Boltless Timber Frame Houses, 1870-1920, Siegen, Germany
University Siegen, Siegen, Germany
The boltless timber frame houses in the iron-producing region surrounding Siegen, Germany have become internationally renowned through the photographs of Bernd and Hilla Becher. The photographs, taken between 1960 and 1975, were published in 1977 as a book entitled ‘Fachwerkhäuser des Siegener Industriegebiets’. The houses were built between 1870 and 1920.
An abundance of literature exists concerning these photographs and their importance as works of art. In contrast, relatively little is known about the development, construction and proliferation of these houses. Over the past five years a research project, undertaken by the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Siegen, has gathered new information about these buildings. A survey revealed that 165 of the 201 houses that were published by the Bechers are still standing in an area of roughly 30 kilometers surrounding Siegen. Such structures are not found anywhere else in Europe.
This project also uncovered more detailed information concerning the architectural history, the planning and the construction of the boltless timber frame houses. Contrary to previous assumptions, these houses are by no means examples of "anonymous architecture". Archival research unearthed not only plans but also revealed that the houses were carefully thought out structures. Detailed information, which documents the facades, plans and sections, demonstrates that the buildings were based upon Baroque typologies.
This investigation includes an analysis of the design, the construction, the precedents and the influence of Siegen's boltless timber frame houses, particularly upon subsequent 20th century experiments in timber-frame building. More broadly, this ongoing project considers how carefully controlled representations of architecture (in this case, the photographs by the Bechers) become altered by substantiated academic research, architectural documentation and historical analysis. It speculates to what extent architectural meanings can engage the knowledge generated by other disciplines to broaden our understanding and appreciation of these buildings.