• Germany's news in English
 

The haus that Gropius built

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.

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)

Today's headlines
Constitutional Court allows 'FCK CPS' sticker

Constitutional Court allows 'FCK CPS' sticker

The Constitutional Court decided on Tuesday that it is within someone's right to freedom of expression to wear the FCK CPS logo, but only if the insult is aimed at police in general. READ  

Germany's 'other genocide' in Namibia
Protests in 2014 about the recognition of the Herero genocide. Photo: DPA

Germany's 'other genocide' in Namibia

Between 1904 and 1907 German colonial rulers in Namibia attempted to exterminate a whole section of the native population, in another horrific chapter of history campaigners are calling on the country to face up to. READ  

Nepal earthquake
At least one German confirmed dead in Nepal
Search and rescue efforts are ongoing in Nepal. Photo:DPA

At least one German confirmed dead in Nepal

The Foreign Ministry confirmed to The Local on Tuesday that one German citizen was killed in the earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday. READ  

Germany may have 10m fewer people by 2060
Photo: DPA

Germany may have 10m fewer people by 2060

If low birth rates and high death rates continue as they are now, a major decline in Germany’s population is “inevitable,” the federal statistics office (Destatis) reported on Tuesday. READ  

Opinion
Germany should fear Brexit more than Grexit
British Pime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum on EU membership. Photo: DPA

Germany should fear Brexit more than Grexit

With all European – and especially German – eyes on Greece, Michael Wohlgemuth asks why the EU isn't more worried about a British exit from the Union. READ  

Police shoot man dead in Rhineland-Palatinate
Photo: DPA

Police shoot man dead in Rhineland-Palatinate

A 40-year-old man died in hospital in Grünstadt, Rhineland Palatinate after being shot by police on Monday evening. READ  

Daimler hit with Greek corruption charges
German soldiers in a 'Unimog' truck made by Daimler. Photo: DPA

Daimler hit with Greek corruption charges

Greek prosecutors announced on Monday they are bringing charges against several Daimler managers, who they say were involved in multi-million euro bribes to Greek authorities. READ  

Germany's surrender order under the hammer
Admiral Dönitz (m) with Albert Speer (l) and General Alfred Jodl (r). Photo: DPA

Germany's surrender order under the hammer

Marooned on a naval base in northwest Germany, pinned down by advancing Allied forces and Adolf Hitler dead, the last leader of the Third Reich hammered out the surrender order. READ  

Merkel not yet 'Mutti' of the Twittersphere
Photo: DPA

Merkel not yet 'Mutti' of the Twittersphere

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the only G7 leader not to have a Twitter account, according to a report on the social network released on Tuesday. READ  

Kindergarten wage negotiations fail
Photo: DPA

Kindergarten wage negotiations fail

The public services union Ver.di announced on Monday evening that negotiations over a pay increase for Kindergarten teachers had failed. Strikes will start at the end of next week and go on for an indefinite period. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Features
Smart kids all want to work for BMW
National
Arms firms get a 'must do better' mark on ethics
Sport
Bayern's anticlimactic 25th Bundesliga win
Gallery
German beer day: take the tour
Features
Off to Norway at 18 km/hour
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
Gallery
The smileys Germans love to text
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
National
Expats face Monday deadline to register to vote for UK election
Politics
A Greek learning politics in Germany
Features
The battle of the "Gates of Berlin"
National
Germany's favourite baby names of 2014
National
Germany's 'very poor' lobbying record
National
VIDEO: Mario Draghi suffers anti-ECB confetti attack
Politics
Merkel's 15 years at the top of German politics
Features
Spice up asparagus season with The Local's serving suggestions
Travel
Lowest of the low: how woman exploited Germanwings crash
Sport
Football and the €30,000 firework
Technology
Why scientists oppose killer robots
National
Germanwings co-pilot 'searched suicide info'
Technology
Electrifying 'Ostalgia'
National
Which city is Germany's worst for drivers?
National
'Cannibal cop' gets 8 years
Can the 'nightmare' of a pilot downing a plane be prevented?
National
LIVE: Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
National
Last-minute drama of Germany's Eurovision 2015 entry
National
German photographer takes world's top prize
Features
Meet the woman getting Germans to drink more – and better – beer
Gallery
Get inspired for International Women's Day with German heroes
Green party proposes first-ever cannabis legalization plan
Gallery
In pictures: Germany's seven most livable cities
National
Singapore canes Germans for train graffiti
Politics
Surprise! Germans love feeling like they run the EU
Politics
Anger over plan to show women what men earn
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

7,215
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd
?>