A Day Trip to the Bauhaus
Let us together create the new building of the future, which will be everything in one form: architecture and sculpture and painting.
-Walter Gropius, German architect and founder of the Bauhaus

 

As any loyal follower of architectural and urban issues would do in Berlin, I made a pilgrimage one day to Dessau where the infamous Bauhaus school operated from 1925 to 1932.  Founded by architect Walter Gropius in nearby Weimar in 1919, the Bauhaus moved to Dessau in 1925 for political reasons.  With his school, Gropius sought to unite architects, artists, and designers to create a new learning environment where craft, art, and technology were combined to "give shape to a new, modern lived-in world."  At the Bauhaus, traditional teaching methods gave way to artistic experimentation and research.  (Interestingly enough, the Bauhaus didn't have an architectural program for its first year of existence.)  

Bauhaus-related buildings in both Dessau and Weimar make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site inscribed in 1996.  The buildings are spread out, making a day trip necessary (hardcore 'Bauhauslers' have the option to rent a historic student dorm room in the Preller house at a reasonable rate).  While I appreciate all architectural styles, Modernism doesn’t top my list of favorites. I feel it generally lacks warmth, provokes feelings of isolation, is a byproduct of the automobile, and doesn’t hold up well over time (especially if not impeccably maintained, which is usually the case).  I'm a little surprised that the Bauhaus is a UNESCO site (especially when compared to, say, Dubrovnik), although the architectural styles studied at the Bauhaus have undoubtedly had a significant impact on modern building practices.

 

 

School building

This is the heart of the site, where you buy tickets, take a tour, learn how the school functioned, grab a coffee, eat some lunch, and spend an overnight.  After the school closed and following the war, this main building was badly damaged but was eventually rehabilitated and opened to the public.

 

 

Master's Houses

This simple collection of four white houses looked striking in the fresh snow.  Gropius built these Master's Houses in 1925 as residences/work-spaces for the Bauhaus director (himself) and masters.  When the Bauhaus closed in 1933, the houses were let go; years later, they sustained major damage in the war.  So, the houses were reconstructed and/or rehabilitated and reopened to the public in 2014.  The interiors are more functional than homey, with crisp, stark lines and utilitarian staircases.  

 

 

Kornhaus

After touring the Master's Houses, I made the long trek to the Kornhaus for a late lunch.  This small little restaurant and pub built in 1929 sits on a gentle, picturesque curve of the Elbe river; the name 'Kornhaus' refers to the granary on the site in the mid-1800s.   In 1996, the restaurant was renovated and reopened to the public.  When I visited, the interior was cozy for a cold day and true to its original form, making the high price for lackluster food (in my opinion based on the soggy vegetarian meal I had) worth it.

 

 

Around

Dessau is a small, postindustrial city and pretty quiet.  The downtown lacked things to do and movement, but this may change in 2019 when the new Bauhaus museum opens.  Gropius' 1928 Historic Employment Office is downtown and, with its orange brick and institutional appearance, was pretty blah in my opinion.