The Rundlingsdorf or the “Rundling” is a large circular housing development in Lößnig, a quiet working-class district of Leipzig in Eastern Germany. Perhaps due to the relative obscurity of its architect Hubert Ritter it is not well-known outside Germany, certainly as compared to contemporary developments such as Walter Gropius’ Großsiedlung Siemensstadt. The Modernist Tourists happened to be visiting Leipzig on some important rocknroll business and decided to take our kamera over to Lößnig for a nose around.
Ritter was appointed as municipal architect and town planner by Leipzig city council in 1924 and soon secured a large green field site south of the city for his development. The natural topography of the site was further enhanced by scaling the rings so that the inner ring is one storey taller than the outer rings. On its completion in 1930 the complex comprised of 24 blocks, arranged in three concentric rings, the outer ring having a diameter of 300 meters. It boasted 624 flats with eleven different floor plans, each flat being configured to maximise the available light and avoid having living rooms facing north.
The circular plan clearly breaks with the traditional urban street layout of German cities, and was intended to help focus the community inwards (in a positive way). Inevitably perhaps, given its circular shape and location, the names of its various components are taken from Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung. The central space (Siegfriedplatz) originally held a swimming pool but is now left exposed and rather forlorn, its scrubby grass seems an anti-climax, a lost opportunity.
Originally from Nuremburg Ritter studied at the Technical University of Architecture in Munich and after graduating worked in Frankfurt, Munich and Cologne, before securing the appointment in Leipzig. In 1927 he hosted an international conference on modern housing and worked alongside Gropius on the committee of the Research Centre for Efficiency in Building and Housing.
Alas Ritter doesn’t seem to have got on that well in Saxony as the city did not renew his contract after 1936. In 1941 he accepted an appointment in Luxembourg, and although it seems he wished to return to Leipzig after the war, he ended up back in Munich, where he died 1967. Further details of his struggles with the authorities (no doubt at both ends of the political spectrum given the period in question) are lost to us in time, or at least in translation, but his work in Leipzig remains as a testament to his progressive thinking and willingness to challenge the status quo.
If you’re in Leipzig we also recommend a visit to the Grassi Museum. Ritter worked as supervising architect on the new museum, which was built between 1925 and 1929, and we believe he was responsible for strikingly expressionist ‘Pfeilerhalle‘. In 2014 we were lucky enough to visit the Grassi for their Thonet exhibition, which was sponsored by Thonet and included a large selection of chairs from their historical archive. It was wunderbar.
© Modernist Tourists 2016