Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Bauhaus in Dessau (random musings 3)

Cambridge, May 14, 2013

Which one is the front façade of the Bauhaus?

Of course, as any architecture student can tell you, that is a silly question.  The whole point is that the building doesn't have façades in the traditional sense, much less any indication of front or back, or side, or any other notion associated with static hierarchies.

Yet, if you were coming from the center of Dessau along Friedrichs Allee (now Gropiusallee) at the time of the Bauhaus, the first thing you saw was an almost blank dark-gray wall with the word "BAUHAUS" spelled out in gigantic metal letters applied vertically across three levels.

If that is not a front façade--an iconographic expression of the institution in built form--I don't know what is!

The interesting thing is that Gropius chooses for this role a minor side elevation (in the process solving the classic end-bay problem of a long volume.)  Afterwards, he lets your eye glide along the glass-and-steel elevation of the workshops--conveniently recessed from the property line so you get just enough of a perspective--until it finds the transversal volume of classrooms oriented with the street that leads to the train station.

By then you're pretty much aware that the building is anything but frontal. 

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