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COLLECTION Identifier: DES-2013-0003-014379936

The Ernest Weissmann Archive

Scope and Contents

The Ernest Weissmann Archive is comprised of 43 linear feet of personal and professional papers. Most material documents his many years of extensive and significant international work in housing, urban, and regional development as an officer of the United Nations based in New York. It includes drafts and final versions of lectures, writings and reports, as well as extensive visual documentation (mainly slides) carried out during UN missions. It also contains some material related to his professional work before his employment for the UN, both in Europe and in the US.

Additionally, the Harvard GSD Frances Loeb Library holds a number of collections that are directly related to Ernest Weissmann; to name a few: Sert Collection, Ferrari Hardoy Archive, and CIAM Collection (as mentioned Weissmann was among the co-signors of the Athens Charter and active member of CIAM); Kenzō Tange Archive (Tange was one of the international architects that participated in the competition for the reconstruction of Skopje and we have architectural documentation of that project in his archive; Weissmann chaired the jury as UN Head of Social Affairs).


  • Majority of material found within 1939 - 1985
  • 1877 - 1996 (inclusive)

Language of Materials

Most materials in English; significant part of materials in Croatian. Also includes French, German, Spanish, among others.

Physical Description

The archive consists of mostly paper items. Notable exceptions are: Series G (photographic material); File H01-017 (phonographic records); Sub-Series H05 (various objects, medals, audio and video tapes).

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.


43 linear feet (42 record storage boxes; 1 phonograph records box)

Biographical / Historical

Ernest Weissmann (1903 – 1985) was born in Đakovo, Croatia, and received his Diploma in Architecture in 1926 from the Department of Architecture at the Faculty of Technology (today the University of Zagreb Faculty of Architecture). Between 1927 and 1930 he worked with Adolf Loos on the construction of Tristan Tzara’s House in Paris, with Pierre Jeanneret, and with Le Corbusier on the Ministry of Light Industry in Moscow. He was an early active member (1929) of the Working Group Zagreb, affiliated with the Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM). Within CIAM, his project for the ZKZB Hospital in Zagreb was discussed along Le Corbusier’s entry to the Palace of the Soviets competition in the Barcelona CIRPAC meeting in 1932, and he was also among the co-signers of the Athens Charter (1934). Weissmann was later the architect for the Yugoslav Pavilions at the 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques in Paris, and at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. He was a consultant to the Yugoslav Government in post-war reconstruction. He wrote extensively on industrialization, prefabrication, and building materials in the production of housing, while on staff at the Board of Economic Warfare, Foreign Economic Administration, in Washington DC (1942-1944), after which he had a significant career at United Nations in New York: Deputy Director and the Director of the Industrial Rehabilitation Division within UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration), 1944-1947; Director of the Industry and Materials Division of the UNECE (United Nations Economic Division for Europe), 1948-1950; Chief of the Housing and Town and Country Planning Section of the United Nations Department of Social Affairs (1951-1955); Assistant Director of the United Nations Bureau of Social Affairs in charge of the Housing, Building, and Planning branch (1956-1965); Director of the United Nations Center for Housing, Building, and Planning (1965-1966).

In early 1965 the United Nations held an international competition for the reconstruction of the city of Skopje following the devastating earthquake of July 26, 1963. The jury was chaired by Ernest Weissmann, as UN Head of Social Affairs. The competition brought together a group of international architects: Kenzō Tange (Japan), Van den Broek and Bakema (Netherlands), Luigi Piccinato (Italy), Maurice Rotival (USA); and local architects Slavko Brezoski (Macedonia), Aleksandar Dordjevic (Serbia), Eduard Ravnikar (Slovenia) and Radovan Mišćević and Fedor Wenzler (Croatia). The final project, a result of a collaboration between the local and international teams under UN supervision, came to represent one of the most significant architectural forums of global exchange of ideas – that characterized the decades between 1950 and 1980 – around the concept of development, a concept that drove current research related to topics of post-colonial modernization and nation building processes. He continued to advice worldwide on earthquake reconstruction, within the context of long-term planning as a member of the United Nations Advisory Committee.

Weissmann was interested in global problems of rapid urbanization and regional development, wrote extensively on the topic and occupied positions of significant international influence as Executive Director of the European Research Institute for Regional and Urban Planning in The Hague (1971-1975), and as Senior Consultant at the United Nations in New York, and at the United Nations Environmental Programme in Geneva (1972-1974). He also served as Senior Advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations, in which role he organized and developed the conceptual framework for the first HABITAT – The United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, held in Vancouver in 1976.

Ernest Weissmann lectured widely on housing, and urban and regional development. He was a lecturer and visiting professor at many American universities, such as the University of California, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, UPenn, Rutgers, and at the University of Illinois, where he was the George A. Miller Professor of Regional and Urban Planning in 1974. He was also a Visiting Professor at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. He was appointed Professor and Scientific Advisor to the Zagreb Institute of Economics (Ekonomski institut Zagreb) in 1974. While working as an advisor, he would divide his time between Cambridge, MA, and the island town of Mali Lošinj in Croatia, where he designed and built his summer residence in the early 1960s. In the early 1980s he moved to Haarlem in The Netherlands, where he died in 1985.

His writings and papers, where his insistence in relating the housing question to the broader question of socio-economic development, include: “The housing problems of post-war Europe.” United Nations. Economic Commission for Europe, 1948-49; “The place of housing and community improvement in national economy.” United Nations Asian seminar on low cost housing and community improvement. 1954; “Physical planning aspects of community development.” Paper at Seminar on Community Development in Foreign Areas, Chapel Hill, N.C., December 27-29, 1954. United Nations. Housing & Town and Country Planning Section; “Training for town and country planning: the relation of planning education to physical planning and social and economic development.” University of Puerto Rico, 1956; “The problems of urbanism in the less industrialized countries.” Conference on Urbanism, Ford Foundation, October 10-11, 1956; “The importance of training planners for their role in economic and social development,” in Housing, Building and Planning, Nov. 1957, no. 11; “Urbanization and regional planning,” American Institute of Planners, Proceedings of the 41st annual meeting, 1958; “Concepts and programs in regional planning in underdeveloped areas,” University of Pennsylvania. Dept. of Land and City Planning. Urban planning and development in underdeveloped areas, 1958; “The contribution of physical planning to economic and social development”, International Federation for Housing and Planning, Proceedings of the 1960 World Planning and Housing Congress, 1960; “Mutual aid in low-cost housing”, in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, May, 1960; “Community development and physical planning,” in Community Development, 1961, no. 7; “The urban crisis in the world”, in Urban Affairs Quarterly, Sept., 1965, vol. 1; “Population, urban growth and regional development,” in Ekistics, Jan. 1966, vol. 21; “The urban crisis: its meaning for development”, in International Federation for Housing and Planning. Bulletin, 1966, no. 6; “The urban crisis”, United Nations, Center for Housing, Building and Planning, 1966; “The role of the United Nations in urban research and planning”, in Schnore, Leo F., ed. Urban research and policy planning, 1967; and “Regional spontaneous urbanization and national development”, United Nations Inter-regional Seminar on Improvement of Slums and Uncontrolled Settlements, 1970.


The Ernest Weissmann Archive is arranged as follows: Series A - E contain assorted professional subjects, and are organized chronologically and by provenance. Series A covers professional work in Paris, Yugoslavia, and the US before employment for the United Nations. Series B contains materials from the United Nations in Washington DC, Geneva, and New York, where Weissmann was employed from 1944 until 1966. Series C covers Weissmann’s independent, advisory, and consultant work following his retirement form the United Nations. Series D contains materials related to his post at the Institute of Social Studies in The Netherlands, while Series E is related to his service at the Zagreb Institute of Economics. Series F contains books, publications, and newspaper clippings collected by Weissmann. Series G contains Weissmann’s photographic material. Series H contains general materials on Weissmann’s live, private and personal materials, as well as materials from Weissmann’s two brothers Adika and Lujo, and his wife Jane.

Series (e.g. "H") are divided into sub-series (e.g. "H07",) and the sub-series are divided into files. Files typically correspond to document folders, though they can also refer to a different type of container, such as a box or a tube. Each file has a unique identifier that consists of the sub-series' unique identifier, followed by a dash and the file's number within the subseries (e.g. "H07-007"). Files can consists of multiple folders or other containers; this is indicated by the range noted in brackets after the file's unique identifier. For example, "H07-007 (1-7)" would indicate that there are 7 seven folders/containers within the file. These folders/containers would be marked as "H07-007.1" through "H07-007.7".


Gift of Gordon Weissmann, 2013.

Processed by

Igor Ekštajn

The Ernest Weissmann Archive
A Descriptive Inventory of the Holdings at the Frances Loeb Library
Special Collections, Frances Loeb Library, Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Frances Loeb Library Repository

The archival collections at GSD consist of primary source materials that further academic research in the design fields both within the GSD and beyond Harvard University. These materials, individually and collectively, offer engaging documentation of design history, theory, and practice. For further information, please visit:

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