Cultural Transfers #8

Chen Kuen Lee (1915–2003)

Housescapes. Organic Architecture in Stuttgart, Berlin and Taiwan

House of Dr. Gärtner with garden design by Hannes Haag, Bretten-Sprantal, 1979-81; © H. Haag
House of Dr. Gärtner with garden design by Hannes Haag, Bretten-Sprantal, 1979-81; © H. Haag

The villa is a solitary and self-sufficient kind of building with an intensive relationship to its natural surroundings. A detached or one-family home is what it says: for families. The design of the house and its garden influence each other and merge into one another.

Lee’s very first house, Haus Scharf in Oberstdorf, already contains all the key and characteristic elements of his dwellings: deviation from the right angle, split levels, open spaces that flow into one another in the interior, a raised living room under a vaulted roof, including the garden in the living space in the form of a conservatory, large glass surfaces to the south and the garden, partly over two stories. Haus Ketterer (Stuttgart) is a housescape with a focus on a fluid interchange between interior and exterior, achieved by means of a water area in the interior that also extends outside. The same idea is also used in the Straub senior building. Many of Lee’s designs are characterised by intricate interwoven spaces and split levels, creating different perspectives and dynamic spatial relations, as the Kiekert, Penck, Nagel, and Dr. Gilliar houses. The spaces are intended to be dynamic and fluid, as in the Gärtner, Audry and Straub junior houses.

Inspired by Hans Schaourn’s school buildings: Chen Kuen Lees design for a detached house; © AdK
House of Dr. Gilliar, Nabburg, 1966, winter garden with operable roof; Photo: A. Körner, © bildhübsche Fotografie
Hongkong Bar, Berlin, 1957; © Privat Archive Yu-Dembski
Chen Kuen Lee, House of Lin family, 1997, Taiwan; © AdK
House of Dr. Gärtner with garden design by Hannes Haag, Bretten-Sprantal, 1979-81; © H. Haag
Apartment house in Berlin-Schlachtensee, 1963-64; © A. Körner, bildhübsche Fotografie
Housing complex, Märkisches Viertel, Berlin, 1965-70, staggered roof (detail); © A. Körner, bildhübsche Fotografie