From Le Corbusier’s ward, Piet Mondrian’s friend and admirer, to a master architect in the early Modernist era, Alfred Roth has facilitated change and development in the world with his designs, especially with his work on school architecture. Through the recommendation of his tutor at ETH Zurich, the Swiss architect worked at Le Corbusier’s office from 1927 to 1928, then moved to Gothenburg, Sweden where he developed a series of low-cost apartment houses with Ingrid Wallberg. In 1931, with his cousin Emil Roth they opened their architectural practice, where he collaborated with architects such as Marcel Breuer and created some of his most iconic works. In his later years, Roth became the director for Werk magazine and became a professor at Washington University, Harvard University as well as his alma mater, ETH Zurich. As we go through fifteen of Roth’s projects below, we will walk through his life, the different kinds of projects he has and the development in his designs through the years, from a fresh graduate to a design master.
1. Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart
Indeed, the estate is mainly designed by Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, but this was the first time Roth’s design skills shone on the international stage. Roth was assigned as the resident architect to oversee the estate’s completion but was only given very general directions and a color palette for the estate’s interior design. Without any blueprints at all, Roth designed and decided on the colors of each wall himself, much to Le Corbusier’s satisfaction. This marked Roth’s first attempts at using color in architecture, something he investigated throughout his career.
Aside from architecture design, Roth also worked on furniture design. The daybed was designed for the aforementioned Weissenhof Estate, which accommodated the need to fit beds into the built-in wardrobes of the house to tuck them in when not used. The design and material make it easy for the bed to slide in and out of the cupboard.
3. Neubühl Housing Settlement
Another of Roth’s furniture designs, this chair is designed for the Aluminum Competition in Paris, 1933.
4. A Rare and Early Stackable Chair
Another one of Roth’s earlier works, this settlement is collaboratively designed by the architects at CIAM, which Le Corbusier founded and Roth was a member of.
5. Wallberg House
Along with Ingrid Wallberg, Roth set up their architectural practice R&W in Örgryte, Gothenburg, Sweden. They designed many residential buildings for HSB, a cooperative association for housing. The Wallberg House is one of their collaborations.
6. Doldertal Apartment Houses
One of Roth’s most notable works, the houses were designed through a collaboration between Alfred and Emil Roth’s office and Marcel Breuer. The house had a small penthouse structure that was raised on pilotis and was three-stories high. It houses apartments of various sizes inside, with most having access to an outdoor terrace and huge windows facing southwest and southeast in the living rooms, which brings in sufficient amounts of light.
7. Roth House (Fellowship Home)
Following his venture into residential design, Roth developed the design and built the Roth House in Zurich to further explore the design of residential architecture.
8. ‘The New Schoolhouse’
The book was a comparative study on school designs of the time, as well as a manual on the planning and construction of them. It points out how and why schools should be a pivotal element in modern town planning with its direct influence on housing and landscaping. The detailed study and examination of the design of educational facilities became one of Roth’s most notable projects, and the book was widely circulated between his colleagues. With the publishing of this book, Roth has established himself as an expert and pioneer in school design.
9. Kindergarten at Schulhausstrasse
Located in Bern, Switzerland, it was designed by Alfred Roth in 1948.
10. Kappeli School
The school is famous for its avant-garde design as a school built in the urban areas of Zurich – the classrooms are square to allow furniture to be placed more freely, and the changing floor levels in different buildings create more play areas for the children. However, the design was eliminated early on in the selection process, but Roth remains proud in its design and has further explored the ideas in other school projects.
11. Riedhof School
Roth respects the terrain of the area and reflects it in the design of the school, with different masses of the building parallel to the slopes. By separating the school into two wings, Roth deliberately allows the students to be divided into two big groups for easier management and avoids superimposing rooms to minimize the cost needed for soundproofing equipment in between.
12. Pestalozzi School
The school was built after a calamitous earthquake in Skopje in 1963. As such, the new design incorporates new technology which proves the building from seismic activity.
13. ETH Hauptgebäude (Extension)
Returning to his alma mater, Roth and Charles-Edouard Geisendorf designed an extension to the historic main building of ETH Zurich.
14. Schönbühl Shopping Center
At the time of its opening, the Shopping Center was the largest of its kind in Switzerland. The Shopping Center accompanies Alvar Aalto’s high rise apartment building right beside it.
15. Sabbag Center
Designed in collaboration with Alvar Aalto, the Sabbag Center brings together different components with various architectural languages.
With his passing in 1998, Roth left the world with incredible functionalist designs and ideas, very notably ‘The New School’, a compilation of his wisdom in the design of schools. Roth may not enjoy the same amount of fame his peers have, but he is undoubtedly a great architect who contributed a lot to the architecture world.