• Germany edition
 
The haus that Gropius built
Photo: DPA

The haus that Gropius built

Published: 23 Mar 2009 17:59 GMT+01:00
Updated: 23 Mar 2009 17:59 GMT+01:00

Seven letters stream down the side of a building. No fussy serifs adorn this stunning, simple font. With clean lines and smooth curves they proclaim the existence of a building made of steel and glass, constructed to house a legendary school where creativity flourished, and art and technology became one.

The Bauhaus Building rises above the terra-cotta rooftops of Dessau where it was constructed in 1926. A symbol of a revitalised nation, the geometric building of interlocking blocks became a UNESCO World Heritage site seventy years later, but it was one hundred kilometres to the south, in the fabled city of Weimar, where the Bauhaus movement began.

In 1919, just a year after the end of World War I, a young generation of Germans was eager to rebuild their creatively and economically bankrupt nation. Inspired by the words of the then 36-year-old architect Walter Gropius, they signed up for an altogether new kind of academy dedicated to the merits of skilled craftsmanship without the academic hindrances of the "old arts" schools.

With a manifesto that linked art with craft, Gropius set out to form "the new building of the future" – a place where disciplines like architecture, sculpture, and painting merged seamlessly. He enlisted leading artists like Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Johannes Itten, and Laszlo Maholy-Nagy, visionaries who developed their own concepts, independent of tradition.

They taught courses on colour theory, analytical drawing, and three-dimensional studies while leading workshops on painting, printmaking, pottery, industrial and interior design, weaving, and typography. According to Dessau Bauhaus Foundation Director Phillip Oswalt, this trans-disciplinary approach set the Bauhaus apart from any other movement.

He recently explained that "bringing people from different design professions together" was one of its core ideas.

These highly specialised workshops developed products such as the table lamp by Karl Jacob Jucker and Wilhelm Wagenfeld, Marianne Brandt's silver teapot, and Marcel Breuer's nesting tables and tubular steel chairs. Easily reproduced, they became icons of twentieth century craftsmanship and influenced myriad designers in the decades that followed.

"You have continuities," Oswalt told The Local. "Some of the products are still produced. Designers made updates or developments of [Bauhaus] design ideas. You have things that have a strong relationship to Bauhaus ideas, even something like IKEA furniture, just to give an example of one brand."

The convertible tables and stainless steel coffee pots that fill contemporary design stores today do reveal a marked influence, and would fit right in at one of the four Masters' Houses Gropius built adjacent to the main Bauhaus building.

But looks can deceive, and Oswalt warns against labelling anything that embodies a modernist aesthetic with the term Bauhaus.

"There are quite a few people who relate to the ideas of Bauhaus in an articulated, explicit way, but there are things you can see in relationship to the Bauhaus ideas which are not necessarily derived from studying the Bauhaus program," he said.

That’s because the the Bauhaus movement went beyond simple aesthetics. It incorporated societal issues and reacted to a population's basic needs. During the Bauhaus' fourteen years of existence, relationships between topics like art and science, style and form, functionalism and necessity were constantly debated.

After Gropius' departure in 1927, the directorial reins passed to Hannes Meyer and then Mies van der Rohe, who both presented new ideals, and shifted the school in ways that often conflicted with one another. These continual changes in perspectives, Oswalt explained, were a key factor in the Bauhaus' development.

"It was dynamic and controversial and many-fold," he explained.

In 1925, a far-right government came to power in Weimar, which compelled the school to relocate to Dessau. But the Bauhaus experienced further hardships and moved to Berlin in 1932, where it remained for just one year before it closed as the Nazis took power. Many of the masters emigrated to the United States. There, Mies van der Rohe became a superstar architect, Moholy-Nagy established the New Bauhaus in Chicago, and Gropius took a position at Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

In Germany, three important sites offer insights into the movement’s impressive legacy.

At the Bauhaus Museum in Weimar, hundreds of objects created by teachers and students fill the original, historic building where the school was founded. The Dessau Bauhaus Foundation offers guided tours of the workshops and rooms where the masters lived and worked. And at Berlin's Bauhaus Archive, revolving exhibitions delve into topics complimenting the museum's vast permanent collection.

But this is a momentous year in the world of Bauhaus, and in addition to these three celebrated sites, dozens of exhibitions and events are taking place throughout Germany, offering plenty of ways to encounter its unmistakable style.

For a comprehensive listing see the Bauhaus 2009 website.

Apolda

Exhibition: Laszlo Moholy-Nagy - On the Way to Weimar 1917-1923

Kunsthaus Apolda Avantgarde, Bahnhofstrasse, 42

April 05 - June 21, 2009

Early paintings, drawings, and prints by the Hungarian artist and Bauhaus master trace his development from expressionism to constructivism.

Berlin

Exhibition: Modell Bauhaus

The Martin Gropius Bau, Niederkirchnerstrasse 7

July 22 - October 4, 2009

Iconic pieces from Germany's three Bauhaus institutions, the Bauhaus Foundation Dessau, the Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin and the Bauhaus Museum Weimar provide a comprehensive overview of the Bauhaus' contributions to 20th century design and examine the movement's influence on the present day.

Erfurt

Exhibition: Margaretha Reichardt

Kulturhof Krönbacken, Galerie Waidspeicher, Michaelisstrasse 10

September 12 - October 11

The life and work of Erfurt-born, Bauhaus-trained weaver Margaretha Reichardt is celebrated with this colourful exhibition of carpets, tapestries, photographs, and personal documents.

Gera

Exhibition: Encountering Bauhaus - Kurt Schmidt and Avant-Garde Artists Kunstsammlung Gera, Küchengartenallee March 25 - June 14

For the Bauhaus' first exhibition in 1923, Kurt Schmidt developed a performance called the "Mechanical Ballet," which joined dance and technology. A series of works from the artist's varied periods hang alongside pieces by Bauhaus masters and students like Paul Klee, Johannes Itten, and Lothar Schreyer.

Exhibition: Marguerite Friedlaender-Wildenhain and the Bauhaus Museum of Applied Arts, Greizer Strasse 37 June 23 - September 20, 2009

Classic pieces of pottery and porcelain, like smooth white vases and elegant teapots created by Bauhaus ceramicist Marguerite Friedlaender-Wildenhain sit within Gera's Museum of Applied Arts display cases all summer.

Gotha

Exhibition: Modern but not Fashionable - Bauhaus Artists in Gotha

Schlossmuseum, Schloss Friedenstein October 10, 2009 - January 3, 2010

The desk lamps, coffee pots, and tea strainers of Wolfgang Tümpel and Marianne Brandt are displayed along with original sketches in this exhibition of two Bauhaus metalwork students who worked in Gotha during the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Jena

Exhibition: Kandinsky - Paintings, Drawings and Graphic Prints

Stadtmuseum Jena, Markt 7 September 06 - November 22, 2009

Devoted teacher and visionary abstract painter, Wassily Kandinsky was one of the Bauhaus' most revered masters. This exhibition presents examples from the artist's entire oeuvre, and examines his connections with the city of Jena.

Seminar - The Bauhaus in Jena 1919 - 1933 Volkshochschule Jena, Grietgasse 17a April 30, May 7, May 14, May 28, 6-7:30pm

Over the course of four Thursdays, this seminar traverses the history of the Bauhaus, through discussions and evening walks through Jena.

Weimar

Film: New Building I - Efficiency Fever and Urbanism Kommunales Kino, Goetheplatz 11 April 23, 2009, 7:30pm

Kommunales Kino screens a series of historic films including one from 1926 where Ilsa Gropius demonstrates the time-saving advantages of a modern kitchen. A full program of Bauhaus related films runs through December.

Celeste Sunderland (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right
Today's headlines
German squad leaves out one-legged long jumper
Markus Rehm. Photo: DPA

German squad leaves out one-legged long jumper

German athletics officials said on Wednesday they would not nominate the country's long jump champion Markus Rehm for the European championships because of fears his prosthetic leg gives him an unfair advantage. READ  

Second man arrested after synagogue attack
The synagogue on Tuesday after the attack. Photo: DPA

Second man arrested after synagogue attack

Police arrested a second suspect on Wednesday in connection with an attempted arson attack in which Molotov cocktails were thrown at a synagogue in western Germany. Another man who said he was Palestinian has denied involvement. READ  

German women fall short of equality
Still a man's world: women in Germany find it hard to rise as high as Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: DPA

German women fall short of equality

Women in Germany are still underrepresented in leadership jobs and among professors, a new government report said on Wednesday. They are also paid less and remain unlikely to study science, technology, engineering or mathematics. READ  

The Local List
Five reasons to visit (and to avoid) Oktoberfest
Photo: DPA

Five reasons to visit (and to avoid) Oktoberfest

With just over 50 days to go until Munich's Oktoberfest starts, it is time to book your train/plane/horse to the world’s biggest beer festival. Or is it? The Local List looks at five reasons you should be making that trip, and five why you'd better steer clear. READ  

Visa chaos hits Bayern Munich's USA tour
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Photo: DPA

Visa chaos hits Bayern Munich's USA tour

Bayern Munich boss Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is among the club's staff and players who could not join a week-long tour to the USA on Wednesday because of visa problems. READ  

Dead TV star replies to SPD party invite
German actress Renater Küster with a statue of her late husband Dieter Hildebrandt. Photo: DPA

Dead TV star replies to SPD party invite

The Social Democrats (SPD) accidentally invited a dead TV star to attend its summer party. It got a shock when the veteran presenter replied saying, "I can't make it". READ  

Father killed in 'Cold Water Challenge'
The digger tipped over. Photo: DPA

Father killed in 'Cold Water Challenge'

A father died and five of his friends were injured on Tuesday night in western Germany when a digger fell on top of them during a so-called Cold Water Challenge. READ  

Huge Bavarian crop circle puzzles crowds
Raisting crop circle. Photo: DPA

Huge Bavarian crop circle puzzles crowds

A mysterious crop circle in Bavaria has attracted thousands of visitors since it was spotted in a wheat field last week. READ  

German siblings killed by drunk driver in Austria
Photo: DPA

German siblings killed by drunk driver in Austria

A ten-year-old girl and her 21-year-old brother were killed overnight in a road accident on the A1 motorway in Upper Austria, caused by a drunk driver who was driving on the wrong side of the road. READ  

Merkel: Russia sanctions were 'inevitable'
Merkel warned further sanctions could be imposed against Russia. Photo: DPA

Merkel: Russia sanctions were 'inevitable'

Strong sanctions imposed by the EU against Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis were “inevitable”, Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed on Tuesday night, despite Germany's initial reluctance to get tough on President Vladimir Putin. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Have Your Say: Should Germany legalize cannabis?
Photo: DPA
Education
Germany's students fail to graduate in time
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Hamburg harbour lit up in blue
Business & Money
JobTalk: 'Application process is failing'
Photo: Bundesarchiv/Bild 183-S45825
Culture
Germany puts 700,000 WWI docs online
Photo: DPA
Society
This man wants to give all of us €12,000 a year
Photo: DPA
Education
Top university switches master's courses to English
instagram.com/gotzemario
Gallery
Germany's World Cup stars share their holiday photos
Travel
Plans unveiled for bike trail along former Iron Curtain
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The Local List: 12 best words in German
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,261
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd