Ernst May House
House at Housing Estate Römerstadt
The urban planning programme entitled Das Neue Frankfurt – The New Frankfurt – was conceived to address the city’s growing demand for housing space from the mid-1920s onwards. Under the direction of Frankfurt’s city planning commissioner, Ernst May, more than 12,000 dwelling units were built within five years. The initiative was one of the most comprehensive social housing construction projects of the Weimar Republic. Today, one of the dwellings built in 1927/1928 in the Römerstadt estate is open to visitors as the Ernst May House.
Working with roughly 50 architects and designers, Ernst May sought new concepts for housing and urban development. The aim was not merely to create affordable living space with improved social and hygienic conditions. Rather, May’s stated goal was the formation of a new and more modern society with exemplary living conditions.
The experimental buildings constructed for the New Frankfurt programme in the north of the city were built at relatively low cost. May and his colleagues opted for industrialised construction using prefabricated components. They hired local companies and brought in unemployed craftsmen to build the project. The dwellings were mostly terraced houses with their own gardens and equipped with bathrooms, kitchens and simple, functional furniture. The Römerstadt estate, where the Ernst May House is located, was the first completely electrified housing development in Germany.
Ernst May’s rejuvenation of housing did not focus solely on functional aspects. He was also a pioneer from an aesthetic point of view. May collaborated with different designers from the fields of architecture, industrial design and graphics. Among them was the Viennese architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, who was commissioned by May to design a functional working kitchen for the smallest of spaces. Her creation, popularised as the “Frankfurt kitchen”, was designed following ergonomic principles and practical considerations. Tailored precisely to fit the houses, it took up no more than six square metres.
With its holistic approach, the New Frankfurt programme stands alongside the Bauhaus as one of the most influential movements in 20th century design. The Bauhaus developed the New Architecture through teaching and experimentation, and it was implemented at a large scale for the first time in the New Frankfurt – which was, from the beginning, conceived to improve people’s everyday lives through skilful planning and thoughtful architecture. The housing estates remain inhabited to this day. [DB/DK]
Contact and opening hours
Directions by local public transport:Nächstgelegener Bahnhof der Deutschen Bahn: Hauptbahnhof Frankfurt am Main
Nächstgelegene Haltestelle ÖPNV (Bus, Straßenbahn o.ä.): U-Bahn U1 Römerstadt
Book: Bauhaus 100 Sites of Modernism
Extraordinary sites associated with the Bauhaus and modernism can be found throughout Germany—pioneering architecture that has enduringly shaped our understanding of life and work, learning and living. This travel guide brings the historical and architectural traces of over 100 examples of Neues Bauen building to life, making tangible the impact of the historical Bauhaus beyond the school, its sites and its time.
This place is part of the tour:
Encounter design diversityFrankfurt/Main, Mainz und Kindenheim
Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate have a lot to offer when it comes to the Bauhaus and modernism. Witness the legacy of the New Frankfurt reform programme, the achievements of the New Building (Neues Bauen) movement in Ludwigshafen and examples of modernist graphic and communication design at the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz.