The 'Maison Mixte' and the great cities of the 19th century : the apartment house building as a constituent for the emergence of the western metropolis

Ley, Karsten

Contribution to a conference proceedings

In: UIA 2005 Istanbul Congress : cities - grand bazaar of architectures, July 5th 2005 ; abstracts and papers
Page(s)/Article-Nr.: 10 S.


Until nowadays the Great City of the mid and late 19th century plays an important role in the discussion of contemporary urban planning and design - not only in terms of dealing with the huge amount of buildings and whole urban areas produced at that time. Apparently the 'Compact European City' its mere form and its supposed urbanity serves as an ideal or an image (Leitbild), which is often employed within actual urban design projects and competitions and favored by a lot of lay people. We encounter her in form of the multi-functional street block as well as in standardized building heights, traditional stone facades, re-introduction of streetcars, etc. Of course, we do trace back all these individual features to the times of the dramatic urban change within the industrial and bourgeois époque, however, are they constitutive elements to the Great City of that time or 'just' features amongst others. Looking into the historic development of the 19th century metropolis and after all into the mechanisms of how this metropolis was produced we soon disclose a somewhat ubiquitous urban element, which hardly existed before: the 'Apartment House Building'. The very new approach towards urban housing consisted not only in the fact that one building accommodated numerous users, but that these users belonged to different social classes and, eventually, that there were new types of ownership: rent and condominium. Purpose of this paper is to reflect the phenomenon of the apartment house building, which in French was named 'Maison Mixte', its origin, its impact on the city's form and socio-economical structure and, after all, the reasons for its success. Once talking about the 'Leitbild' of the 'Compact European City' and the re-construction of it, one ought to discuss the apartment house building as one of the definite constituents of the 19th century metropolis.