Cultural Transfers #8

Chen Kuen Lee (1915–2003)

Housescapes. Organic Architecture in Stuttgart, Berlin and Taiwan

Inspired by Hans Schaourn’s school buildings: Chen Kuen Lees design for a detached house; © AdK
Inspired by Hans Schaourn’s school buildings: Chen Kuen Lees design for a detached house; © AdK

When Chen Kuen Lee came to Germany in the early 1930s, he quickly became part of an avant-garde circle of architects, designers and artists. He gained experience by exhibiting with Hans Scharoun, and then found his activities restricted during the Nazi period, so that he was only able to explore concepts for a Chinese Werkbund, working with Hugo Häring. He intensely explored his own culture and, influenced by design questions raised by the New Building movement, he looked at new possibilities to create architectural experiences of space. Shaped by both cultures and influenced by the pioneers of classical modernism and organic architecture, he founded his own studio in 1953.

Lee became known as a representative of organic architecture. In the planning of designs, he also saw the needs of people as crucial. According to Lee, an architect must know the people who are going to live in his building so as to design appropriately. He created living spaces that are embedded in landscapes. They allow people to live in close interaction with nature, and they ultimately create "housescapes". To achieve this, Lee linked up geometry and the organic, and people, space and nature, the living needs of one generation with those of the next, western and eastern formal idioms, and European and Chinese philosophy.

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