Der Bergarbeiterwohnungsbau im Aachener und im südlimburgischen Kohlegebiet : ein Vergleich 1875 - 1975

  • Housing for mine workers in the Aachen and South Limburg coal mining regions : a comparison 1875 - 1975

Karhausen, Heinz-Gerd; van den Bergh, Wim (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : Publikationsserver der RWTH Aachen University (2011, 2012)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Aachen, Techn. Hochsch., Diss., 2011


Between around 1875 and 1975 coal was mined in both the Aachen and South Limburg coal fields. Accommodation for the workforce thus had to be provided in the vicinity of the coal mines. A wide range of housing for mine workers was built on both sides of the German-­Dutch border which led to a rapid increase in the population in the mining communities. It was discussed if such housing was actually up-­to-­date at the time in terms of living space, layout and design, sanitary facilities and supply of outdoor space. To this end 800 floor plans were analysed. For the period from 1875 to 1900, the theoretic reflections made by E. Dittmar in the foreword to his portfolio work "Sammlung von Plänen ausgeführter Arbeiterwohnungen des Aachener Industriebezirks"i were used as the reference basis. For housing built between 1900 and 1925, the author used statistical mean values as the basis for his assessment. This served the purpose of determining whether the plans included in Dittmar’s large portfolio, which had been explicitly recommended for use as models for future constructions, were in fact used to this end and had an impact on future housing construction. An assessment basis for the model housing built in the years 1925 to 1950 was derived from the book "Die Wohnung für das Existenzminimum"ii that is based on the findings of the II International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) and on the travelling exhibition organised by the Städtisches Hochbauamt Frankfurt a. M.iii. The mine workers’ dwellings built in the years 1950 to 1975 were analysed based on the publication "Die Wohnwünsche der Bergarbeiter, soziologische Erhebung, Deutung und Kritik der Wohnvorstellungen eines Berufes"iv by Elisabeth Pfeil, Tübingen 1954. Based on these models, a rating system was developed that enables a comparison between mineworkers’ dwellings built in the same period. Another rating system enabled the illustration of the progress made in the fields of domestic hygiene and community sanitation. The fact that only German theories and examples were used to rate living space exclusively serves the purpose of direct comparability between German and Dutch examples. While the sizes of dwellings were rated according to time parameters related to the relevant 25-year period, the basis used for the sanitary rating system remained unchanged for the entire period from 1875 to 1975. This enabled direct illustration of the hygienic-­sanitary progress made. It was thus accepted that in the early years of housing construction for mine workers none of the dwellings were able to reach the sanitation grade 1 - very good (meaning that the dwelling had more than two washbasins (or sinks), one water closet and a separate shower or bath) although it was often the case that urban dwellings designed for the substance minimum and built between 1920 and 1930 did in fact meet sanitary grade 1 standards. As it is impossible to properly assess housing quality based exclusively on figures, a dedicated chapter focuses on direct comparisons. Another chapter deals with the garden plot that came with miners’ dwellings and discusses the important role played by garden plots in terms of increasing the range of food supply, improving miners’ and their families’ health and finally with respect to settlement structures and urban construction - even before outdoor sport and recreational activities were propagated and also prior to the start of the allotment garden movement in Leipzig. The space and installation grades discussed above are compiled in result tables and discussed and interpreted. The findings show, not unexpectedly, that with the same number of beds Dutch dwellings are generally smaller than comparable German dwellings. In terms of sanitary installations the picture is completely reversed: Dutch dwellings are clearly better equipped that German ones. Findings show that in contrast to the active exchange in the field of mining technology and miners’ issues, however, there was no influence in terms of housing construction for mine workers. It also became apparent that the abundant range of ideas and suggestions that were available in the Netherlands thanks to the comprehensive rehabilitation and expansion activities in Amsterdam and Rotterdam at the beginning of the 20th century did not come to bear in South Limburg at all. Only from the mid-­1980s and the beginning of the 1990s onwards did Dutch detached housing construction commence to influence the German one. In South Limburg, a house with 100 m2 of living space did cost half the price of a comparable German house. Together with increased freedom of movement this contributed to triggering a substantial exodus of young German families. At times, some of the German municipalities located close to the border lost up to 10 per cent of their inhabitants. Subsequently, numerous "Dutch houses" were built in the border region.