100 Years of Bauhaus: The Movement That Shaped the Architecture and Design Worlds

This article was originally published on Christie’s International Real Estate’s blog Luxury Defined


It lasted just 14 years, yet the Bauhaus school left an architectural legacy that still resonates from the United Kingdom to the United States—these are the best locations around the world to celebrate the Bauhaus centenary


The story begins in Germany in 1919, where Walter Gropius integrated the art, architecture, and design schools in Weimar. Gropius employed Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Oskar Schlemmer, and other art-world luminaries to teach a new philosophy that rejected the ornamental flourishes of empire in favour of the inherent beauty of brick, metal, glass, stone, and stucco, and the geometry of simple but elegant intersections



After being ousted from conservative Weimar and later Dessau and Berlin, Bauhaus teachers and students found a warm welcome in the United States, and continued to pursue a manifesto that brought the world high-rise apartments, fitted kitchens, and indoor-outdoor living. The movement was known for purveying functional and well-designed objects for everyday use, all distinguished by the simplicity of their lines.


Viewing the Bauhaus Legacy



The logical starting point is Germany, with both Weimar and Dessau fielding new Bauhaus museums for the 2019 centenary, as well as tours of the original schools. The new Bauhaus Museum Weimar is an architectural marvel—home to an exquisite collection of chairs, homewares, and other objects that have survived nearly a century after being hidden away when the school moved on. Across the road, the Neues Museum shows the fabulous furniture of Henry van de Velde, whose pared-back style paved the way for modernism in Weimar, and from May 2019, the newly renovated prototype Bauhaus dwelling Haus Am Horn will be open to visitors.



With a history dating back to 1696, the five-star Hotel Elephant Weimar, once home to Gropius and other masters, pays homage to the Bauhaus with a suite named for teacher Lyonel Feininger and the recently renovated Lichtsaal lounge, hung with pictures by Kandinsky and other Bauhaus alumni.


Dessau is a must for its sheer number of Bauhaus buildings, including the superb Gropius campus where visitors can overnight in simple but authentically furnished apartments or simply visit the old classrooms, workshops, and stunning masters’ houses once home to Kandinsky, Klee, László Moholy-Nagy, Josef and Anni Albers, and others. The Kornhaus restaurant on the banks of the Elbe and the Törten housing estate in the heart of the industrial town are further expressions of the school’s legacy. Nearby Leipzig, whose trade fairs were a Bauhaus shop window, must be seen for its Art Deco Grassi Museum of Applied Arts, with superb windows by Josef Albers and an exquisite exhibition of Bauhaus objects that runs through late September 2019.



Berlin, the final home of the Bauhaus school, cannot be missed, despite the Bauhaus Archiv, designed by Gropius and completed after his death, being closed for renovation until 2025. It has a temporary home and shop in Charlottenburg, and Art Berlin offers tours of housing complexes ranging from the stark (Stalinallee) to the sublime (Siemensstadt), which reflect Bauhaus-style living in action.


En route to the United States, where he enjoyed a stellar career, Gropius spent three years practicing in London. Along with Moholy-Nagy and protégé Marcel Breuer, he moved into Wells Coates’ Minimalist Isokon Flats in Hampstead’s Lawn Road, where their presence is marked by an English Heritage plaque. Recalling ocean liners in typical 1930s Modernist style, the Isokon now houses a gallery with a permanent exhibition about the building. Gropius also worked with British architect Edwin Maxwell Fry on the design of 65 Ladbroke Grove in London’s Notting Hill and 66 Old Church Street, Chelsea, while Breuer left Sea Lane House in the exclusive West Sussex coastal resort of East Preston as his personal building legacy.



Cambridge and Lincoln, Massachusetts

On reaching America in 1937, Gropius founded a graduate school of design at Harvard, designing the Harvard Graduate Center 10 years later, yet many consider the home he drew up with the help of Breuer for himself and his family in nearby Lincoln his finest contribution to the state. With its white sugar-cube walls, it seems pure Bauhaus, but also addresses the vernacular with New England clapboard, albeit laid in verticals within instead of in the traditional white horizontal outdoor cladding.


Aspen, Colorado

The Blue Ridge Mountains were not the only American peaks to inspire Bauhaus alumni—the Aspen Institute is a virtual shrine to former student and master Herbert Bayer. The Alps aficionado was sought out by industrialist Walter Paepcke in 1946 to consider the Rockies instead, and help to turn the silver-mining town into a mind-body-spirit utopia applying Bauhaus principles. Gropius also passed through Aspen, and Bayer stayed for 30 years, influencing landscape designers, architects, and artists for generations to come. Virtually all organizations throughout the Roaring Fork Valley will celebrate the region’s Bauhaus legacy through August 2019.



Asheville, North Carolina

Bauhaus alumni Josef and Anni Albers left a lasting impression on Black Mountain, the experimental college set up in 1933 near Asheville, North Carolina, as the German design school folded. Its American founders hired Josef Albers as the school’s first art teacher, notwithstanding his lack of English, and famous names including Willem de Kooning and Robert Rauschenberg followed in his wake. Black Mountain’s influence resonated long after the school’s closure in 1957, and is celebrated in the Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center in downtown Asheville.