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Work on the Bauhaus campus began in September 1925 and the complex was inaugurated in December 1926. Even on such a tight timetable, Gropius succeeded in creating a showcase for his design principles and a laboratory for his theories about forging a new postwar sensibility through the synthesis of art, design and technology.

The school quickly attracted forward-thinking faculty, including Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, László Moholy-Nagy, Oskar Schlemmer and Lyonel Feininger. Among their students were German designers Marianne Brandt and Helmut Schulze and Swiss designer, educator and sculptor Max Bill. But Dessau’s years as the epicenter of modernist architecture and design proved brief. The Nazi regime closed the school in 1932, although the diaspora of its faculty and students guaranteed that its ideas would have worldwide influence.

For those who want to go to the source, some of the most tangible achievements of the Bauhaus survive in Dessau, despite the destruction of 85 percent of the city by Allied bombing during World War II and the subjugation of the avant-garde to the principles of socialist realism under the Communist regime of the German Democratic Republic.

The place to begin a visit is at the Bauhaus Building. Its three asymmetrical wings, arranged at right angles to one another, contain the Studio House with 28 live-work spaces; the technical schools; and the stacked tract of workshops with its famous glass curtain wall. Destroyed in World War II and replaced with a traditional brick façade, the glass wall was recreated in a 1976 restoration, but black-painted aluminum structural elements were substituted for the original steel. In the most recent restoration, the exterior of this framing was repainted gray to more closely resemble the original.

Although the Bauhaus Building appears, from the outside, to be a simple assemblage of cubes, “it is a very complex building,” says Monika Markgraf, who oversaw the restoration for the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, which assumed stewardship of the Bauhaus campus in 1994. “Walking through it is like walking through a film.” Because the building is devoid of traditional ornamentation, color supplies an orienting “narrative,” highlighting structural elements, such as load-bearing walls, and doorframes that lead to public rooms. It also groups discrete sections together as functional units and identifies building levels in stairwells. The restoration team referred to original drawings from the wall-painting workshop, which emphasized the primary colors red, yellow and blue, as well as gray.

The Bauhaus Building remains a dynamic venue. Mercedes-Benz, Bergdorf Goodman and Saab have all used it as a backdrop for advertising campaigns. “Today, on a superficial level, the Bauhaus is seen as ‘cool,’” says Dr. Kirsten Baumann, deputy director of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, referring to revival of interest in the simplest and most direct expression of the modernist aesthetic. Of course, she adds, the association with luxury goods would have been anathema to the Bauhaus school.

While the Bauhaus complex demonstrates Gropius’s approach to an institutional building, the three two-family houses he designed for its most prestigious faculty members — Moholy-Nagy, Feininger, Schlemmer, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Georg Muche — demonstrate the elegance of his concepts for residential structures. The Masters’ Houses, restored between 1994 and 2002, sit in a pine grove a five-minute walk from campus. Constructed of prefabricated modules, the two-family homes are set at 90 degree angles to one another to ensure privacy. Klee and Kandinsky lived in adjoining halves of one house, but the design allowed each artist to muse on his own upper-level terrace undistracted by the other. Although the homes do not contain original furnishings, some tantalizing hints remain of how the occupants personalized their spaces. Klee experimented with seven color schemes, the last of which featured soothing contrasts in gold, brown, gray, light green and light blue. Kandinsky covered one wall of his living room with gold leaf. World War II bombings destroyed Moholy-Nagy’s half of one of the three houses, but Feininger’s domicile on the remaining side, with its living room color scheme of black, white and orange, survived.

Gropius’s own single-family home in the same complex was also destroyed. After the war, its new owner built a traditional Saxon house on the site. The city owns the property (as well as the Masters’ Houses), and Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92  |  Page 93  |  Page 94  |  Page 95  |  Page 96  |  Page 97  |  Page 98  |  Page 99  |  Page 100  |  Page 101  |  Page 102  |  Page 103  |  Page 104  |  Page 105  |  Page 106  |  Page 107  |  Page 108  |  Page 109  |  Page 110  |  Page 111  |  Page 112  |  Page 113  |  Page 114  |  Page 115  |  Page 116  |  Page 117
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