Cultural Transfers #8

Chen Kuen Lee (1915–2003)

Housescapes. Organic Architecture in Stuttgart, Berlin and Taiwan

House of Dr. Gilliar, Nabburg, 1966, winter garden with operable roof; Photo: A. Körner, © bildhübsche Fotografie
House of Dr. Gilliar, Nabburg, 1966, winter garden with operable roof; Photo: A. Körner, © bildhübsche Fotografie

In the 1930s Chen Kuen Lee got to know the work of the Berlin group Herta Hammerbacher, Hermann Mattern and Karl Foerster. The group was known as the Bornim Circle and played an important role in the New Gardens and New Building movements and also for Lee’s own architecture.

Lee saw interlinking house and garden as a key task of architecture. This is why he commissioned the garden and landscape architects Hermann Mattern, Adolf Haag or Hannes Haag to design the gardens for his projects. The aim was to move away from representative gardens and towards gardens for real living with landscaped designs. The connection between people and gardens is based on the garden providing space for daily activities. The house is not seen as a closed building, but as a sculpture that unfolds and continues in the space of a garden.

These landscape architects designed gardens as spaces for living and for activities, characterised by functionality and embedded within the surrounding larger landscape, which the garden continues and shapes. The garden is itself a work of art and expands the house as part of a holistic landscape for living. These relationships between house and garden and garden and landscape lead to ingenious spatial designs in which people, nature and architecture are closely interrelated. Terraces create points of transition between inside and outside. Water basins and plants in winter gardens bring the landscape inside the building.

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