Paying homage to the influential legacy left behind by the great Bauhaus Art School, the German town of Dessau inaugurates the Bauhaus Museum Dessau on the anniversary of the school’s centenary year. Here’s a brief introduction to the Bauhaus and the museum that documents its heritage of artistic ideas.
Being an inspiration behind simplistic designing and a guide for architectural aficionados, Bauhaus Art School completes its centenary year this year and the German town, Dessau celebrates this momentous event by inaugurating a museum dedicated to Bauhaus’s legacy. The Bauhaus Museum Dessau opened its doors to visitors on September 8th. It documents the iconic ideas and the actual designs that came alive within Bauhaus’s campus.
To understand the significance of this museum, let’s understand the history of the Bauhaus Art School and why it makes for an architectural and design legend.
Brief History of the Bauhaus
The Staatliches Bauhaus, commonly known as just “the Bauhaus”, was an arts and design school that was founded in 1919 in Weimar, Germany by an architect named Walter Gropius. Gropius was an ambitious architect who was fascinated by simplistic designs that were efficient and universal. This ideology became the essence of what Bauhaus imparted to its students.
Historically, European art academies taught art and design separately. However, Bauhaus bridged that gap and blurred the boundaries between the two creative disciplines. They believed that the world of design needed to be re-thought to include simplicity and geometric purity. Ideas and designs that have their origins in Bauhaus can be observed even today—from road signs and home décor to architecture of skyscrapers. One of their revolutionary inventions was the ‘Cantilevered Chair’—a chair where the front legs bend all the way to the floor and join at the back. This wasn’t just a school, Bauhaus became a movement.
Unfortunately, the institution only lasted 14 years. According to a report in The Economist, “Nazis considered the students and teachers of Bauhaus to be ‘degenerate’, utopian and Bolshevist.”So, the school was forcefully removed from Weimar in 1924 and it relocated to Dessau, a more liberal town, in 1925 where the school gained its popularity the most and survived for the longest period i.e. 8 years. It finally moved to Berlin in 1932 where it was permanently closed by the Nazis. After it shut down, architects and designers who were trained in its campus moved out to different countries and propagated the Bauhaus vision all around the world.
The museum and its Design (The Black Box)
Today, the Bauhaus Museum, built in its memory, may appear to a by-stander as a gigantic glass box of about 105m long, 25m wide and 12m high. But the main attraction of the building is the ‘black box’—a closed concrete cube, encapsulated inside the glass box. The black box has a surface area of 1,500 sq.m. and can hold up to 1,200 exhibitions from the Dessau Bauhaus Foundation’s collection, which possesses more than 49,000 artefacts(ranging from furniture and architectural plans to student notes, teaching plans, prototypes and artworks).
The building has been carefully constructed to protect the exterior as well as the artefacts installed inside the main museum. The exterior and interior of the museum are painted black so that no natural light can penetrate inside, and the curators can individually devise lighting that does not damage the collection. Moreover, the façade of glass covering the museum protects it from the extreme weather conditions.
The architects of this castle of glass, Roberto González and his team of Addenda architects, have accomplished the magnificent feat of holding the black box on just two stairwell shafts.
“The Black Box is constructed like a bridge. It is bent upwards at the ends so that once the scaffoldings are gone, its weight, the weight of the visitors and of the exhibits will pull it down. In the end, it should ideally form a horizontal line,” said González.
In an interview with The Grand Tour of Modernism, González also stated, “Our building is about proportion, positioning and space. It’s not so much about using the highest quality materials. But the Bauhaus Museum Dessau shows that given the right combination of materials, space, colours, etc. you can achieve an outstanding result with limited resources. That’s very Bauhaus.”
Reflecting these sentiments, the inaugural exhibition showcased the experimental creative accomplishments of teachers and students, referred to as bauhäusler, under the direction of Gropius (until 1928), Hannes Meyer (1928-30), and van der Rohe(1930-32). The collections document the unique methods they adopted in the school, showcased through a comprehensive assortment of studies, photographs and sketches.
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