Data-Driven Design in High Modernism

Ludwig Hilberseimer’s Solar Orientation Studies

  • Ute Poerschke Pennsylvania State University


ABSTRACT: This paper presents High Modernism as a predecessor of today’s discourse on evidencebased design. The 1920s and 1930s provide rich examples of promoting the relationship between research and design, as many modern protagonists claimed their designs resulted from analyzed data and expert input rather than historical reference or creative talent. Scientists, economists, engineers, and architects alike investigated problems such as hygiene conditions in housing and cities, human needs at work and home, construction mechanization, and traffic optimization as the basis and justification of spatial designs. As an example, this paper addresses the discourse on best solar orientation of housing, with the architect and urbanist Ludwig Hilberseimer as one of several proponents of this discourse, among them Walter Gropius, Ernst May, and Le Corbusier. Regarding solar studies, Hilberseimer’s projects and writings can be divided into three phases. The first phase is marked by his famous 1920s renderings of the residential city and high-rise metropolis, which conform to the orientation recommendations by urban planners Richard Baumeister and Karl Hoepfner. The second phase spans Hilberseimer’s teaching at the Bauhaus from 1929 to 1933, in which he contributed to the extensive solar studies for diverse housing types undertaken at the Bauhaus building department. A third phase, in which he applied the findings to “settlement units” in linear city patterns, came to full fruition after 1938 when Hilberseimer started teaching at the Armour Institute, later renamed the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. The case of solar studies in High Modernism and Hilberseimer’s work in particular illuminate the challenges of relating research, performance-driven design, and actual building projects.


KEYWORDS: evidence-based design, housing, hygiene, Durchsonnung, “Licht Luft Sonne”

How to Cite
Poerschke, U. (2018). Data-Driven Design in High Modernism. ARCC Conference Repository.