Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Postcard from Berlin, 6. (Bauhaus, Dessau)

Day 6 - the last full day in Berlin - was a train ride to Dessau to see the Bauhaus*. Dessau is about 100km south west of Berlin and the train from Alexanderplatz took the best part of 2 hours. It was, however, only a few minutes walk from Dessau station to the Bauhaus itself. It was exciting to walk up to, and into, the buildings so familiar from art history books. Walter Gropius' 1926 buildings were first restored in the 1970s and again in the 1990s. Today the buildings appear as fresh as they must have been nearly 80 years ago. They are managed by the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
We were given a guided tour of Die Meisterhäuser - the houses designed by Gropius for himself and the teaching staff, the 'masters'. Our German guide was diffident about conducting the tour in English but was excellent.  The masters occupied semi-detached house: in 1926, these included László Moholy-Nagy and Lyonel Feininger, Georg Muche and Oskar Schlemmer and Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. Each half of the semi-detached houses are mirror images of the other, rotated by 90°. The houses were designed with consideration for efficiency both in construction (standardised, pre-fabricated blocks) and day to day living. It was interesting, and surprising, to see the rich use of colour both inside and out.
The Director's house did not survive the war - it has now been restored, not as a replica of the original but as an 'interpretation' by Bruno Fioretti Marquez. (See feature in dezeen and article by Philip Oltermann.)
Walter Gropius, The Feininger House, 1926
Stairwell in House Kandinsky (restored 2003)
The Gropius House (original 1925/6), interpreted by Bruno Fioretti Marquez, 2014
The tour of the Bauhaus building, itself, was equally interesting and included seeing the Director's office and a student's studio-bedroom.

*Thanks to Sue, Ian, Dawn, Martin and Deb for organising the visit.

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