Perimeter block, infillSlab, corridorSlab, double-loaded
Collective House
Markelius, Sven | Stockholm, Sweden | 1935
Image of Collective...
Street facade, detail.

ProjectCollective House
ArchitectMarkelius, Sven
AddressJohn Ericcsonsgatan 6
Building TypePerimeter block, infill
Slab, double-loaded
Number of Dwellings57
Date Built1935
Dwelling Types1 and 2 room flats, 4 room maisonettes
No. Floors7
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
stucco, metal details and windows
Construction TypeR-C frame
Ancillary Servicesrestaurant, commujnity facilities on ground floor, balconies, garden

Sven Markelius was an important member of the Stockholm architectural avant-garde in the 1930's. Along with Gunnar Asplund and others, Markelius was instrumental in bring the ideology of Modern Architecture to Sweden as one of the authors of the Functionalist manifesto acceptera, published in 1931. Markelius also socialized with a group of radical Social Democrats who shared an interest in the new architecture and a new social order. From this time, Markelius, along with Alva Myrdal who was a leader in the movement advocating communal housing as a means of emancipating the working woman from the burdens of housekeeping and child rearing, developed an interest in the idea of collective housing. Markelius believed that married working women needed specialized housing with facilities such as communal kitchens, childcare centers, and housekeeping services.

In 1932, Markelius developed a housing scheme for the Alvik area in Stockholm, which applied these collective principles for the first time. In this design, three clusters of long, ten-story slabs including separate communal dining facilities were arranged in an open landscape. Each building group was a thinly disguised version of Russian collective housing experiments of the late 1920's such as the Narkmofin building in Moscow of 1928. In fact, when the project was exhibited at the time it was branded a "Russian" idea. However, undaunted by the negative reaction to Alvik, Markelius and Alva Myrdal continued to investigate collective housing notions and especially the idea that housing should incorporate childcare facilities and communal kitchens.

No one was interested in building the Arvik project but in the early 1930's, Markelius was able to interest a developer in a much more modest proposal for fifty-seven apartments on an infill site in the Kungsholmen district of central Stockholm. The project was presented at an exhibition in 1934 and the building was officially opened in 1935 where eight furnished apartments were open for public viewing. The eight-story building aligns with existing buildings along the street in a typical perimeter block organization opening to a shared landscaped courtyard on the interior of the block. In addition to the fifty seven apartments which vary in size from very small single room flats to larger 4 room maisonettes on the upper floors, communal spaces on the ground floor included a children's department, a small restaurant and a communal kitchen. There were eighteen one room apartments, thirty-five with two rooms and four with 4 rooms. Each dwelling was connected to the kitchen with a service elevator for the delivery of prepared food but each also had a small kitchen. The restaurant was open to the public and had a reputation as a meeting place for radical socialists. Many of Markelius's close associates lived here at one time or other and Markelius himself had his office here and lived at the top of the building in one of the largest apartments.

The typical floor plan looks much like one of the typical freestanding residential blocks from the Swedish functionalist housing of the 1930's. The building is aligned on a north/south axis and a central stair, here elongated slightly into a double-loaded arrangement servicing a row of dwellings on each side of the building. Each apartment has a small balcony. The resemblance to earlier plans is obvious and, indeed, it is as if a typical slab from an HSB project of the 1920's has been snipped off and inserted into this infill space. The street facade also has many of the features of others Swedish housing of the time such as the partly recessed, rounded balconies, large expanses of blank plaster walls, and the inference of a free-plan expressed as the open structure of the ground floor. The solid-void pattern produced by the deep recessed coulisse of the balconies has the remarkable quality of simultaneously reading as wall surface and revealed deep space; the tiny balconies have the appearance of great depth because of the curvature of the balustrade and the way the glass wraps the inside of the opening. This is one of the quintessential facades of the modernist era. The small studio apartments, while of "existenze minimum" dimensions, are spatially expansive; each is rendered as a miniature villa with elements of a free plan, and a clear differentiation between the service elements along the corridor and the open, slightly irregular space of the room.

The idea of the special housing for women was a popular theme in Stockholm in the 1930's and there were other examples of "Collective Houses" designed by other architects during this time. Interest in special facilities in public housing that service the special needs of different social groups has continued to grow in the Swedish housing experience. The idea of the "Service House", a residential community where special health and recreational care facilities are provided for the elderly has become a popular housing model in recent years (see the Hässelby Family Hotel by Carl-Axel Acking, of 1956 or the Hornstull Service House by Carlbring-Englund, of 1985 as examples). The collective house at 6 Ericssonsgatan, however, remains the most provocative early paradigm of this housing concept.

Eva Rudberg, Sven Markelius Architect, Arkitektur Förlag, Stockholm, 1989, pp. 77-83.

Howard Smith,

Marina Botta,

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