Ernst Neufert's ‘Lebensgestaltungslehre’

Formatting life beyond the built

Article on the website of the BJHS Themes.
Article on the website of the BJHS Themes.

In 1936, the Bauhaus-trained architect Ernst Neufert published the first edition of his seminal book Bau-Entwurfslehre. One of the most successful architecture books to date, the encyclopedic volume offered dimensioned floor plans for architectural tasks ranging from bunkers to dog kennels to Zeppelins. Two years later, Neufert started working as ‘norm expert’ for Reichsminister Albert Speer, with whom he published another manual in 1943, Bauordnungslehre. Meant to provide a total system of measures for architecture at large, the volume subjected building blocks, bricks and human bodies to Neufert's all-encompassing octametric system. This article contrasts these two books against Neufert's unpublished treatise – ‘Lebensgestaltungslehre’. Never a bound volume, the latter was sketched out in diary entries between 1936 and 1942 on folded DIN A4 sheets (themselves normed) and organized in a card index. Reading them across their medial states, this article investigates the material, methodological and ideological character of Neufert's Lehren. This is not the story of a handbook; rather, this is a story of constructing Lehre one sheet at a time. Neufert's attempt to format German society in the 1930s and 1940s through inherently architectural means such as floor plans, norms and a system of measures ultimately shaped the designing subject – starting with himself.

The entire article by Anna-Maria Meister can be read here.

This and other articles can be found on the BJHS Themes website.