Future model

MVRDV designed the pavilion "Fuggerei NEXT500" as a reminiscence of the Fuggerei in Augsburg, which carries the concept of the oldest existing social settlement into the present.
by Alexander Russ | 5/11/2022

The construction of affordable and sustainable housing is one of the central issues of our time. There is no shortage of good ideas, as a look at the present shows. For example, the young Leipzig-based architecture firm Summacumfemmer recently won the DAM Prize 2022 for an experimental cooperative housing project in Munich. Yet the topic is anything but new. One example is the "Familistère" designed by French entrepreneur Jean-Baptiste André Godin in the mid-19th century, a prototype of social building. Just how old the idea behind it actually is can be seen in a housing estate that is already celebrating its 500th anniversary: The Fuggerei in Augsburg, the oldest existing social settlement in the world, was founded by the merchant Jakob Fugger as early as 1521. Designed as a city within a city with 67 houses, 142 apartments and its own church, it has since provided affordable housing for 150 needy people for an annual rent of 0.88 euros.

As a reminder of the importance of the Fuggerei, the Dutch architecture firm MVRDV has now designed a wooden jubilee pavilion for Augsburg's Town Hall Square. Under the motto "Fuggerei NEXT500," the curved and spectacularly cantilevered wooden structure forms the centerpiece of a five-week program festival that will focus on the legacy of the social settlement from May 6 to June 12. Some 450 guests accepted the invitation of the Fugger Foundations, the Bavarian state government and the city of Augsburg to attend the inauguration of the anniversary pavilion. "Today, we are opening a building that carries the spirit of the Fuggerei into the world and promotes debate," said Alexander Erbgraf Fugger-Babenhausen, chairman of the Fugger Family Senate, at the inauguration. "The Fuggerei belongs to be celebrated! It has contributed to social cohesion for half a millennium."

For the architecture of the Jubilee Pavilion, MVRDV were inspired by the building structure of the Fuggerei: Thus, the long narrow building with a gable roof makes reference to the row-shaped terraced houses of the social housing estate, pointing to their location by means of a sweeping curve from Augsburg's Rathausplatz. At the same time, it arches into the sky in the form of an 8.50-meter-high cantilever, offering a view of Augsburg City Hall. At the highest point of the pavilion is a grandstand that can be used for lectures, presentations and other events during the festival. In their choice of materials, the architects opted for cross-laminated timber, which characterizes both the exterior and interior of the Jubilee Pavilion without cladding and gives the building a sculptural character.

Inside, the "Fuggerei NEXT500 Pavilion" features an exhibition of photos by Daniel Biskup. In it, the "Fuggerei Code", which was formulated for the first time for the 500th anniversary of the foundation, is illustrated using seven social challenges. It’s concept is based on the idea that founders can link their social actions with the core principles of the Fuggerei. At the same time, a Fuggerei building block principle developed by MVRDV offers concrete inspiration for future Fuggeries – including three designs for Lithuania, Sierra Leone and Augsburg. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who was present at the opening as a guest, also advocated the continuation of the Fuggerei core idea. She spoke about the war in Ukraine and proposed a new partnership program, in which future Fuggeries in Ukraine would also be conceivable.

Until June 12, 2022, various events will take place in Augsburg, dealing with the heritage and the future of the Fuggerei.

Ursula von der Leyen visits the Fuggerei in Augsburg