Right from the beginning, Prof. Thomas Jocher was a big part of the new Institute of Housing and Design (IWE) at the University of Stuttgart. Now, 21 years later, Prof. Jocher is using the occasion of his retirement from research and teaching to present the topic of housing in condensed form to approximately four hundred students and colleagues from the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning.
The choreography for the evening was a cheerful, yet informative play with three acts. Featuring diverse musical accompaniments and garnished with political messages from Jocher, the evening’s main protagonist during the second act, and closing with a party at the institute’s premises at Keplerstraße 11. And the final notes have not yet been played, because Jocher intends to remain at the university during the first phase of his retirement, at least during the winter semester, to teach building theory.
Urban living from an international perspective
Act one: a relaxed lounge atmosphere with a leather suite, couch table and the Stuttgart Television Tower; a symbol of the state capitol city and visible from afar, not to mention an avant-garde architectural milestone. On this occasion, the tower functioned as a characteristic symbol for the topics being discussed. In the auditorium at Keplerstraße 17, Thomas Jocher discussed urban living with eight international guests, illustrated by a range of exemplary residential construction projects and pioneering projects demonstrating new urban construction projects.
Places where people can come together
Most of the evening’s protagonists, including Herwig Spiegl from Vienna, focused on large residential building projects. Taking a strikingly humorous approach, he focused on the importance of the interaction between privacy and cohabitation – beginning with his own experiences as a student, when he attempted to share a large loft with three other students in the rather expensive city of Vienna. The space was just one large room and each pitched a tent to create their own private “room”. He then went on to discuss buildings from the Gründerzeit era. “Everyone met to chat in the Bassena in the stairwell”, reminisced Spiegl, translating this for any non-Austrians as “Water supply point in the stairwell”. Ultimately, it is not only important to know who one lives with, but also who gets along with whom. Such meeting points are a key focus of the Vienna-based architect’s designs. “It is not only the floorplans that are important, a design needs to have places where people can come together”, he concludes. In Germany it has been relatively difficult to garner support for the credo “not two apartments per story, but thirty”. A project that enjoyed great success in Vienna was a flop in Hanover.
Germany has some catching up to do in terms of large communal construction projects
Asian architect Tongyu Sun was the last to contribute to the discussion. He presented several extreme counterexamples. The architect and urban planner has taught for many years at the renowned Tongji Universität in Shanghai (China), but is also very familiar with Stuttgart. Ten years ago, Sun worked for a year as a guest professor at the IWE. His current projects, all large-scale constructions, are the kind of mega-projects that he himself criticizes as “ghetto-izing” – so-called “gated communities”, fenced-in communities for well-off people who wish to live apart from the rest of society.
In Berlin Spreefeld Mitte is a example of a large-scale project that is implementing the same goals applauded during this evening’s discussion. But in Stuttgart, architects are still searching for an opportunity to construct a community-based housing project with 40 to 50 apartments: the Olga district in Stuttgart West is the only area currently considering such a project.
Demand for urban residences
The second act of the evening was a lecture by Jocher. This involved nothing less than a journey through the fundamentals of building theory and the ever-changing demands on urban residences, combined with demographic developments and their effects on tomorrow’s architecture. Jocher appealed for cross-state building laws. The Bavarian vehemently criticized the exploding land prices as the true and unjustified cost driver. With all the opportunities available in the field of modern architecture, affordable living space and a more social form of urban development remain the main focuses of his work.
History of the Institute
Since the establishment of the IWE, in conjunction with the creation of an endowed chair financed by the Wüstenrot Stiftung in 1997, Jocher was not only a professor, but also Head of the institute. After ten years, the state took over financing this unique institute, the only one of its kind in Germany. Right from the beginning, one of the main focuses – if not the main focus – of research and teaching at the institute was the search for new forms of living in tower blocks, so the question of how quality living space can be provided by large-scale urban developments.
The Decan of the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Prof. Klaus Jan Philipp, praised Jocher’s work at the IWE, which remains a very popular design institution even today. Philipp says that housing and living concepts “remain very popular courses at our faculty.” He also claims that Jocher has barely changed over the years, “He is direct, brisk, sometimes grumpy, but he always states his opinion without beating around the bush.” He goes on to comment that it will be hard to find someone capable of following in Jocher’s footsteps, not least because his activities have increased the popularity of the faculty. With over 600 Bachelor and more than 500 Master applications, the University of Stuttgart is at the top of the league in Germany.