At the moment in Berlin, kapitän Gropius’s keel is shipwrecked in a sea of muddy ditches, its programming relocated to a temporary annex. The building, which broke ground in 1976, the same year the kapitän’s Dessau campus was restored by the German Democratic Republic, opened in 1979 and was never much loved, although footfalls dramatically increased after the Wall came down. It is visibly the result of compromise: Gropius’s original plans, drawn up in 1964 for a sloped site in the small city of Darmstadt near Frankfurt, were waylaid by local politicians; only in the following decade, after Gropius’s death, did the project find a site in then–West Berlin. The dislocation did violence to the original scheme, however, requiring extensive modifications by Gropius’s acolyte Alex Cvijanovic (not least among them translating the building to flatland).
Whatever verve there was in that first project was methodically snuffed out in the pallid final version. It is modular without the conviction for its logic, and subtractive “without a flaming desire for new potentialities,” to borrow a line from the critic Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, who seized every chance to antagonize Gropius in his elder-statesman years. The surfaces— which, contrary to the school’s reputation, were a source of much craftsmanly anxiety for architects at the Bauhaus—are dull. The trademark shed roofs, and the jaunty winding ramp added by Cvijanovic, strive for loftier heights but don’t reach them. It was, and remains, not very Bauhaus.
The case of the Bauhaus-Archiv is instructive because it highlights the problem of building “on brand,” especially a legacy brand like BAUHAUS. The magic simply cannot be recaptured, as surely as tragedy passes into farce, farce into memetic nihilism. While plenty of “modern” buildings are going up in every city in the world, they have more in common with IKEA and the lobotomizing virality of Alucobond than with the 20th century’s most famous design school.
The genius of the Bauhaus, such as it was, lay in the combustible political situation that forced it into being. From the magma of world war emerged a new spirituality, to which Gropius gave voice in his 1919 manifesto while founding the school in Weimar. “Crystallization” is the key term, as in his memorable exhortation: “Art must finally find its crystalline expression in a great total work of art. And this great total work of art, this cathedral of the future, will then shine with its abundance of light into the smallest objects of everyday life.”
It is no coincidence, then, that the most reproduced image of the Bauhaus’s initial Weimar period was Lyonel Feininger’s woodcut depicting a prismatic “cathedral of socialism.” This socialism was of the William Morris sort, earthy and fraternal, bowing to sensuous feeling and species essence before instrumental reason. Art, that is to say crafts, would be a prophylactic against the mechanized terror of war prosecuted by the bourgeoisie at home and abroad.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
No New Buildings
The energy already embodied in the built environment is a precious unnatural resource. It’s time to start treating it like one.
The Circular Office
Major manufacturers are exploring every avenue to close the loop on workplace furniture.
Signs of Life
Designers, curators, and entrepreneurs are scrambling to make sense of motherhood in a culture that’s often hostile to it.
In probing the relationship between humans and nature, two major exhibitions question the very foundations of design practice.
Building on Brand
The Bauhaus turned 100 this year, and a crop of museum buildings sprang up for the celebration.
Building for Tomorrow, Today
Radical change in the building industry is desperately needed. And it cannot happen without the building trades.
Strength from Within
Maggie’s Centres, the service-focused cancer support network, eschews clinical design to arm patients in their fight for life.
The availability of attractive, hospitality-grade products on the market means everyday consumers can live the high life at home.
Mi Casa, Su Casa
Casa Perfect creates a memorable shopping experience in lavish private homes.
Enter The Culinarium
AvroKO imagines the future of residential amenities—where convenience, comfort, and sustainability meet.
Musical destinations – Berlin Germany
Jeremy Pound heads to the German capital’s Philharmonie concert hall to enjoy a late-summer feast of spectacular orchestral playing
Berlin Braces For a Dark Winter
The city is speeding the shutdown of 19th-century gas lanterns while citizens scramble to stay warm
Run Your Best at a Destination Race
BECAUSE RUNNING IS a universal sport, you can find amazing racing opportunities all around the world. A destination race is a great option for your next A-race, or you can roll it into a bucket-list vacation.
A Pharaoh Goes to Oxford
The star of the opera Akhnaten takes his role so seriously, he’s been offered a fellowship in Egyptology
This series represents a silent story told, a statement, a performance. To lessen misunderstandings in this sensitive subject, let's invoke the book of words, for, beyond words' immediate denotations, they have connotative powers.
DEMENTED HITLER'S BIZARRE FINAL DAZE!
Newly discovered documents reveal Nazi leader lost his grip on reality
Homeopath, heal thyself
Natalie Grams believed—really believed—in the healing power of homeopathy. Then a health crisis of her own forced the German physician to question her faith
Shannon T. Lewis
A Performance of Many Lifetimes
FIVE YEARS AFTER THE ICON’S PASSING, A FAN REVIEWS THE POSTHUMOUS RELEASES
Christian Drosten – A Virologist Whose Government Trusts Him
In Germany, Christian Drosten has the ear of Chancellor Angela Merkel—and of millions of his countrymen via his wildly popular podcast