Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky

* 23.01.1897 (Vienna) 18.01.2000 (Vienna) Austria
Fields of activity: Pioneer for female architects
Author: Elisabeth Rigal

Her world-famous design, the „Frankfurt kitchen“ – the prototype for all fitted kitchens to this day – was groundbreaking in the facilitation of women‘s housework and the mobility of the working class.

Margarete‘s father was a civil servant, her mother a housewife who later worked at the juvenile court, and her older sister Adele was educated as a teacher. The family‘s political stance was liberal-democratic; Margarete‘s father was an anti-war republican.

After graduating from intermediate school (Bürgerschule), and having received tutoring in painting, Margarete attended the Empirial School for Visual Arts (K.u.K. Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt). Aiming to become an architect, she later studied at the Empirial Arts College (K.u.K. Kunstgewerbeschule) in Vienna, a modern institution.

„No one will want to live in a house built by a woman!“

The people around her were sceptical of young Margarete‘s career choice (Schütte-Lihotzky 1994, p. 18). Since women were not allowed to study at Vienna‘s University of Technology until 1919, she pursued her education at the Arts College. She was mentored by the teacher and well-known architect Oskar Strnad.

Strnad ignited her interest in social housing which was in its formative phase at the time. In the course of a 1917 project, during which apartment buildings for workers were erected, he recommended that Margarete visit the living areas of the Viennese working class in order to gain insight into their living conditions. This research strongly influenced Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky‘s further career; it would remain one of her key goals to integrate architectural and social concerns in her designs. She strived to simplify and rationalize household chores and thus to make life easier for working class women. In 1926, the was invited to Frankfurt, where she designed the „Frankfurt kitchen“ for Bauhaus. Her concept of a fitted, ready-for-use kitchen is prevalent to this day.

After their marriage in 1927, Margarete left Germany with her husband, the German architect Wilhelm Schütte. Back in Vienna, she went on to be the only woman among 32 architects designing buildings for the Wiener Werkbundsiedlung, an exemplary Viennese social housing project. In the subsequent years, she worked in the Soviet Union alongside her husband and – due to the political situation in Europe – travelled from Paris and London to Istanbul, where many Austrians were living in exile. She was commissioned by the Turkish Ministry of Education for several projects; among them for building schools for women in Anatolia.

During her time in Istanbul, she became associated with the Austrian resistance movement. She joined the KPÖ (Austrian Communist Party) and offered to become active in the resistance movement in Vienna. She was sent there in 1940. As early as January 1941, she was betrayed after contacting members of the movement and arrested by the Gestapo. While her co-conspirators were sentenced to death and executed, Margarete was to spend 15 years in the penitentiary. She served her sentence in a Bavarian women‘s prison until the end of the war in 1945. Her marriage failed because of the long separation.

After returning to Vienna, she opened her own architecture firm in 1947. In spite of her international recognition, she received few public commissions due to her association with the KPÖ. She was active in the Austrian women‘s movement from 1948 to 1969 and founded a non-partisan women‘s council in 1960.

Her legacy as an architect was officially recognized in Austria only from the 1980s, when she received several honours. In 1993, the Vienna Museum of Applied Arts hosted the  first exhibition of her work. In 1995, Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, aged 95, was the first female recipient of a honorary doctorate from Vienna‘s University of Technology.

Translation:    Mag. Julia Rigal



Margarethe Schütte-Lihotzky. Soziale Architektur. Zeitzeugin eines Jahrhunderts. Ausstellungskatalog  Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst ,Wien 1993

Margarethe Schütte- Lihotzky, Erinnerungen aus dem Widerstand. Das kämpferische Leben einer Architektin von 1938 – 1945. Edition Spuren 1994, Wien Promedia Verlag

Photcredits: Schütte-Lihotzky, author unknown, presuambly about 1930. Copyright expired