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Friday, September 18th, 2015

The footprints left by the Bauhaus in Berlin

Modern style furnitureDespite the fact that the Bauhaus, the famous German school of art, design, craftsmanship and architecture, was erected in the city of Weimar, its final stage was developed in Berlin. And so, in various areas of the German capital, we can find the hallmark of its revolutionary designers and architects. However, one must remember that as well as Weimar and Berlin, the city of Dessau was also a host city of the Bauhaus, and so the three cities now enthusiastically await the arrival of 2019 in order to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the school.

Lovers of the architecture and the design that originated from the Bauhaus will find inspiration in many places of the city, which are listed hereafter.

A compulsory stop is the Bauhaus archive museum in Berlin (Bauhaus-Archiv Museum für Gestaltung Berlin), located next to the Reichpietschufer in Klingelhöferstraße 14, as it is a museum with one of the most complete collections of art and design from the school. Also, it offers a magnificent exhibition about the school’s history, products and workshops.

The impressive building that houses the current Bauhaus archive museum in Berlin was designed by Walter Gropius – the first headmaster of the school. Although initially the idea was to set the archive up in the historic Rosenhöhe park in Darmstadt, ultimately, the original plans were modified for the new location in Berlin, where it opened its doors in 1979. A highlight, amongst other things, is its industrial-style architecture and the imposing form of its roof, as well as the large entrance ramp.

The exhibition will guide you through the history of the Bauhaus school, from its inauguration in Weimar in April 1919, its relocation to Dessau in 1923 and its closing in 1933, less than a year after it was established in Berlin. Thanks to the grand, artistic collection that has been conserved, you will be able to have an excellent look at the time period and the works of the Bauhaus via videos, scale models, products, sketches and photographs. Furthermore, the museum frequently provides special exhibitions about architecture, art and photography. Currently up until the 21st September 2015, you can enjoy a display of the work of Hélène Binet, a photographer of architecture.

The legacy of Mies van der Rohe in Berlin

Another one of the places that is a must visit, is the Neue Nationalgalerie. In 1962, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the last headmaster on the Bauhaus, was responsible for the design of the building that would host the New National Gallery in Berlin, which is located very close to the Bauhaus archive. But perhaps only the lovers of the architecture, and of the school itself, will know that some years prior, Mies van der Rohe thought of a very similar design for Ron Bacardí’s offices in Santiago de Cuba and the Schweinfurt museum (Germany), although in the end none of them was built. From its opening in 1968, the luminous building planned by Mies van der Rohe has housed numerous exhibitions and artworks from the 20th century.

Bicycle route through the buildings of the Bauhaus

Under the direction of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who replaced Hannes Meyer as headmaster of the Bauhaus in 1930, the school was moved to Berlin, specifically to an old factory in Steglitz which would be its new headquarters during its brief time there (from October 1932 to July 1933), before being closed down. Unfortunately, this building was demolished, but, throughout the city, magnificent building and homes are able to capture the period of the Bauhaus, above all in south-west Berlin. Should you wish to do so, you could carry out a cycling route with an audio-guide from the famous home “Haus am Waldsee” on Argentinische Allee 30 and be able to gaze at the true architectural joys. The itinerary lasts ninety minutes, a time in which you will discover one of the most illustrated districts in terms of its architecture.

The dialogue from the audio-guide has been recorded by the headmistress of the “Haus am Waldsee” and art historian, Katja Blomberg, who tells us that the Bauhaus’ architecture is not limited to the whitewashed façades and flat roofs. In the Zehlendorf district, Bauhaus architects like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Werner Gropius, Hermann Muthesius and Peter Behrens built villas with gabled roofs and a rural English style, a fashion trend between 1907 to 1930. However, you will also be able to find several buildings, in both cubist and functional styles – two concepts that were very appreciated by the German school. An example for such could be the building on Beerenstraße 64 near the Mexikoplatz, built in 1928 by Arthur Korn and Siegfried Weitzmann. Moreover, you can also make a route through the Onkel Toms Hütte urbanisation (Uncle Tom’s Cabin), designed by Bruno-Taut.

Lemke House, Mies van der Rohe’s final project in Berlin

Sitting on Oberseestraße 60, in the Lichtenberg district, is another icon of the Bauhaus – Lemke House by Mies van der Rohe, which was to be his last architectural project in Berlin before emigrating to the USA. Lemke House, known in German as Landhaus Lemke or Mies van der Rohe Haus was built in 1933 for Mr and Mrs Lemke, owners of a printing house. However, they did not enjoy much time in the residence, as in 1945 the Red Army utilised the property as a garage. Afterwards, it would be used by the Stasi, the official state security of the DDR, as a launderette and home for the guards. It wouldn’t be until 1977 for the authorities of East Berlin to declare the house a national monument, currently being property of the Lichtenberg district.

The design of the property is simple and functional with a flat roof, brick walls and large windows with views of the Obersee lake. Even though both the house and the garden were restored, it has retained its originally planned style, and is now used as a space for the housing of exhibitions for works inspired by this wonderful building and its surroundings. The original furniture, designed by Mies van der Rohe especially for Lemke House, is found in the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts).

The forgotten building of the Bauhaus

Other buildings of the Bauhaus still stand, such as the Garagenpalast and the Siemensstadt residential complex which, although less well-known than those mentioned previously, also make up the core of this designer school. The Garagenpalast, built in 1930 and located on Kantstraße 126-127 in the Charlottenburg district, is a garage with several storeys and 300 parking spaces. Currently it is still in use, but because of its deteriorated state, this creation from the Bauhaus will be demolished. Siemensstadt, considered today a outlying district to the north of Charlottenburg, is another example of the functionality of the Bauhaus. Originally, this residential area was conceived as a working class neighbourhood, for workers at the nearby Siemens factory. The architects involved in this project are, among others, Martin Wagner, urban development adviser, Hans Scharoum, who managed the project and designed the general urbanistic plan, and Walter Gropius, who was in charge of the planning and design of some of the buildings. In July 2008, the architectural block and its precious gardens were also includes in the list of “Berlin Modernism Housing Estates” and named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

In Berlin you can uncover part of the history of the Bauhaus as well as the influence that this school of art, architecture and design had had on modern architecture and other fields of the visual arts.

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