Friday, March 29, 2013


Dessau, March 29, 2013

"We're all Weimared out, gentleman, now we're Dessauing!"
Lyonel Feininger, 1925

When Gropius decided to move the Bauhaus from Weimar to Dessau he had to put his new city on the map.  Literally.  Most appropriately, the responsibility, of drawing the map, fell on Joost Schmidt, the head of Advertising at the Bauhaus.  And he drew it at the most ambitious, regional scale.  In Schmidt's drawing, Dessau is unsuspectedly at the center of a pinwheel radiating transportation lines, everything from railroads to airplanes.  Yes, even Berlin--population 4 million in 1925--appears on an outside circle of Dessau--population 70,000 the same year.

As the architect of the new building for the school, Walter Gropius does more or less the same at the scale of the city.  He organizes the different parts of the program--workshops, classrooms, refectory, studios, administration, etc.--as pinwheeling volumes, not so much occupying its site but articulating the broader areas around it, giving it a foundational role for the new Dessau.  The administration block even plays the role of a gateway, bridging above the street that comes from the train station.

(And at the center, up hight, you can almost guess it, right?  Yes, Gropius's very own office.)

But the Bauhaus building in Dessau is a urban construction in at least another way.  Each use and activity--dwelling, working, recreation, etc.--is called out in the massing, as if the ensemble were a miniature city.  So, for all its modernity, the Bauhaus seem to have no problem in following Alberti's 15th century dictum, that "... the city is like some large house and the house is in turn like some small city."

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