Many things in life are subjective, especially things that relate to architecture and the arts. What one person may find mind-blowing another may not be moved by at all. If you are a regular reader of our blog, you’ll know that we love architecture and learning about and visiting buildings built in different styles, materials and eras. You’ll also know about our love for Germany and our frequent visits. Therefore when I, Vicky, was invited to attend Germany’s Incoming and Brand Summit 2018 in Weimar to hear and learn all about the origins of Bauhaus in the city to how Germany will be celebrating the movement’s centenary in 2019, it was an opportunity I could not pass up and was very excited about.
I had, of course, heard of Bauhaus and knew that Bauhaus designed or influenced ‘things’ (buildings, furniture, art etc) were and still are created in a modernist style and are known the world over. I could pick out some of the most famous and timeless pieces such as The Wassily Chair designed by Marcel Breuer (1925) and the Bauhaus Lamp designed by Wilhelm Wagenfeld (1924). But that really was the extent of my knowledge. So here’s the lowdown on Bauhaus for you if you’re reading this thinking ‘Bau-what-now?’
The Origins Of Bauhaus
Bauhaus is a German word meaning ‘building house’ which is now synonymous with modern art and design. Originally the Grand-Ducal Saxon School of Arts and Crafts, the Bauhaus University was founded by Berlin-born (on 18th May 1883, coincidently 100 years to the day before I was born) architect, Walter Gropius in the central German city of Weimar in 1919. The main principle of the Bauhaus movement was and still is ‘Form Follows Function’. This meant, things should be designed and subsequently built or produced in a simplistic and functional style and that the item should primarily relate to its intended function or purpose. Therefore, no bells, whistles, frills or fanciful extras were needed. The idea was that you should be able to look at something and know exactly what it was, or what it was intended for instantly.
As Bauhaus originated in Weimar in the state of Thuringia, it seemed the ideal starting point for my Bauhaus tour and to learn more about the movement and what lasting influence it has had on the city. Classical Weimar is a historic and UNESCO World Heritage listed city, therefore full of beautiful and varied architecture and somewhere well worth visiting, even if Bauhaus is not your thing. For a small(ish) city it has a history of being home to a number of famous creatives. Not only the architects and the students of the Bauhaus but also the prolific 18th/19th-century writers, Goethe and Schiller. A monument dedicated to them can be found in front of the Court Theater in the city centre.
Bauhaus in Weimar
Some of the must-visit Bauhaus and Bauhaus inspired buildings and settlements in Weimar include “Haus am Horn”, a model house designed by Georg Muche. It was seen as a prototype for low-cost housing units providing a basic yet functional living space. The house is currently closed for refurbishment, however, it is due to reopen in April 2019 in time for the centenary celebrations. A stone’s throw away from “Haus am Horn” is “Neues Bauen“, a modern and family-friendly settlement which was built in the Bauhaus tradition with communal living very much in mind. The brightly coloured, boxy buildings are very highly sought after with many of the residents having links to the university.
The Bauhaus University which was designed by Henry van de Velde, the Belgian painter, architect and interior designer in the early 20th century is a must see whilst in Weimar. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance have a look inside the university, but from what I have heard, it is something to behold, especially the beautiful art nouveau spiral staircase. Henry van de Velde’s former residence – the Haus Hohe Pappeln, where he lived with his family between 1907/08 and 1917 is another beautiful building that needs to be seen and it is now a musuem, meaning you can even wander around the house, admiring the beautiful decor and furnishings which transport you back in time.
Where to stay and what to do in Weimar
Weimar is small, yet perfectly formed. A day or so exploring the city will allow you to get a good feel of the place. With numerous shops, museums and restaurants, Weimar has everything you need for a great break. If you love books and/or libraries then you must visit the Duchess Anna Amalia Library. Fire destroyed the main wing of the building in 2004, however, it was restored and reopened in 2007. Unfortunately, a number of the books lost are still to be replaced. The most beautiful room in the library is the Rococo hall. With its hanging portraits, busts, polished wood floor and gold decoration, it really is stunning. It can only be visited on a guided tour and with only 70 tickets a day available, which sell out very quickly, advance booking at the Tourist Information Centre is necessary.
If you’re looking for a luxury hotel, then check out the 5-star Hotel Elephant. It is located in the historic market square (the Markt). Therefore, all the major attractions, Bauhaus related and otherwise, are within walking distance. It has also recently reopened following renovation. Decorated in a beautiful art deco style with Bauhaus elements, it was the perfect place to base myself while in the city. Also, the breakfast on offer at the hotel is amazing, in fact, one of the best I have come across in Germany, and really set me up for a day of trekking and exploring.
Bauhaus in Apolda & Dessau
As mentioned above Bauhaus’ influence can be found in many things. In Apolda, a small town 15 kilometres from Weimar I visited “Eiermannbau“. It is a fantastic example of modernist architecture and industrial building design. It was originally built in 1906/07, then renovated in 1938/1939 and then again from November 2010 to December 2011. Originally a fire extinguisher factory, it is currently being used primarily as innovative office space (for now). Think greenhouses instead of cubicles and working in a silo – a play on words, perhaps? With big, typically Bauhaus windows offering amazing views and letting in a lot of light, I found it a great place to work from. It became a listed building in the early 1990s and the aim is to develop a long-term, sustainable concept for future use.
Next up was the main attraction, for me at least – the Bauhaus in Dessau. Following the forced closure of the Weimar Bauhaus in 1925, this school opened. It saw many now-famous creatives pass through its halls. Everything about the building itself and its decor screams Form Follows Function, making it the greatest examples of Bauhaus design. Unfortunately, strict photography rules cover the school, meaning no sneaky peaks inside. However, it’s now a museum, meaning you can visit for yourself. You can also spend the evening at the school. The rooms, once occupied by students, are now rented out to Bauhaus lovers from all over the world at a reasonable price. Just don’t expect 5-star luxury. However, if you do fancy a little bit more comfort than a bunk bed, check out the Radisson Blu Fürst Leopold Hotel. It is in walking distance of the school and other Dessau attractions.
Although not Bauhaus or even Bauhaus inspired, the Piesteritz factory settlement in Wittenberg is lovely and somewhere I am glad I got the opportunity to visit. The settlement was built by Georg Haberland and Otto Rudolf Salvisberg in 1916. Originally it served as a home for more than a thousand people of the former Reichsnitstoffwerk. It was the first car-free settlement in Germany. Today, it is still a popular and extremely quiet (probably something to do with the fact there are no cars) housing estate. The brightly coloured buildings with fantastic shutters and front doors look like they are straight out of a fairytale.
Bauhaus in Berlin
The final city on my tour, which is one of my favourite cities in the world, was Berlin. Unfortunately, I only had around 20 hours on this trip to explore. Following an obligatory “when in Berlin Currywurst” at the SUPER Space, a newly opened cafe selling local specialities at the top of the Bikini shopping centre in the uber-trendy Charlottenburg district, I was on the tracks of Bauhaus again.
Kant garage House, the Lemke House Berlin and of course the Bauhaus Archive Museum of Design are prime examples of Bauhaus buildings in the city. Even the hotel I stayed at, the Ellington Hotel, with its big square windows and chic minimalist decor is listed as a Bauhaus building. Also, located in the Charlottenburg district, there are shops and restaurants galore in the neighbourhood. Even though my visit to Berlin this time was brief, it was a great base. Berlin is also home to the Bauhaus shop, which I instantly fell in love with. Wandering around the shop, I wanted to buy everything. However, getting everything home may have proved an issue. Therefore, I made do with a fantastic carafe and matching glasses. This means I now have Bauhaus inspired items in my own home and great reminders of my trip.
Bauhaus in 2019
So as mentioned previously, Bauhaus celebrates its centenary next year. Therefore, there are a number of museums being built and celebrations happening. The world-famous movement will be celebrated in style. Therefore, if you are a lover of Bauhaus, you need to head to Germany next year to experience it for yourself. There is, of course, a comprehensive schedule of events for 2019. Here some key things that will be happening/opening:
Berlin – The opening festival from 16 to 24 January 2019
Weimar – a new Bauhaus Museum will open in Weimar in April 2019 and will showcase Bauhaus works
Dessau – a new Bauhaus Museum will be open in Dessau in early 2019 with an exhibition space of 2,100 square metres.
- My trip to Germany was in association with the GNTB. However, opinions, words and photos are my own.
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