The Bauhaus didn’t die after the closing of the Weimar campus. After all, the Bauhaus wasn’t just a school but an idea, one that we’re celebrating today now that its foundation is exactly one hundred years old. Check out Part One of this series as well.
The second stage of the Bauhaus style included a lot of different artistic approaches that were beginning to surge around Europe, as well as less political and social pressure. Since most of the staff remained and interest on the school was still going strong, the Bauhaus moved to a new location on Germany’s far northeast.
The second Bauhaus in Dessau
The town of Dessau is famous for its many castles, gardens, and a lot of important historical sites. The Bauhaus became one of them in 1925 with a modernist campus designed by Gropius himself. It included the famous staircase immortalized by painter Oskar Schlemmer in 1932. It should be noted that this building, along with the other two Bauhaus structures, was named a World Heritage Site in 1996.
This new school was a little more famous and liberal than the first one, and it allowed both men and women to work together in a wide variety of artistic projects. The design of the building was directly inspired by something called the International Style, a huge predecessor of modern architecture.
It was during these years that the Bauhaus finally founded a school of architecture, spearheaded by Gropius on the first months. He wanted someone else to take the helm, however, and he asked the Dutch architect Mart Stam to do so (he declined). Gropius turned then to Hannes Meyer, and then resigned from his leadership at the school in 1928.
Meyer was responsible to bringing the first important architectural commissions to the Bauhaus: a collection of apartment buildings in Dessau, and a main building for the ADGB Trade Union School near Berlin. This made the Bauhaus very profitable for investors and contractors, and contributed to its overall fame.
At this point, Marcel Breuer was already working at the Bauhaus, and his iconic Wassily Chair from 1925 was already in production. At the time, Breuer was the head of the cabinet-making department at Dessau, but he had an aesthetic focus that he strongly imparted to his students during this classes, even though he favored the functional aspect of furniture.
The problem with this is that Meyer was even more of a functionalist that he was, and he wanted to eliminate the aesthetic part of the Bauhaus (the ‘fine art’ aspect, you might say) completely. This forced Breuer to resign, along with other teachers on the staff. His legacy of creating lightweight, mass-producible chairs, remained until the last years of the original Bauhaus.
The Dessau campus included a textile workshop under the direction of designer Gunta Stölzl, where students learned about color theory as well. Stölzl favored experimentation and encouraged her students to use fiberglass, cellophane, and even metal.
The fabrics department of the Bauhaus was responsible for many of the school’s extra income during that time, and they became really coveted and successful. They also adorned the interiors of the Bauhaus. Aside form Stölzl, the Bauhaus would become the home of many other influential female artists such as Anni Albers.
Since women were mainly discouraged from entering other areas of design at the time, most of them went directly to work at the textile department. The Dessau campus also included a metalworking department, which had one of the rebellious female designers as a student in the former campus at Weimar.
That student’s name was Marianne Brandt, and she grew to become one of the most important designers in the Bauhaus, eventually replacing László Moholy-Nagy as the director of the metalwork department in 1928.
The Dessau campus under Meyer tried to eliminate all traces of political speech, especially the left-leaning side. Meyer introduced further conflict amongst the staff and student body by suppressing the formation of a communist group within the school, as well as other maneuvers to avoid political discussion.
The complicated situation forced Dessau mayor Fritz Hesse to fire him in 1930. The government then pleaded Walter Gropius to return to the school as its head in order to avoid the closing of the second campus, but Gropius had grown apart from his creation.
He then suggested a new type of architect and designer take over, one that (at Gropius’ insistence) was quickly appointed director in the last months of that same year. The name of that designer was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who is known, among other things, for creating the Barcelona collection along with designer Lilly Reich.
Mies’ appointment ushered in a new era for the Bauhaus, one that we will explain in detail on Part Three of this series.