International Building Exhibitions

The history of IBAs

The tradition of the Building Exhibitions is already more than 100 years old: by the mid-nineteenth century it had become standard practice to present technical innovations in the area of building at world fairs. The tradition of independent Building Exhibitions was established in 1901 in the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt as a documentation of the art of building and residential culture; in architectural terms, the results are regarded as a milestone of German Art nouveau. Although not in the framework of an IBA, in Vienna in 1932 it proved possible to implement a comparable approach to the consistent development of an understanding of building, living and life combined with the freedom of the individual in the form of the International Exhibition / Werkbundsiedlung. Under the artistic direction of Josef Frank in the years 1930 to 1932, the Vienna Werkbundsiedlung brought together 30 architects from Austria and abroad and erected a total of 70 houses in Vienna’s 14th municipal district. The contribution by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, the first woman in Austria to complete her studies of Architecture, represented the efforts of the city at that time to manifest modern, contemporary living along with the efficient use of living space in the floor plans of the dwellings and to develop this further. The exhibition ran from 4 June to 7 August 1932, during which time the development on the south-western fringe of Vienna attracted 100,000 visitors.

Werkbundsiedlung: Overall view – aerial photograph
(c) Austrian National Library, Image Archive and Graphics Collection


Since then there have been a number of International Building Exhibitions at irregular intervals. What they all have in common is that they have always been mirrors of their time in relation to social, technical and cultural movements and developments. Against the background of the Vienna IBA "New Social Housing", it is therefore worthwhile to take a look back at the history of those building exhibitions that have dealt with the issue of housing in the narrower and broader sense.


> Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt 1901 - Document of the art of building and the culture of living spaces

> Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart 1927 - Built manifesto of modernism

> Interbau in West-Berlin 1957 - The city of tomorrow       

> IBA Berlin 1987 - The critical reconstruction of the city

> IBA Hamburg 2013 - Spaces for cosmopolitan urban societies


Current IBAs