Or I thought I knew Bauhaus but I didn’t know Jack
Or Travels with my design connoisseur friend Kevin and a hangover.
The Bauhaus Archiv in Berlin is housed in a small building of unexpected charm. I’d anticipated something stern, but just look at this:
The museum was designed in the 1960’s by Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus movement, and posthumously constructed between 1976 and ’79 proving controversial even within the Bauhaus group, with Max Bill calling it “a screwed-up old man’s design”.
It is idiosyncratic. It’s a small museum, capable of displaying only a third of the archive at any time. Despite its modest scale however it seems pretty comprehensive, covering chairs and lighting, larger pieces of furniture, architectural models, ceramics and (having done no advance reading about Bauhaus before I visited I was also surprised to discover) a lot of carpets and tapestry.
In his 1919 Bauhaus Manifesto Gropius stated, “There is no essential difference between the artist and the artisan.” The tension between art, craft and the machine-made is evident in the Museum’s juxtaposition of tubular steel furniture and wicker (wicker!), horsehair or hand-woven textiles.
The official Bauhaus website (A collaboration between Berlin, Weimar and Dessau) says “The outcome of Gropius’ approach was not established from the start but was to be discovered in the spirit of research and experimentation, which he called “fundamental research” applied to all the disciplines and their products, from the high-rise to the tea infuser.” In other words the Bauhaus was as much an ongoing debate as an ideology.
I think this is why the museum is quite text-heavy, each section having what looked like a lengthy written introduction. To be honest I barely skimmed the writings although Wassily Kandinsky’s quote “Square is Red” did jump out. (Kevin and I stood in front of this for a few moments going “Uhhh…”)
In the visitors book on the way out we noticed someone had written “Personally, I always felt Square is Blue”
Kevin’s Model B3 chair – also known as the Wassily chair, after Wassily Kandinsky – designed by Marcel Breuer.
Photos 1,3 & 4 by Oliver Lins, Olex,where you’ll find lots of beautiful photography, and more about Bauhaus
Photo 2 from Bauhaus Archiv Berlin
Photo 7 shows Mies Van Der Rohe’s Cane Chair from here
and Photo 8 came from here