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The Karl Marx-Hof Building as an Experiment in Socialist Design

The Karl Marx-Hof is a public housing work built by the Social Democratic Party of Austria in the late 1920's. I view it as a prime example of good urban planning. It was designed by city planner Karl Ehn, a follower of the architect Otto Wagner. It is a Gemeindebau, or municipality building, with about 1,400 apartments. Only 20% of the land parcel is built up, with the rest remaining as common areas such as gardens and playgrounds. The apartments are built around a central courtyard of sorts where people can converge. Amenities include laundromats, baths, daycare, a library, doctors and business offices.

I really like the concept of a complete housing complex where one can live, work, and play within a single construction. It is highly efficient in terms of little-to-no commute times which translates into less energy and pollution wasted on traveling. In addition, it provides a diverse community for all residents. Old and young alike can live here and spontaneously bump into each other. And of course, as it is a public housing work, different socio-economic classes can live and interact here as well. I wish there were more options for semi-communal living for the general public akin to the Karl Marx-Hof. The US has public housing that is severely lacking in providing dignified housing options. I don't think most people would choose to live in a public work if they had the choice. On the other end, developers have built luxury condos with all the trappings that cater to those only with high disposable incomes. I think there is potential for a private solution to the problem of limited high-quality and affordable housing.

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