the floor” (criterion 4), and “horizontal section at eye level” (criterion 5).22 He compared two small apartments, using one designed for the 1926 Ceciliengärten settlement in Berlin Tempelhof-Schöneberg (Figure 5) by Berlin architect Heinz Lassen—whom he did not identify by name—and his own design showing his counterproposals for improving the plans.23
In 1928 Klein published a further development under the title “Grundrißbildung und Raumgestaltung von Kleinwohnungen und neue Auswertungsmethoden” (Formation of floor plans and the spatial design of small apartments and new methods for evaluation).24 Here he applied the same six criteria to Lassen's plan and a series of three alternative schemes, demonstrating the gradual elimination of a central corridor in favor of larger rooms, as well as the consolidation of daytime and nighttime activities (Figure 6).
The final iteration of the series was exhibited as a full-size mock-up in Munich and published in 1928 by Werner Hegemann and Leo Adler under the title “Flurlose Wohnungen” (Apartments without corridors).25 Klein applied his graphical method to a comparison between two large apartments that he had designed for the exhibition (Figure 7). Even more clearly than in previous iterations, these plans give the defining contours of Klein's “space group plan,” separating activities but not people. Nevertheless, Robin Evans and others interpreted the accompanying pathways diagram as advocating for the isolation of family members from each other.26 Klein's design for shared activities that take place in common spaces, as well as the en suite sequence of bedrooms that encourages interaction between inhabitants, challenges this interpretation.
In 1929 Klein applied the fully developed principles of his research to the plans for a large settlement at Bad Dürrenberg near Leipzig, which included flats of different sizes as well as terraced houses (Figures 8 and 9). A year earlier, he had drawn up a comprehensive résumé of his theory under the title “Beiträge zur Wohnfrage” (Contributions to the question of dwelling).27 In its most comprehensive final statement, Klein's methodology unfolded along a sequence of no fewer than twenty stages, encompassing questionnaires, tables and charts exploring spatial characteristics, response to site context, and optimal relationship between apartment width and depth (Figure 10), as well as the graphic evaluation of alternative floor plans, which had been presented in the four previous articles. I have organized the four case studies in four columns, with the diagrams in each of the rows evaluating a primary quality of the plan according to a distinct criterion (see Figures 3, 4, 6, and 7). The criteria are as follows:
pathways (trajectories of regular movement)
traffic areas (movement corridors)
free area (space available for free movement)
shadows on the floor (cast by walls and furniture)
horizontal section at eye level
outlines of spaces that are experienced in sequence (evidencing geometrical similarities and coherence of the various elements of the plan)
interior wall elevations (documenting the separation of the wall surfaces and narrowing of space)
Criteria 1, 2, 3, and 6 relate space to movement, while criteria 4 through 7 explain spatial perception. The first criterion (pathways) concerns reduction in cumulative distance of travel and in number of turns; the second criterion (traffic areas) appears to prescribe and constrain movement further, but the third criterion (free area) counteracts this tendency by allocating space to unrestricted movement. By consolidating free areas and avoiding circuitous routes around furniture placed in rooms of reduced dimensions, Klein aimed to retain the sense of generosity of larger apartments. Criteria 4–7 examine apparently “objective” ways of notating particular aspects of spatial perception, but each criterion betrays a particular principle and intention. Therefore, criterion 4 encourages reduction of shadows and clarity of shadow contours. Criterion 5 advocates for clarification of the horizontal section at eye height through the spatial enclosure. Criterion 6 promotes the coherence of the enclosed spaces experienced in sequence. And criterion 7 seeks to harmonize the appearance of interior elevations by consolidating wall areas kept free of furniture. All criteria reinforce Klein's aspiration to avert the perceptual cluttering to which small spaces are susceptible.
While Taylorist conceptions of efficiency usually pertain to performance of physical tasks, Klein's graphical method places equal, even heightened, emphasis on regulating and purifying spatial perception. Therefore Klein argued against “the opinion, which is widespread today, that contemporary construction of dwellings is merely a matter of naked calculation.”28 He noted that “today works and objects of art are no longer exclusively intended for a small number of privileged persons, but shall serve the broader masses,” and concluded that “objects and works of art comprise all that raises a claim to a certain perfection [Vollkommenheit].”29 Klein believed that “to avoid constant and unproductive loss of nervous strength, the spatial impression of apartments must be calm.”30 He postulated that “the span of time that passes between the moment of the apparition of the space-image on the retina of the eye and the moment that an impression emerges in the brain must be the shortest possible.”31 Thus Klein transposed Taylorist axioms from their origin in scientific management to the realms of perception and aesthetics.
Diagrams as the Language of Phenomena Themselves
Klein's claim for diagrams as “a means of objective substantiation of the hitherto subjective appraisal” has its roots in scientific advances of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In a 1926 article in the journal Städtebau Klein labeled a diagram with the term Taylorarbeitsvorgang (Taylor work process).32 In the article, he cited Bruno Taut's book Die neue Wohnung: Die Frau als Schöpferin (The new dwelling: Woman as creator), which had introduced a German audience to the work of Christine Frederick, an early twentieth-century American home economist who applied Taylorist principles to the domestic sphere.33 Klein's graphical method also derives its claim to objectivity from a historical genealogy that originates in another graphical method, that of Etienne-Jules Marey.34 From 1867 onward, Marey, a French scientist and physiologist, invented and used a series of instruments to record human and animal locomotion. His chronocyclegraphs, series of still images taken at short intervals, allowed for more accurate and more complete understanding of locomotion than was previously possible. For example, one of his chronocyclegraphs recorded in a bar chart how long each hoof of a galloping horse touched the ground, resolving the question of whether all hooves of a running horse leave the ground at any one point, something the unaided eye cannot discern. Marey described his charts as “synoptical notations” of a “sort of music,” whose notes were “written by the horse itself.”35 He claimed that “the graphical method translates all these changes in the activity of forces into an arresting form that one could call the language of the phenomena themselves, as it is superior to all other forms of representation.”36
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth applied Marey's automated recording methodology to the scientific management of motion.37 They mapped motion sequences of individuals performing tasks by using long-exposure photography, with the aim of identifying redundancies and improving efficiency. Frederick's plan diagrams applied this methodology at the scale of a room. In 1913, she diagrammed the preparation of an omelet in a kitchen, which she subsequently extended to work in the kitchen in general (Figure 11).38 Frederick's volumes demonstrated that “badly arranged” kitchen equipment produces “confused intersecting chains of steps.” Subsequent motion studies of tasks such as “making a cake,” undertaken by Frederick in collaboration with Lillian Gilbreth, continued to detect redundant steps that could be eliminated.39
Both Frederick and Klein recast the automated recordings of Marey and Gilbreth as observational notations of human movement drawn by the human hand. Rather than being mere recordings of raw evidence, their interpretive diagrams were inflected to serve as proof for their arguments. As the scale of observation expanded from the human body to the room or apartment, the resulting escalation of complexity triggered a shift from automated recording to observational notation.
From Functionalist Therapy to a Choreographic Science of Space
From 1926 to 1934 Klein's theory and graphical method ignited a lively and contentious debate, which unfolded over almost fifty articles published in journals and books by Klein and others. Klein's most perceptive critics were Hugo Häring, a functionalist architect who was skeptical of Klein's differing creed of functionalism, and Ernst Löwitsch, an architect fascinated by psychoanalysis. The ensuing arguments and counterarguments, which drew in other critics, placed Klein's graphical method at the intersection of diverging functionalist strategies, critiques of functionalism, and reinterpretations of functionalism.
As I will show, both Häring and Klein sought to tailor space precisely to activities and programs, but Häring did so in order to harness their inherent expressive potential, whereas Klein aimed to reduce space and expression to the minimum required for each program. Klein understood the architecture of dwelling as a therapeutic, quasi-medical remedy against the deleterious effects of sensory overstimulation. Löwitsch criticized as well as endorsed Klein, reinterpreting his theories as the foundation for a new science of space that drew on psychoanalysis and embraced the cultural dimensions of space and perception.
Optimization and Standardization
In the first phase of the debate, Klein was supported by Werner Hegemann and Leo Adler. By 1929 the Kleinian space group plan was sufficiently well known that critic Ernst Völter observed that among the 221 entries for the 1928 competition held by the Reichsforschungsgesellschaft (RFG; National Research Commission for Economics in Building and Dwelling) for housing at Berlin Spandau-Haselhorst, around 100 proposed variations of Klein's apartment type plans, including 5 of the 12 winning entries.40 Far from voicing alarm at such uniformity, however, Völter recounted how one of the competition winners stated, “we can't make plans any better.” Völter agreed: “Very sensible! We note this fact—sine ira et studio.”41 Other contemporaneous critics and architects, including Adolf Behne, Hugo Häring, and Theo van Doesburg, questioned the validity of functionalist minimization, optimization, and standardization. Behne supported a particular inflection of functionalism that sought to differentiate rather than standardize architecture. In The Modern Functional Building (1926) he extolled the work of architects such as Häring and Hans Scharoun.42 Subsequently, in 1930, he attacked functionalist optimization and standardization even more explicitly, voicing his concern that
human beings are transformed into a notion, a figure. Humans thus are required to dwell and to be cured by dwelling; a precise diet of dwelling is prescribed … in detail. They are obliged, at least by the most rigorous architects, to go to bed toward the east, to eat and answer mother's letter toward the west, and the apartment is organized to give them no other choice.43
Klein's comparison of Heinz Lassen's Ceciliengärten floor plan to his own project of 1928 reflects Behne's notion of a prescribed “diet of dwelling” (see Figure 5). Each of the rooms in Klein's proposal is optimized toward a prescribed activity (sleeping, cooking, eating, and living). Lassen's plan provides for three rooms of similar size, none of them linked directly to the kitchen; each therefore remains available for all uses. Both Klein and Lassen operated within the constraints of the minimal dimensions of social housing. Lassen's proposal suffered from a scarcity of free space around densely packed furniture, while Klein consolidated free areas and maintained a perception of spatial generosity unattainable with more flexible arrangements. Klein justified his proposals by noting the economic requirements of the minimal dwelling and went as far as to proclaim that “ ‘variable,’ ‘versatile’ and ‘combinable’ apartments have to be avoided.”44 In the same text, Klein defined the apartment as a “living organism, which needs to reflect the forms of our lives.” Rather than therefore allowing for redundancy and adaptability in the apartment, however, he concluded that “our design work needs to be deeply thought through, in terms of both the whole and the detail, and its elaboration needs to carry the character of a work of precision.”45
In 1926 Van Doesburg put forward a rejoinder against minimization, advocating for “redundant space,” which “we might not experience physically, but instead psychically and perhaps even more spiritually.”46 Alongside this critique directed at functionalism, there was a parallel discourse within functionalism engaging architect Hugo Häring, microbiologist and hygienist Heinrich Gins, and architect-theorist Ernst Löwitsch. Häring is known for his farm buildings at Gut Garkau of 1923–26, the idiosyncratic volumes of which were tailored to the activities that he envisioned within. He thus became a prominent representative of the alternate strand of functionalist thought for which Behne had argued. In a November 1928 article comparing the Weissenhof complex in Stuttgart with Klein's Fischtalgrund housing near Berlin (Figure 12), Häring described Klein's methodology as a “measuring apparatus” and proposed an alternative formula that simply divides the amount of built volume by the habitable floor area.47 If one aims to maximize habitable floor area and minimize built volume and associated cost, a low ratio number is desirable. The ratio of 4.65 for Oud's houses at the Weissenhof bests that of the various houses Klein built at the Fischtalgrund, which had ratios of 5.1 to 5.7.48 The difference is not very large, however, and pales alongside other comparisons between the Fischtalgrund and Weissenhof houses. Häring's explanation is simple. In deference to the “cultural needs of the middle classes,” all of the Fischtalgrund houses are equipped with cellars and with loft spaces under their pitched roofs, which account for their uneconomical ratio.49 While Häring acknowledged Klein's “admirable detail work” in minimizing efforts expended on the “cultural needs of the middle classes,” he attacked Klein for attempting to “adapt the bourgeois home and the bourgeois apartment to minimal dimensions” rather than asking more pertinent questions about “how to create dwellings for the contemporary working class and contemporary city dwellers.”50 Like Klein, Häring drew on quantifiable criteria to argue for a qualitative agenda, the reevaluation of cultural frameworks challenged by an emerging new social order.
Klein's agenda went beyond a “diet of dwelling” that optimizes spaces for prescribed physical activities. Throughout his publications from 1927 onward, he espoused a therapeutic function for domestic space in alleviating the negative mental effects of the sensory overstimulation encountered in urban life and at the workplace, describing the home as a “sanatorium that acts not only to heal, but to prevent.”51 Klein developed his argument most fully in his article “Beiträge zur Wohnfrage” of 1928 and in his lecture to a 1929 conference convened by the RFG, where he elaborated his ideas about an economy of perception. He advised that “especially in children's rooms care needs to be taken to ensure a calm spatial impression, for pedagogical reasons. The difficult task of attuning children to concentrate fully on the given activity will become considerably easier.”52 Klein anticipated the argument that “these impressions are purely subjective, and that there are no fixed laws when it comes to emotional processes, that there are personalities who need constant emotional incitement, who are immune to the effects of equilibrium and even find these uncomfortable.”53 He countered by questioning whether the “desire for constant emotional incitement may not be a certain deviation from the norm, perhaps the result of an overexertion of the nervous system, that can be overcome through ‘corrective therapy.’ ”54 Gins, who previously had collaborated with Klein, presented alongside him at the RFG conference and expanded this argument in regard to the space of the residential street and the colors of houses. In arguing for the minimization of physical exertion of the body and also of psychological effort invested in completing a task, Gins coined the term mental hygiene. He went so far as to call for “psychotechnical examination” of the energy expended by the brain in processing impressions of multicolored versus monochromatic streetscapes.55 At the RFG conference, Häring pointed out the distinction between psychological effect and physiological stimulation, and insisted on a qualitative rather than only quantitative understanding of the effect of color. Häring pointed out that “painting is sustained by people who are psychically excited by color and color harmonies” and that it juxtaposes “nourishment of the psyche” against “relaxation of the brain.”56
Choreography and Expression
Klein and Gins presumed a norm that defines psychological needs and reactions shared by all individuals within contemporary society. In a contrarian view, Ernst Löwitsch dissected the relationship between the collective psychology of a historical epoch and that of its individuals. He posited his conception of “energetic space” as the defining characteristic of the twentieth century and contended that the architect “forms the activity of people for whom he builds. By shaping their space, he inscribes a range of possible movement and shapes their life.”57 In an article published in 1930, Löwitsch stated:
Through forms, measurements and proportions of spaces and furniture the architect arranges for the inhabitant the sequences of movements in daily life; it is up to him to fill these with rhythm and make them a satisfying experience. False rationality will turn the dwelling into a machine, the correct one into a work of art. That is the secret of all perfect spaces, that we see in them people moving and living. The floor plan of a house is “choreography,” a spatial notation of dance, composed by the architect and experienced by the inhabitant.58
Directly answering Klein in another 1930 article titled “Ein Kapitel Raumwissenschaft” (A chapter in a science of space), Löwitsch acknowledged that Klein “does not present an aesthetically codified dogma, but rather a scientifically founded thesis,” but questioned Klein's assumption that all city dwellers react alike to sensory stimulation.59 He countered by explaining how individuals perceive and respond to space differently. Two years earlier, in an article published in Imago, the psychoanalytical journal edited by Sigmund Freud, and in an ensuing series of shorter essays in the journal Die Baugilde, Löwitsch advocated for the foundation of a “science of space.”60 For guidance, Löwitsch looked to the evolutionary biologist Richard Semon's theory of mneme, which he linked to psychoanalysis. Semon's definition of mneme goes beyond memory as recollection of past events to encompass remembered habits and instinctive behaviors, “an organism's capacity to conserve the effects of stimulation and to interact with the environment on the basis of conserved experience.”61 Mneme therefore links the individual to collective memory and the individual's development to historical narrative—that is, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny; this definition appears to be based on Ernst Haeckel's theory of evolution.62
Löwitsch's narrative commences with the prenatal experience of “cell-like space,” which does not distinguish between self and environment. At a successive developmental stage, the individual experiences “cavernous space” in the womb, which constricts movement. During early childhood, blankets, bed, and clothing impede movement, but the child nevertheless begins to experience space through her or his limbs. The experience of space can be compared to the experience of a cave. As the child begins to distinguish between objects in the environment and the “I,” cavernous space gives way to “tangible space” (dinghafter Raum). Upon moving more freely in space and beginning to understand interaction between objects and environment, the child perceives space as a collection of forces that interact, as “energetic space” (energetischer Raum). Löwitsch compared the stages of ontogeny to historical epochs and identified energetic space with modernism. He argued that the sensation of space draws on “engrams” (encoded memories) of the species, which are reactivated and overlaid with other spatial impressions during an individual's development. Arising from a shared basis, sensation of space becomes specific to age, person, generation, culture, and race. Löwitsch dismissed Klein's and Gins's reductive assumption that urban life engenders sensory overstimulation in all individuals, instead favoring a complex understanding of shared and individual responses rooted in the evolution of the species as well as that of the individual. Löwitsch advocated not for spatial flexibility and indeterminacy but for a “science of space” that would support designers in recognizing and attending to specific psychological needs.
Beyond a single series of diagrams, however, he did not visualize his findings or develop methodologies that might assist designers (Figure 13).63 Nevertheless, by describing architecture as “choreography to be experienced by the inhabitant,” Löwitsch shifted the remit of Klein's graphical method from instrument of objective evaluation to a notion of choreography that is ripe with psychoanalytical connotations.64 Löwitsch's revised reading dispensed with the quasi-medical notion of a “diet of dwelling” and with therapeutic schemata counteracting presumed sensory overstimulation. His choreographic reading resurfaced in Bernard Tschumi's subsequent recontextualization of Klein's most widely recognized diagram (pathways) through affiliation to other exemplars of choreographic notation drawn from the arts and from history.65 Löwitsch's science of space was not further developed after 1933, with the exception of the work of architectural theorist and physician Fred Fischer, who in 1965 cited Löwitsch in support of his conception of “spatial fields.”66
The Graphical Method Reframed as Polemic and Indictment of Ideology
The striking divergence between the receptions of the graphical method in the German- and English-speaking worlds is rooted in the early dissemination of Klein's work by American authors. In his 1929 article “Germany's Bauhaus Experiment,” architect and educator Milton D. Lowenstein made available to an American audience the diagrams constituting Klein's graphical method.67 However, Lowenstein failed to recognize Klein as their author and instead attributed the diagrams to the Bauhaus under Walter Gropius, demonstrating a gulf between American and German architectural discourse that remained throughout the years following World War I. Other American architectural journals were quick to take note of Klein's work. Earlier in 1929, Architectural Record published the three diagrams comparing the floor plans of Lassen's Ceciliengärten housing estate to Klein's own counterproposal under the title “Illustrations of German Efficiency Studies” (see Figure 4).68 In 1931 Klein authored an article in Architectural Forum that fully explained the seven criteria of his graphical method to American readers.69
American discourse on the graphical method was broadened by Henry Wright's 1935 book Rehousing Urban America, which introduced Klein's questionnaires and comparative charts (see Figure 10).70 Wright stressed that “efficiency was only one of the factors used in [Klein's] table of evaluation, in which his analytical mind did not fail to include the quality and usefulness of the space produced.”71 He also included Klein's 1930 proposal for a minimal dwelling for a family of three, reduced to a total surface area of only 45 square meters in response to further worsening of Weimar Germany's housing crisis (Figure 14). Because of extreme spatial constraints, Klein had abandoned separation of daytime and nighttime activities in favor of the typology of the “cabin floor plan” (Kabinengrundriß), which appends the bedrooms as alcoves to a central living space. Sliding walls serve to maintain an impression of spatial generosity, which is spelled out in Klein's notation of sight lines emanating from various viewpoints. The change from the earlier diagrams of the space group floor plan to the new diagrams explaining the cabin floor plan suggests that Klein developed his methodologies in response to challenges rather than as universally applicable paradigms.
In a 1935 article in Architectural Record, William Muschenheim pursued a contrasting approach to Klein's work, presenting the diagrams of pathways, traffic areas, free area, and shadows on the floor that Klein had published in 1927 (see Figure 4) in redrawn and slightly altered form (Figure 15), albeit without acknowledging Klein's authorship.72 The redrawn diagrams omitted crucial details, such as the pass-through between kitchen and dining space as well as a second door directly connecting the master bedroom to the living space. Muschenheim's omissions are significant because they eradicated the matrix of interconnected spaces in Klein's plan (Figure 16, bottom row).
In his article “Beiträge zur Wohnfrage,” Klein described his 1913–14 tenement house in St. Petersburg (see Figure 1) as a “clear allocation of spaces to three groups: living, sleeping and service groups. The functions of these groups can be performed without mutual disruption.”73 Therefore Klein designated his St. Petersburg house as the origin of the space group plan. But each of the large space groups of the St. Petersburg plan reads as a matrix of interconnected spaces in the classical tradition, which Klein had studied on his visits to Italy (see Figure 1, bottom). This doubled reading subtly persists in almost all of Klein's floor plans, but it does not register in his diagrams. My diagrammatic analysis of Klein's 1927 and 1928 proposals (Figure 16, bottom row, middle and right-hand columns) demonstrates these two oscillating, contradictory readings of the same plan: as two groups of spaces segregated from each other or as a matrix or grid of interconnected spaces. Klein's plans invite competing diagrammatic annotation: explicit, deterministic pathways are set against an implicit matrix of possibilities.
Catherine Bauer's 1934 book Modern Housing presented Klein's comparison of Lassen's Ceciliengärten floor plan and his counterproposal in a floor plan and as a pathways diagram (see Figure 4, top two rows), eliminating the other diagrams that had been part of Klein's analysis.74 Bauer stressed that Klein had “studied the actual movements and daily requirements of families” but did not mention his complementary diagrammatic analysis of spatial perception.75 Most consequentially, she bestowed an entirely new title on Klein's diagram: “Functional Housing for Frictionless Living.”76 Klein's emphasis on method, which Bauer commended in her text, was obscured by her introduction of the new description “frictionless,” which had not been used by Klein. Bauer's new title resonates with Klein's stated ambition to minimize “the purely physical expenditure of energy” and his concern about “sensory overstimulation.”77 However, “frictionless” might also be interpreted to express the absence of any friction resulting from engagement between inhabitants—a goal that Klein never advocated. In her text Bauer did not explain why she introduced the new title for the diagram.
In his seminal essay “Figures, Doors and Passages” of 1978, Robin Evans reprinted Klein's floor plans and pathways diagram (see Figure 7, top two rows).78 Evans's use of the same set of plans and diagrams that Bauer had extracted from Klein's broader analysis along with Bauer's title, “Functional Housing for Frictionless Living,” suggests that he may have been familiar with Klein's work only through Bauer's book. Evans argued that the architectural floor plan in general, including Klein's plans, describes “the nature of human relationships, since the elements whose trace it records—walls, doors, windows and stairs—are employed first to divide and then selectively to re-unite inhabited space.”79 He developed a historical narrative that begins with the observation that Renaissance floor plans succeeded in “making the house a matrix of discrete but thoroughly interconnected chambers,” as opposed to nineteenth-century corridor plans, which strove to afford privacy to the members of a family by separating spaces.80 As a conclusion to this historical shift from interconnection and interaction to privacy and isolation, Evans introduced the diagrammatic juxtaposition of Klein's and Lassen's floor plans. He asserted that “the justification for Klein's plan was the metaphor hidden in its title, which implied that all accidental encounters caused friction and therefore threatened the smooth running of the domestic machine.”81
While Evans provided a compelling and insightful historical narrative, the position he attributed to Klein was contingent on Bauer's new title, which did not reflect Klein's goals. The narrative through which Evans positioned Klein as emblematic of Taylorist functionalism is persuasive, but he discounted the more nuanced exegesis of Klein's German-language publications. He ignored the distinction between separating activities and separating people, as well as the critical discourse that had differentiated and contextualized Klein's work. Further, Evans mistook Lassen's plan for a “bad example” of “an odious, if typical, nineteenth-century layout” (see Figure 16).82 Long corridors characterize a nineteenth-century Berlin housing typology, as Evans observed earlier in his essay. Lassen's plan differs fundamentally from such typologies, however, and parallels Klein's attempts to consolidate the “unusable” space of long corridors into more compact and inhabitable proportions. Evans distorted Klein's diagrammatic alternatives as a dramatic contest between opposing paradigms: the “terror of bodies in collision” versus Renaissance “proximity within the matrix of rooms” and “implicit sensuality of touching bodies.”83 But, while Klein's space group plan disaggregates activities deemed irreconcilable, it does not isolate inhabitants from each other. Indeed, it provides several points of entry to most rooms, which suggests an alternate reading as a matrix of interconnected, albeit grouped, chambers (see Figure 16, bottom row). Klein's floor plans for the housing estate at Bad Dürrenberg arrange the three bedrooms in an en suite sequence, inviting interaction between family members (see Figure 7).84 Indeed, Klein had included among the goals of his apartment types “to enable parents to easily watch their children and to strengthen the feeling of living together of the family members.”85 Rather than contrasting his work with Renaissance architecture, as Evans suggested, Klein himself stated that he “sought a synthesis between formally tied classical composition and the unshackled creative methodologies of recent times.”86
Evans's interpretation continues to inform much of the English-language literature on Klein's methodology. Its polemical inflection is affirmed by Bernard Tschumi, who included Klein's pathways diagram in his 1996 book Architecture and Disjunction under the abbreviated title “Layouts from Frictionless Living.”87 Tschumi did not comment on Klein's diagram, but it was placed alongside three graphic scores choreographing theatrical or athletic performances, namely, a diagram of sixteenth-century pageants in Florence, Oscar Schlemmer's “Gesture-Dance Diagram” of 1926, and a notation of American football tactical moves. Montaged into a chapter on violence in architecture, under the heading “Program: Reciprocity and Conflict,” Klein's diagram was interpreted as deterministic and, therefore, violent.
The Graphical Method as Catalyst
The persuasiveness of Evans's historical narrative, which numerous subsequent authors have appropriated, has cast Klein's graphical method in an enduring role as emblematic of Taylorist functionalism.88 However, the lineage extending from Bauer to Evans and beyond is only one of several reception histories of Klein's method. A contrasting reception history unfolded within the German-speaking world, where the graphical method was understood not primarily as an ideological statement but rather as a set of tools available for use, inviting adaptation, extension, and even inversion. Klein's pathways diagrams persisted in the operational repertoire of architects, with discussion in such resources as Ernst Neufert's Bauentwurfslehre from its first edition of 1936 to the twenty-ninth German edition of 1973.89 Beyond the diagrams included in Neufert's book, Klein's more comprehensive methodology was rediscovered by German architects after World War II. In a 1950 article titled “Alexander Klein noch zeitgemäß?” (Is Alexander Klein still relevant to our time?), Günther Kühne used the graphical method to evaluate a series of floor plans (Figure 17).90 Kühne focused his analysis on three criteria: pathways, free area, and geometric similarity and coherence of spatial sequences. For each of the criteria his diagrammatic analysis arrived at a clear verdict lent instant legibility by the diagrams’ stark graphic contrast. Kühne concluded that his examples affirmed the effectiveness of Klein's method as a tool to determine the “habitation value of a floor plan faultlessly and objectively.”91
Kühne suggested a leaner version of Klein's method and abridged its selective criteria rather than questioning them. Architect Frank Gloor, however, advocated for “integrating it into a higher-level method, which examines the apartment as freely usable space.”92 Borrowing from the science of combinatorics, the branch of mathematics dealing with combinations of objects in accordance with given constraints, Gloor introduced bubble diagrams denoting hierarchical connections between spaces, along with degrees of programmatic interchangeability (Figure 18). Subjected to Gloor's analysis, a floor plan proposed by Klein in 1927 shows an absence of any alternative means of reaching rooms, while Klein's 1957 project for the Hansaviertel in Berlin yields no fewer than seventy-one accessibility patterns. By appending a diagrammatic format that measures connectivity, interchangeability of programs, and flexible usage scenarios, Gloor's bubble diagrams counteract the graphical method's normative and choreographic nature. Both Kühne's and Gloor's appropriations of the graphical method miss the reach of Klein's diagrams, which go beyond quantitative, economic parameters to register spatial perception and include the perceptual qualities of space. While Gloor included a notation of “shadows cast on the floor,” he no longer attached perceptual significance to the geometry of shadow contours, as his diagrams merely register the extent to which daylight reaches into the apartment (Figure 19).93 Kühne identified “lack of geometrical coherence, sudden changes in light and shadow” as causes of “sensory overstimulation” but eliminated from his own analysis almost all of the pertinent Kleinian categories.94 Further, Löwitsch's apprehension about the graphical method's conflation of shared and individual psychological needs remained pertinent to the reception of Klein's method. Kühne reacted by shifting emphasis from the psychological to the physiological. Gloor replaced Löwitsch's choreography with scientific evaluation of degrees of flexibility.
Throughout his 1967 book La costruzione logica dell'architettura, Giorgio Grassi, one of the main protagonists of Italian neorationalism, referred to Klein's graphical method and architecture. Grassi embraced Klein's “properly rational attitude toward the problem of a theory of architecture” and reproduced several of Klein's diagrams.95 However, he shifted the emphasis toward historical continuity of building types. In support of his approach, he pointed to historical references in Klein's buildings and “formal choices” (regarding architectural style) linking Klein to Tessenow.96 Indeed, Klein differed from the proponents of the Neues Bauen in his preference for traditional forms, such as pitched roofs. Grassi's appropriation of Klein as a progenitor of Italian neorationalism is problematic, however, inasmuch as Grassi largely ignored Klein's argument for new typologies that respond to new demands arising from changing social and economic conditions.97
Myra Warhaftig, who had been Klein's student at the Technion in Haifa, and whose account of Klein as teacher prefaces this essay, built on Klein's methodology to achieve yet another set of goals. She shifted emphasis from the physiological and psychological to the sociological and the role of gender and family structure. In 1978, she submitted her dissertation, titled “Emanzipationshinderniss Wohnung” (The dwelling as hindrance to emancipation), to the Technical University of Berlin.98 While she may not have been aware of Evans's essay published the same year, Warhaftig too queried what Evans termed “the power that the customary arrangement of domestic space exerts over our lives.”99 She annotated her dissertation with a series of diagrams evoking the graphical method espoused by her teacher. Rather than assuming a generic “inhabitant,” however, Warhaftig diagrammed the use of space according to age and gender. She recorded children's activities at specific times of the day and year, notated the paths of their mothers, and marked visual connections at crucial points. Paraphrasing Klein, she referred to a “bad example”: the floor plan of architect Willy Kreuer's apartments at Ackerstraße 67–70 in Berlin of 1968, which relegates the kitchen to a peripheral location (Figure 20, top left). Warhaftig appropriated Kleinian diagrammatic tools to question and partially invert Klein's generalizing assumptions. The debt her work owes to Klein's graphical method is apparent. Her apartment building of 1993 for the IBA in Berlin evidences an intriguing adaptation and inversion of Klein's purposes (Figure 20, top right, and Figure 21). Like Klein, she defied the Berlin planning regulations that prescribed corridors for all apartments in social housing. Her floor plan assigns to the kitchen (and to the parent caring for the household's children) the pivotal position formerly occupied by the corridor, but Warhaftig no longer insists on shortening the paths traveled by the inhabitants, as evidenced by the long, circuitous route between a bedroom and the bathroom. The kitchen is choreographed as a space of intersection and contact, and also as a point of control. The diagrams of Warhaftig's floor plan in terms of pathways and connectivity largely coincide (Figure 20, second column, second and third rows). In Warhaftig's plan, the spatial intrigue characteristic of Klein's plans, which stems from ambiguity between competing diagrammatic readings and oscillation between choreographed and optimized pathways (see Figure 16), has vanished in favor of a network of abundant and redundant linkages within a matrix of interconnected chambers.
Historicization and Critical Appropriation
Alexander Klein's forced emigration in 1933 brought about a break in his architectural practice, in his contribution to architectural discourse, and in the development and dissemination of his graphical method. This rupture may explain why his work is not widely recognized; indeed, some have relegated Klein to a place among “the ‘minor’ architects that laid the groundwork for the modern style.”100 Klein's “scientification” of planning did not lead him to develop a distinctive architectural style. For example, at his Haus Am Fischtal in the Gagfah-Siedlung in Berlin, a pitched roof and details reminiscent of the work of Tessenow, whom Klein admired, coexist somewhat uncomfortably with the modernist language of the balconies (see Figure 12).
Klein's relative lack of recognition, along with the sharply curtailed version of his graphical method that Bauer introduced to the English-speaking world, has allowed the projection of varied inferences onto his striking diagrams. These range from Grassi's appropriation of Klein as a progenitor of Italian neorationalism to Evans's conjecture about Klein's intention to isolate apartment occupants.101 Situating the graphical method in its historical context and retracing its iterative development enables an understanding of the method as a response and a contribution to the functionalist debates in 1920s Germany, which engaged “psychotechnical” and psychoanalytical notions of space and spatial perception, and the prescriptive or expressive dimensions of choreographic diagrams. Through historicization and contextualization, Klein's graphical method can be recognized as a set of complex methodologies rather than reduced to an ideological postulate; the method can also thus be meaningfully reconnected to its divergent reception histories. Frank Gloor's adaption and Myra Warhaftig's inversion of Klein's agenda exemplify discursive rather than dogmatic interpretations and extensions. I would argue that theirs are the most productive responses to the graphical method. It is no coincidence that both architects also carried out historical research on Klein and his period and thus were able to draw on detailed and differentiated historical knowledge.102 Future readings of Klein's graphical method that acknowledge its historical context alongside the complexity, multiplicity, and ambiguity of its implications may catalyze diagrams that reflect on and organize the inhabitation of space in new ways, cognizant of both the limitations and the opportunities encapsulated in the palimpsest of multiple, sometimes contradictory, readings articulated by commentators over the course of more than eight decades.