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8     THE LIVING CELL

Published onApr 23, 2021
8     THE LIVING CELL

THE PROLETARIAN IS EITHER A REVOLUTIONARY OR HE IS NOTHING.

K. MARX


THE COMMUNIST REVOLUTION IS THE MOST RADICAL RUPTURE WITH EXISTING PROPERTY RELATIONS; NO WONDER THAT ITS DEVELOPMENT INVOLVES THE MOST RADICAL RUPTURE WITH TRADITIONAL IDEAS.

K. MARX – F. ENGELS, COMMUNIST MANIFESTO


The creation of collectivized dining halls, nurseries, kindergartens, dormitories, laundries, and repair shops will really break radically with the existing family attitude toward property, and this will provide the economic premises for the extinction of the family as an economic unit.

This fact allows us to see the residential cells in new buildings as being compartments for separate people united in the collective in which the family, if it exists, does not do so as an economic unit but as a free group of people—united by personality, by kinship, or the like. The intimate relationships of people will become their own private affair independent of any direct property considerations. Part of the expenses of the education of children, until fully assumed by society, will be borne by the parents according to their incomes.

We can, therefore, state that these living cells must be apportioned one per person for the adult population with the option that they may be united in various combinations, have direct connection with each other, and so forth; this will allow the population to live in whatever combination it desires including families, using its living space according to its own tastes and habits.

It therefore follows that in constructing new buildings all living cells must be furnished with the minimum necessary equipment that is indispensable for man’s living quarters. One must move toward a situation in which it would be possible, gradually, to end man’s present enslavement by his possessions. Besides, this is consistent with purely economic considerations. The construction of homes along with their equipment of the most essential furniture will make it possible to combine mass production with inexpensive and good furniture.

In order to decide what an individual living cell must look like, what furnishings it must have, its dimensions and internal design, it is necessary that we first of all determine its function (i.e., its significance).

We can under no circumstances agree with those comrades who attempt to assign the sole role of sleeping cabin to the living cell, and who relegate all the other functions to collectivized buildings.1 Thus, for example, they think to create a row of studies in each general dwelling for the study of books; for conversation with one’s comrades they want special collective sitting rooms; for rest during the day, corresponding resting rooms; etc.

20. BAUHAUS AT DESSAU. DWELLING ROOM.2

This kind of parceling out of the functions of living is no more than a peculiar exaggeration at the basis of which lies the idea of the lordly suite, applied no longer to the family but to the collective. Actually, what we have here is only a formally modified pattern of the petit-bourgeois dwelling. As a curiosity, one can cite the example of a number of projects for a living cabin in the settlement of the Nizhegorod auto plant where the designers of this sleeping cabin idea have exchanged the “necessity” that finds itself under most middle class beds for a bowl alongside of it! Transformation of the dwelling unit into a mere toilet is the ideal of the middle-class architect!

This mistaken conception leads to the situation whereby, giving too much space to collectivized studies, dining rooms, and so on, the authors of the “sleeping cabin” project were forced to cut down so far on the space for the cabins that they will be of less than average comfort.

We must focus attention on these mistakes because such distortion and errors can discredit the whole idea of the new dwelling.

The individual residential cell (that is, for each person) must provide:

  1. ) for sleeping;

  2. ) for book use, etc.;

  3. ) for individual relaxation;

  4. ) for the safekeeping of one’s things that are in constant use (linens, clothing, one’s individual everyday items, etc.);

  5. ) for attention to elementary personal hygiene.

Assuming these functions, the individual living cell should have the following minimum equipment:

  1. ) a place to sleep, in form of either a convertible bed or a divan which can turn into a bed at night—or just an ordinary bed;

  2. ) a working table with drawers for objects for intellectual work (notebooks, books, paper, etc.);

  3. ) two or three chairs or an arm chair;

  4. ) a small table;

  5. ) storage for clothes and linens (for example, built into the wall);

  6. ) a wash basin;

  7. ) a medicine cabinet with hygienic supplies and a mirror.

Besides this there should be a shower stall (even if only one for every two rooms).

So equipped, the living cell will transform itself (convert itself): during the day as a work study and quarters for individual relaxation, and at night as a sleeping room.

If these are the purposes of the residential cell, it should have the following minimum dimensions, including the equipment:

a) along the facade (outside wall) 2.8 m,
b) in depth 3 m.

This makes 8.4 m2. If we take the minimum height as 2.6 m, then the minimum volume of the living cell will be 21.84 m3.

It is evident that these measurements are minimal and, with the slightest opportunity, should be increased.

As an illustration we give below two variants of such compartments worked out by ourselves. The drawing in Fig. 21 shows cells having the minimum dimensions 8.4 m2 or 21.84 m3. Figures 22–23 illustrate the general appearance of such a cell with a bed that folds into the wall.


21. MINIMAL DWELLING UNIT (8.4 m2)

22.

23.


Figures 24–30 show the plan, section, elevation, and the internal and general appearance of the living cell worked out by Stroikom RSFSR.3 This compartment has a floor area of 14 m2 and a volume of 39.2 m3, has a special cabinet for shower and toilet, and has two transparent walls.

24. PLAN OF GROUND FLOOR.

25. PLAN OF SECOND FLOOR.


26. FAÇADE.

27. SECTION.


28. INTERIOR VIEW.


29. INTERIOR VIEW.


30. AXONOMETRIC VIEW.


The examples of plans of living cells here may be recommended as an initial step for the further work of planners for whom it is important that the basic premise be understood that man in any case will be spending about half his life in this space. For this reason, reducing it to “little cabins” or worse still into “closets” makes a mockery of the concept of man’s new dwelling.

From this arises the necessity for special attention to the question of aesthetics and hygiene in the equipping and painting of the living cells. All the attainments of contemporary architecture and applied art must be mobilized so that a healthy and happy life for man can be achieved in the minimum which the living cell offers.

Unobstructed ventilation must be unconditionally guaranteed, for which, incidentally, it is not in the least necessary to construct ventilating ducts, which are still expensive; we need only install air vents—or even better, moving windows (on rollers) (see Fig. 23) or even whole sliding walls (see Fig. 22).

If means are insufficient to provide 8.4 square meters per person, then showers could be planned for 12 to 15 people.

Every kind of cornice, fretwork, open shelf, etc. must be avoided as a source of dust and infection (contamination). Partitions and exterior property walls must be avoided since it would be thoughtless to keep light out of the interior.

The same holds true for the various rags with which our inhabitants do so love to “prettify” their dwelling, turning it into such a dusty accumulation of useless trash.

The challenge to the contemporary architect is how to arrange for more light, air, happiness, and simplicity.

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