Christina Crawford and I will co-present our paper From Hof to Homes: Interwar Urban Design Exchange between Vienna and Atlanta at the conference "Histories of Urban Design: Global Trajectories and Local Realities", ETH Zurich (Switzerland), November 15-17, 2021. The conference is organized by Tom Avermaete (ETH Zurich) and Janina Gosseye (TU Delft).
The urban design project Techwood Homes in Atlanta, Georgia (1937) represents both the first federally funded public housing in the US and a synthesis of early 20th c. European mass housing accomplishments. This paper uses the development of Techwood as a lens through which to view both the process of, and result from, transnational urban design exchange in the Interwar/New Deal period—here, between Red Vienna and Jim Crow Atlanta. Public housing in the US originated in 1933, when Atlanta real estate mogul turned housing crusader, Charles Palmer, successfully secured slum clearance and low-cost housing funding through President FDR’s National Industrial Recovery Act. In 1934, during Techwood Homes’ project development, Palmer took a European Grand Tour of social housing to visit projects he deemed worthy of study and possible replication in Atlanta. Vienna was a highlight of his trip, confirmed by his autobiography, Adventures of a Slum Fighter (1955). Palmer toured the Karl Marx-Hof, among other Viennese municipal socialist housing projects, took his own photographs and moving picture films, and gathered promotional materials. He also met important policymakers of the Viennese initiative to pose questions about financing, site planning, and programming. Concrete urban design connections between the Karl-Marx Hof and Techwood Homes include low site coverage (around 15%); rational yet non-rigid site planning; high-quality garden and playground design; abundant collective facilities; and rich materiality. This co-authored comparative analysis of the two sites, based on archival documentation and analytical redrawing of both projects, allows for critical assessment of why, how, and in what ways European urban design principles crossed the Atlantic. By focusing on the particular relationship between the Hof and the Homes, this paper aims to demonstrate how urban design ideas are globalized, then adjust to local scale.