Modern Housing

2020
Author:

Catherine Bauer
Foreword by Barbara Penner

Modern Housing

The original guide on modern housing from the premier expert and activist in the public housing movement

Originally published in 1934, Modern Housing is widely acknowledged as one of the most important books on housing of the twentieth century, introducing the latest developments in European modernist housing to an American audience. In light of today’s affordable housing emergency, Catherine Bauer’s prescriptions for how to achieve humane and dignified modern housing remain as instructive and urgent as ever.

In discussing Modern Housing, which deals largely with European achievements of the last fifteen years, it is difficult to exercise restraint and to avoid fulsome praise.

Lee M. Brooks, University of North Carolina (1935)

Originally published in 1934, Modern Housing is widely acknowledged as one of the most important books on housing of the twentieth century, introducing the latest developments in European modernist housing to an American audience. It is also a manifesto: America needs to draw on Europe’s example to solve its housing crisis. Only when housing is transformed into a planned, public amenity will it truly be modern.

Modern Housing’s sharp message catalyzed an intense period of housing activism in the United States, resulting in the Housing Act of 1937, which Catherine Bauer coauthored. But these reforms never went far enough: so long as housing remained the subject of capitalist speculation, Bauer knew the housing problem would remain. In light of today’s affordable housing emergency, her prescriptions for how to achieve humane and dignified modern housing remain as instructive and urgent as ever.
Modern Housing

Catherine Bauer (Wurster) (1905–1964) was a leading public housing advocate and a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was instrumental in the creation of its College of Environmental Design.

Barbara Penner is an architectural historian and professor of architectural humanities at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London.
Modern Housing

Modern Housing has special interest for Americans, not because of what we have done but because of what we have not done.

The New York Book Review (1934, R. L. Duffus)

It should not be thought that this book is intended only, or even mainly, for technicians; on the contrary, it is entirely suitable both in manner and matter for anyone interested in its subject.

The Spectator (1935)

Catherine Bauer’s Modern Housing shows how we lag behind Europe in good homes for all.

The Washington Post (1934, Theodore Hall)

In discussing Modern Housing, which deals largely with European achievements of the last fifteen years, it is difficult to exercise restraint and to avoid fulsome praise.

Lee M. Brooks, University of North Carolina (1935)

Planners, architects, and builders today should be equally interested in this book.

Daphne Spain, University of Virginia

A masterful yet accessible overview of the housing situation, a systematic discussion of options, and a roadmap for reform.

Barbara Penner, from the Foreword

My deepest thanks to Barbara Penner and the University of Minnesota Press for making possible a new generation’s discovery of Catherine Bauer’s too-long-hidden treasure of a book. Although Modern Housing was originally published in the depths of the Great Depression, it remains shockingly relevant today. The crisis of affordable housing that drove Bauer persists, the nation’s dependence on the private sector for shelter has only intensified, and inspiration for better solutions are still best found abroad.

Lizabeth Cohen, author of Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Suburban Age*

Catherine Bauer’s Modern Housing, long out of print, has lost none of its historical authority or contemporary urgency. No less authoritative is Barbara Penner’s scholarly and engaging introduction, which brings to the fore Bauer’s complex and multi-faceted political engagement as one of the key ‘housers’ of the 1930s. This book is essential for anyone interested in the housing movement.

Barry Bergdoll, author of European Architecture 1750–1890

Modern Housing

Contents

Foreword

Barbara Penner

Modern Housing

Acknowledgments

An Introductory Note

Part I. Nineteenth-Century Cities: A Record of Failure

1. The Period of Black Congestion

2. The Era of Wasteful Expansion

3. Victorian Mind and Matter

Part II. Gathering Forces

4. An Advance Guard of Ideas

5. The Heyday of Paternal Reform

6. Changes in the Social Structure

7. Toward a New Physical World

Part III. Post-War Housing: Facts and Figures

8. The Situation

9. The Houses Built

10. The Means

11. The Outlook

Part IV. Elements of Modern Housing

12. Minimum Standards in Practice

13. A New Method: The Community Unit

14. Location: Housing and Cities

15. Layout and Building Arrangement

16. Building Types and Dwelling Plans

17. Construction

18. Architecture

19. Economics and Economies

20. Modern Housing for America?

Appendix to Part III: National Housing Measures, 1850–1934

I. England

II. Germany

III. Holland

IV. Belgium

V. France

VI. Austria

VII. The Scandinavian Countries

VIII. Switzerland

Bibliography

Index