The Bauhaus was arguably the 20th Century’s most important and influential school of art and design. Founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 191. Forced out when the regional government came under the control of the right, it moved to Dessau to a purpose designed building embodying the Bauhaus style in 1928 until 1932 when it was again forced to move by the Nazis when they tool control of the Dessau town council. Moving into a disused factory building in Berlin, it lasted a year before being permanently closed down by the Nazis.
Unlike other art schools at the time the Bauhaus approach was to bring together the various arts of painting, architecture, theatre, photography, weaving, typography, etc., into a modern synthesis, ignoring the conventional distinctions between the "fine" and "applied" arts. And they encouraged their students to develop well designed products that could be manufactured on an industrial scale. The Masters included Walter Gropius, Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger, Vasily Kandinsky, Josef Albers, Oskar Schlemmer, László Moholy-Nagy and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Today it’s hard to appreciate just how radical the Bauhaus designs were at the time when they were first created. The style has become so much absorbed into the design of many everyday objects today, like the classic cantilever metal tubular chair.
(Picture source Wikipedia)
During our recent trip to Berlin, we had intended to take the train to Dessau to have a look at the Bauhaus school building and master’s houses, but that plan soon went out of the window. However, we did make sure that we visited the Bauhaus Archive which in Berlin itself.
As it’s name implies, the Archive was established as a depositry of books, journals and catalogue material as well as manuscripts, letters and a variety of publications on the Bauhaus. But it was also decided to establish a museum with an exhibition about the Bauhaus and work by it’s Masters and students.
It’s in a building designed by the founder of the school, Walter Gropius. The Archive was founded in Darmstadt in 1960 and it was originally planned to construct the building there. But this fell through and the Archive moved to Berlin in 1971. A new building to a modified version of Gropius’ design was constructed completed in 1978.
Although I was disappointed at not being able to get out to Dessau, I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Archive – both the building and the exhibition. There were displays about the courses taught at the school, particularly the radical Introductory courses and examples of works by Masters and students in all the subjects studies – ceramics, metalwork, photography, fabrics, painting, theatre design, furniture and architecture. The organisation of the exhibits was a little disorganised but that didn’t spoil the experience for me. The information panels were in both German and English and an audioguide was included in the entry fee (covered by our 3 day Museum pass) – although they did demand visitors left photo-identity or 10 Euros as a a deposit.
I particularly enjoyed the examples of photographs, a number of the paintings on display, the examples of metal work including lamps and coffee pots, and the models of the buildings designed by Gropius, Mies Van de Rohe and others.
Lamp designed by Wilhelm Wagenfeld (image source Wikipedia)
Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed in the exhibition, and the Archive website has only a very limited selection of pictures. However, we were able to purchase a reasonably priced guide to the museum.