Bauhaus: Dessau’s other good bit

Big tick! Now here’s a box of concrete I do admire. The ground-breaking 1926 Bauhaus school of arts, crafts and architecture by Walter Gropius. Because the Bauhaus ethos was so hugely influential around the world, seen with modern eyes, a building like this can seem underwhelming. It’s hard to imagine the shock and sense of wonder a person would have had standing in this spot in 1926 looking at this smooth sided elegantly proportioned building with a huge curtain of glass.

Love them or loathe them, the now familiar city landscape with forests of glass and steel have the Bauhaus architects to thank. Many of the Bauhaus artists and architects fled Germany in the 30’s when a particularly unpleasant government started expressing their displeasure at all these free thinking creatives at the Bauhaus.

I sometimes wonder if we’ve ever really moved-on from the Bauhaus style. Clean and boxy page design or websites – Bauhaus. San serif fonts used to give a page that “modern” look – Bauhaus. “Contemporary” bendy steel tube furniture – Bauhaus. Desk or standard lamps with brushed metal and frosted glass – Bauhaus.

Bauhaus made the industrial workings of an object or building a cool thing to show off. Note the factory-like chain to open the landing windows and the new-fangled central heating radiator. Also note the direct link between this building and the previous blog’s Federal Environment Agency’s use of a feature colour on the ceiling.

Speaking of the familiar, it’s hard not to think of UK council houses and social deprivation when looking at a housing block like this one. Back in 1930, people were probably lined up around the block to get their hands on a clean and efficient house with a bathroom, a view and communal gardens.

“People’s needs instead of luxury needs”. The Törten Estate 1926-28. Including large gardens for growing vegetables and keeping animals. All very self sufficient! Love the concept, but there have been too many ugly modifications to really appreciate how the estate should look and function (according to the original plan).

…and how the other people live. The Bauhaus “Master Houses”.

Yep, you’ve lost me there chaps. No doubt it is a beautiful building, but it’s all very well banging on about equality, designing small austere homes for The People and then going and building yourself a glass palace. Ironically, these houses are now pretty well empty because the genuine Bauhaus furniture which was intended to be mass produced and sold to The People is too expensive to buy and have on display.

And one final useless fact for you, apparently the trade of Graphic Design was born at the Bauhaus school. Love Bauhaus, but I prefer to think of my predecessors laying the foundations of visual communication by painting bison in caves about 40,000 years ago.

D

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Categories: Architecture, Germany | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Bauhaus: Dessau’s other good bit

  1. Actually, given where you were born, you could say that your predecessors were painting enigmatic “bradshaw” figures on rock walls a long time before Homo Sapiens had reached Western Europe and seen a bison. It’s amazing that the Europeans progressed to Bauhaus so quickly – must be all those germs, guns and steel….

  2. Big little bro

    D… our ‘forefathers’ were painting serpents and dugongs in the Kimberley.
    Dad! That’d be “Homo sapiens”! Love the Diamond reference…

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