Gropius

BAUHAUS 100—Greatest Hits (and the Paul Rudolph Connection)

The Bauhaus building in Dessau, Germany, designed by the school’s director, Walter Gropius    Photograph by:    Lelikron

The Bauhaus building in Dessau, Germany, designed by the school’s director, Walter Gropius

Photograph by: Lelikron

THE 100th BAUTHDAY

It’s hard to believe, but this year is the Bauhaus’ 100th birthday! Yes, it’s been a century since it was founded in 1919. In the course of three locations in Germany—it was started in Weimar, then to Dessau, and finally in Berlin—the Bauhaus had as many directors: Walter Gropius (in both Weimar and Dessau), Hannes Meyer (in Dessau), and Mies van der Rohe (in Dessau and Berlin). Each had a distinct personality and approach to design---and so each change in leadership also meant significant shifts in the focus and purposes of the school.

DESIGN SUPER-STARS 

As important to the Bauhaus’ vitality was the diverse range of teachers which came (and went!) over the school’s history (until it was closed in 1933). Each were to become influential, famous names in the history of design and art. Ones we recognize so well are:

  • Albers (both Anni and Josef)

  • Marianne Brandt

  • Gunta Stölzl

  • László Mololy-Nagy

  • Paul Klee

  • Oskar Schlemmer

  • Johannes Itten

  • Wassily Kandinsky

  • Lyonel Feininger

  • Marcel Breuer

They became a Who’s Who of modern art and design---and when asked about the great (and sometimes conflicting) diversity of the faculty, Gropius once said: 

“There are many branches on the Bauhaus tree, and on them sit many different kinds of birds.”

There’s no need here to go into the full history of the Bauhaus, as it has been archived, recorded, written about, and exhibited extensively over the decades: most notably in Hans Wingler’s magisterial book; and in MoMA’s comprehensive exhibit (and the accompanying catalog) of 2009-2010, done under the leadership and curatorship of Barry Bergdoll. Nor is it necessary to remark extensively on its influence, which can still be seen everywhere—in the design of everything from teacups -to- buildings, and in the way that design and art education is still conducted in classrooms worldwide. Perhaps it is sufficient to say that the Bauhaus—a hundred years since its beginning, has never really ended: is still pervading our lives. 

[For this centennial year, there are to be many celebratory events. To find them, just put the word “Bauhaus” with words like “centennial” or “centenary” or “100” or “celebration” into your search-engine, and you’ll find numerous leads.]

THE BAUHAUS’ “GREATEST HITS”

Still, it’s always worth “recharging” ourselves—and refreshing our vision—by taking a look at some of the most memorable images & inventive works which came out of the school. Enjoy these Bauhaus icons:

  • Oskar Schlemmer’s Bauhaus Symbol:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

  • Walter Gropius’ Bauhaus School Building Complex in Dessau:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.Photo by M_H.DE

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.Photo by M_H.DE

  • Marianne Brandt’s Teapot

Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Photo by: Sailko

Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Photo by: Sailko

  •  Marcel Breuer’s Wassily Chair:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, by Borowski

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, by Borowski

  •  Peter Keler’s Baby Cradle:

Image courtesy of    www.tecta.de

Image courtesy of www.tecta.de

  • Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s and Karl Jakob Jucker’s Table Lamp:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Photo by    Sailko

Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Photo by Sailko

  •  Walter Gropius’ Door Hardware:

Image courtesy of    Double Stone Steel

Image courtesy of Double Stone Steel

  •   Josef Hartwig’s and Joost Schmidt’s Chess Set:

Image courtesy of Eye Magazine

Image courtesy of Eye Magazine

  •  Marcel Breuer’s Cantilever Chairs

Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Photo by Dibe

Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Photo by Dibe

  •  Oskar Schlemmer’s Design and Choreography for the Triadic Ballet:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Photo by    Fred Romero

Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Photo by Fred Romero

THE BAUHAUS-RUDOLPH CONNECTION

How is Paul Rudolph related to the Bauhaus? The answers are both general and specific.

Broadly speaking, no Modern architect can escape the Bauhaus’ influence. Its approach to form, problem-solving, composition, aesthetics, theory, education, and even idealism are part of the genetic code of Modern Architecture. Rudolph—a man of the mid-20th century architectural generation—was saturated in this, and strongly self-identified with Modernism. 

Educationally, Gropius’ work extended to America—and not just via indirect influence, but through his direct teaching. After leaving Germany in 1934, he went to England—and settled in the US in 1937 where he restarted his pedagogical and professional life. Paul Rudolph chose to obtain his graduate (Masters) education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design—whose architecture program was chaired by Walter Gropius! Even while a student, Rudolph’s special talent was recognized, and he was given a place in the studio which Gropius himself taught.

Paul Rudolph (front-row, at the far right) and his classmates at Harvard.    Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Paul Rudolph (front-row, at the far right) and his classmates at Harvard.

Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

In later years, people would point out to Rudolph the strong contrast between his own sculpturally expressive work vs. the relentlessly rectilinear “functionalist” buildings of Gropius and his followers (works that were derisively called “Harvard boxes”). But Rudolph acknowledged Gropius, saying that he had given a good basis for architectural work. Moreover, in 1950 Rudolph edited an issue of the French architecture journal, L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, an issue that was focused on Gropius and his students in the US. Rudolph did not repudiate his teacher.

Finally, one can discern the Bauhaus influence on Rudolph—particularly in work from his Florida years—as in this striking drawing for the Denman Residence:

Axonometric drawing (circa 1946) by Paul Rudolph. Denman Residence, Siesta Kay, Florida.    Courtesy of the Paul Rudolph Archive within the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs

Axonometric drawing (circa 1946) by Paul Rudolph. Denman Residence, Siesta Kay, Florida.

Courtesy of the Paul Rudolph Archive within the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs

Such fresh, clean, design—which embrace (and are drawn with) a clarity of conception—are expressions of the Bauhaus approach to composition and space-making. This is work which, we’d contend, Bauhaus-ian teachers would have been proud to see.

CELEBRATING A MASTER[MIND]: WALTER GROPIUS passed 50 years ago, today—and we raise a toast

Walter Gropius standing in front of the rendering of his and Adolf Meyer’s entry in the 1922    Chicago Tribune tower design competition   —an event which brought forth hundreds of submissions from architects all over the world. The design which Gropius and Meyer offered was formally aligned with what later came to be known as the International Style. Photo courtesy of The Charnel-House. Their in-depth article on the competition—and Gropius’ and Meyer’s entry in particular—can be found    here   .

Walter Gropius standing in front of the rendering of his and Adolf Meyer’s entry in the 1922 Chicago Tribune tower design competition—an event which brought forth hundreds of submissions from architects all over the world. The design which Gropius and Meyer offered was formally aligned with what later came to be known as the International Style. Photo courtesy of The Charnel-House. Their in-depth article on the competition—and Gropius’ and Meyer’s entry in particular—can be found here.

HIS INFLUENCE IS EVERYWHERE…

It’s no exaggeration: every day, in every building, over the entire planet, when architects and designers put pen-to-paper (or mouse-to-pad), his effect is felt and seen. Walter Gropius (1883-1969)—whether you like the results-or-not (and they are controversial)—did change the world. A particular approach to design problem-solving and form—one which Aaron Betsky concisely calls “analytic reduction”—has shaped everything: from titanic buildings to teapots, from side-chairs to the “Simple Living” movement, from city plans to chess sets. Many of the alphabets you read and write with today wouldn’t exist without it—and neither, possibly, would Ikea or Pottery Barn (at least in their present forms). Even designers who reject that whole approach are still reacting to what was wrought by Gropius and his associates.

Gropius would probably identify himself as an architect—and he is credited (often with partners) for some intriguing and significant designs.

The Monument to the March Dead (Denkmal für die Märzgefallenen), in Weimar, Germany, designed by Walter Gropius. Conceived and constructed at the beginning of the 1920’s, it is an example of Gropius’ early Expressionist phase—a mode he’d abandon as a more austere style, associated with later years of the Bauhaus, emerged.

The Monument to the March Dead (Denkmal für die Märzgefallenen), in Weimar, Germany, designed by Walter Gropius. Conceived and constructed at the beginning of the 1920’s, it is an example of Gropius’ early Expressionist phase—a mode he’d abandon as a more austere style, associated with later years of the Bauhaus, emerged.

But when we say “mastermind”, we’re mainly speaking of Gropius’ work shaping and leading the Bauhaus—the design school which he led from 1919 -to- 1928—and whose 100th birthday is being celebrated this year.

The Bauhaus in Dessau Germany: the second home of the school which Gropius led. The building complex was also his most famous work of architecture (though it is possible that Gropius worked on the project with others—as he was manifestly devoted to collaboration and had a history of design partners.) Photo: Detlef Mewes

The Bauhaus in Dessau Germany: the second home of the school which Gropius led. The building complex was also his most famous work of architecture (though it is possible that Gropius worked on the project with others—as he was manifestly devoted to collaboration and had a history of design partners.) Photo: Detlef Mewes

The strange thing about the Bauhaus is that while we readily recognize a “Bauhaus style”—or think we do—the school’s faculty was composed of the widest range of teachers: a diverse group who came (and went!) over the school’s 14 year history. Their names are a Who’s Who of Modern design, and each of the teachers was a strong, distinctive personality, with their own aesthetics, philosophies, and approaches to teaching. So perhaps Gropius’ greatest contribution was gathering and managing this disparate and talented set—and keeping the school going during that tumultuous era between the World Wars. Asked about the great—and sometimes conflicting—diversity of the faculty, Gropius quaintly explained:

“There are many branches on the Bauhaus tree, and on them sit many different kinds of birds.”

THE GROPIUS - RUDOLPH CONNECTION

Paul Rudolph first studied architecture at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now known as Auburn University), and then went for his Masters at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design—where Walter Gropius was in-charge of the architecture program. There, Rudolph became one of Gropius’ favored students. Although Rudolph’s initial work, after Harvard, could be characterized as well within the Bauhausian tradition, his later architecture looks to many like a decisive repudiation of Gropius. Yet Rudolph never belittled his old teacher, and would later say that studying with Gropius had given “a good basis” for architectural work.

After Rudolph’s U.S. Navy service in World War II (and after he had graduated from Harvard), Rudolph was in the US Navy Reserve. He achieved the rank of lieutenant, and in 1951 was ordered to report for duty. This was an especially prolific and fruitful moment in the Florida phase of Rudolph’s career, with numerous projects commencing or under-construction—and Rudolph asked for a deferment. Reaching out to his former professor, Rudolph obtained this letter-of-support from Walter Gropius:

Written in 1951, on the letterhead of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Gropius gives his reasons for supporting Paul Rudolph’s request for a deferment from Naval service. From the archives of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Written in 1951, on the letterhead of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Gropius gives his reasons for supporting Paul Rudolph’s request for a deferment from Naval service. From the archives of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

A TOAST!

We’ve learned that there’s a new way to celebrate Walter Gropius: Gropius House Cider (complete with Bauhaus-inspired graphics). As it is described—

Proceeds from the cider will benefit Historic New England’s efforts to restore the apple orchard that originally surrounded the house. Help us plant new trees with root stock identical to the original Baldwin apple trees . . . Gropius House Cider celebrates simple ingredients — Vermont cider, aged in gin barrels, sweetened with just a touch of honey — and a refined result. This crisp and refreshing cider draws its inspiration from the teachings of Bauhaus, and from the intimate dinner parties and gatherings the Gropiuses often hosted at their Lincoln home.

So, on this half-century anniversary of his passing, join us in a toast to Meister Gropius—influential teacher, and ultimately a world-maker—perhaps with a glass of this namesake cider.

The new Gropius House Cider, sales of which will help restore the orchard at Gropius’ own home in Lincoln, MA. Photograph by    Tony Luong   , from the    Historic New England    page   devoted to Gropius House Cider.

The new Gropius House Cider, sales of which will help restore the orchard at Gropius’ own home in Lincoln, MA. Photograph by Tony Luong, from the Historic New England page devoted to Gropius House Cider.