• Germany's news in English

The haus that Gropius built

Celeste Sunderland · 23 Mar 2009, 17:59

Published: 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Story continues below…


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.


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.


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)

Today's headlines
Bishop buys €300k altar as refugee home rots
Bishop Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg. Photo: DPA

Bishop buys €300k altar as refugee home rots

33 minutes ago

The Bishop of Augsburg has announced plans to build a €300,000 altar in the city cathedral, just days after complaining that the city was underfunding refugees.

Five foolproof steps to do Advent like a German
The lighting of the first "Adventskranz" candle marks the start of the festive season. Photo: DPA

Five foolproof steps to do Advent like a German

1 hour ago

With the first Sunday of Advent almost upon us, The Local looks at how Germany celebrates the festive season - and what to look out for once Advent begins on November 29th.

Climate chaos threatens Germany, experts warn
Flooding in Bavaria in 2013. Photo: DPA

Climate chaos threatens Germany, experts warn

2 hours ago

Ever-more heat waves and floods will hit Germany over the coming century, posing serious challenges to the country’s agriculture and economy, a new analysis predicts.

Growth boosted by shopping and refugees
File photo: DPA

Growth boosted by shopping and refugees

6 hours ago

The German economy posted firm growth for the third quarter, boosted by consumer spending which is fast becoming a cornerstone for German economic expansion, data published Tuesday showed.

November set to break refugee arrivals record
Refugees at the German-Austrian border. Photo: DPA

November set to break refugee arrivals record

7 hours ago

November is set to break the record set in October for the highest number of refugees to arrive in Germany in one month, police reported on Monday.

Pegida marchers attack news cameraman

Pegida marchers attack news cameraman

8 hours ago

Police arrested two people in Dresden on Monday evening after a cameraman was attacked by anti-Islam demonstrators on the fringes of a much smaller gathering than recent weeks.

Volkswagen scandal
VW 'can fix 90 percent of cheating cars' in EU
File photo: DPA

VW 'can fix 90 percent of cheating cars' in EU

9 hours ago

German auto giant Volkswagen, mired in a massive emissions cheating scandal, said Monday that it has found technical solutions for more than 90 percent of the vehicles affected in Europe.

Lufthansa faces new strikes starting Thursday
Photo: DPA

Lufthansa faces new strikes starting Thursday

1 day ago

The troubled airline Lufthansa is facing a new round of strikes, after air crew union UFO told its members to head for the pickets on Thursday and Friday.

Germans 'waste valuable clothes': Greenpeace
Clothes donations at a refugee centre. Photo: DPA

Germans 'waste valuable clothes': Greenpeace

1 day ago

When it comes to what they wear, Germans have a throwaway culture. A new survey by Greenpeace shows that the words Schuster (cobbler) and Schneider (tailor) have become little more than surnames in modern society.

Funeral of Helmut Schmidt
Hamburg bids farewell to its most famous son
Pallbearers carry Helmut Schmidt's coffin away from the altar following the funeral service. Photo: DPA

Hamburg bids farewell to its most famous son

1 day ago

Thousands of people lined the streets of Hamburg on Monday to pay their respects to former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, as the great and the good of Germany, Europe and the world gathered in church to bid him farewell.

Sponsored Article
How to figure out healthcare abroad
German ISS astronaut tells kids to follow their dreams
Sponsored Article
Why family companies need free trade and TTIP
90 percent of Germans want tougher security
Sponsored Article
'Innovative companies like Hövding benefit most from TTIP'
Are you living in Germany's most expensive city?
Sponsored Article
The cheapest and fastest way to transfer money
Should singer accused of homophobia represent Germany at Eurovision?
70 years since the Nuremberg Trials
The German connection in the Paris attacks
Snow expected on 'first weekend of winter'
10 years of Angela Merkel in Berlin
Could soldiers soon be patrolling German streets?
Second German Paris victim was teacher and journalist
'We can't beat Isis with military means'
How will Germany help France fight Isis?
One German confirmed dead in Paris attacks
'Don't take Paris out on refugees': German defence minister
Germany's minute of silence for Paris victims
Nightclub bans refugees for harassing women
OPINION: Refugees must learn to respect German values
The ancient German community at the heart of Texas
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd