A Bauhaus Tour of Weimar and Dessau
17 March, 2016
The Bauhaus School – from the German bau (construction) and haus (house) – was probably one of the most important and revolutionary driving forces in the 20th century in the fields of art, design and architecture. In the short space of merely 20 years, a team of inquiring artists and architects, influenced by the social movements of the time, managed to overturn the prevailing way of conceiving art and architecture and their relationship to society. Their achievements include laying the foundations for industrial design, graphic design and modern architecture. What’s more, they even put forward and saw implemented an alternative educational model which was ahead of its time. A host of figures succumbed to such innovation and each contributed their grain of sand, including Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, László Moholy-Nagy, Marcel Breuer and Lyonel Feininger.
A good way of taking stock of that brilliant past, which we are now so indebted to, is by visiting two cities where the movement was based –Weimar and Dessau.
Weimar – The First Steps
Weimar was the first of three centres of Bauhaus activity. No wonder, then, that this city had already been the hub of the German Enlightenment and a meeting place for intellectuals. The Bauhaus was founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius, who took his first tentative steps in the Haus Hohe Pappeln, a school of arts and crafts designed by a pioneer of modernity, Henry van de Velde.
The only building in the Bauhaus style still standing in Weimar is the Haus am Horn, built in 1923 and designed by Georg Muche, a painter and lecturer at the Bauhaus. The building was designated World Heritage of the 20th Century in 1996.
Located in the Theaterplatz is the Weimar Bauhaus Museum, a moderately sized venue devoted to the Bauhaus. A much more spacious centre is due to be inaugurated in 2018.
Dessau – The Boom
In 1925, Walter Gropius was forced to close the school in Weimar for political reasons, but he received the necessary support to move it to Dessau. Fortunately, in the case of Dessau, there are lots of buildings that have survived to the present, including the school itself, regarded as a masterpiece of European rationalism. When preparing the groundwork for your tour of the various Bauhaus landmarks in the city, we recommend you browse this website to check the times and to book your tickets, as not all the areas are admission free.
Bauhaus Building (Bauhausgebäude).The work of Walter Gropius, this is the most emblematic of the Bauhaus constructions. Built in 1925 and 1926, it is made up of various interconnecting volumes, each with a different function. Building work involved the use of industrial techniques and a striking feature of the design is the glazed frontage.
Masters’ Houses (Meisterhäuser).Located near the school, this ensemble of four residential buildings was home to the masters: Gropius, Moholy-Nagy/Feninger, Muche/Schelemer and Kandinsky/Klee. Their interiors are open to the public, except for that of Gropius, which was destroyed during the war.
Törten Estate. The work of Walter Gropius, this ensemble of 300 houses was built in 1920 in the south of Dessau. Commissioned by the City Council, it is a prototype of a housing estate and was intended to act as a model for social housing.
Kornhaus. More playful in design, this restaurant and pub overlooking the river Elbe was designed by Carl Fieger, a draughtsman in Gropius’ practice.
Berlin was the last of the Bauhaus centres, where it was located from 1932 to 1934. However, the rise of National Socialism would put an end to this brilliant core of creativity and innovation, driving it to other countries, but the mark it left has survived until the present.
From Leipzig it is an easy train ride to both Weimar and Dessau, where you can steep yourself in the Bauhaus. Check out your flight here!
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
17 March, 2016