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Walter Gropius
Walter Gropius
[Walter Adolf Georg Gropius]
* Berlin, Germany [Deutschland], 18 May 1883
+ Boston (MA), United States, 5 July 1969
nationality: german
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES
 
 
Walter Gropius was the founder of the Bauhaus and remained committed to the institution that he invested in throughout his life. He was a Bauhaus impresario in the best possible sense, a combination of speaker and entrepreneur, a visionary manager who aimed to make art a social concern during the post-war upheaval. After his departure as the Bauhaus’s director, Gropius recommended his two successors: Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The conservation of the Bauhaus’s legacy after its forced closure is another of Gropius’s accomplishments. He was also able to continue his career in exile in America as an avant-garde architect.

A native of Berlin, Gropius came from an upper middle-class background. His great-uncle was the architect Martin Gropius, a student of Karl Friedrich Schinkel, whose best-known work was the Konigliche Kunstgewerbemuseum (Royal Museum of Applied Art) in Berlin, which now bears his name. In 1908, after studying architecture in Munich and Berlin for four semesters, Gropius joined the office of the renowned architect and industrial designer Peter Behrens, who worked as a creative consultant for AEG. Other members of Behrens's practice included Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Gropius became a member of the Deutscher Werkbund (German Work Federation) as early as 1910.

The same year, Gropius opened his own company. He designed furniture, wallpapers, objects for mass production, automobile bodies and even a diesel locomotive. In 1911, Gropius worked with Adolf Meyer on the design of the Fagus-Werk, a factory in the Lower Saxony town of Alfeld an der Leine. With its clear cubic form and transparent facade of steel and glass, this factory building is perceived to be a pioneering work of what later became known as modern architecture. For the 1914 exhibition of the Deutscher Werkbund (German Work Federation) in Cologne, Gropius and Adolf Meyer designed a prototype factory which was to become yet another classic example of modern architecture.

Gropius served on the Western front in WW I and experienced this war as a catastrophe. In 1918, he joined the November Group, which aimed to incorporate the impulses of the revolution in art. From 1919, Gropius was the head of the Work Council for Art, a radical group of architects, painters and sculptors. In addition, he contributed to the Glaserne Kette (crystal chain), a chain letter initiated by Bruno Taut that called for the ‘dissolution of the previous foundations’ of architecture and the ‘disappearance of the personality‘ of the artist.

With the founding of the Bauhaus, Gropius was able to translate various ideas from the radical artists’ associations into reality. As the successor of the Belgian artist Henry van de Velde, he became the director of the GroBherzoglich-Sachsische Kunstgewerbeschule (Grand Ducal Saxonian school of arts and crafts) in Weimar, which he renamed Staatliches Bauhaus Weimar. Gropius explained the idea of the Bauhaus in the founding Manifesto, a four-page booklet with the famous Cathedral woodcut by Lyonel Feininger on its cover. The school’s most innovative educational aspect was its dualistic approach to training in the workshops, which were codirected by a craftsman (master of works) and an artist (master of form). The crafts-based work was understood as the ideal unity of artistic design and material production. According to Gropius’s curriculum, education at the Bauhaus began with the obligatory preliminary course, continued in the workshops and culminated in the building. Sommerfeld House in Berlin is considered to be the firstjoint endeavour undertaken in the sense of the Bauhaus. It was designed by Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer (1921-1922), and it integrated furnishings made by the students.

For Gropius the Bauhaus was a laboratory of the arts where the traditional apprentice and master model was maintained, but where diverse disciplines were interconnected in a completely new way. The outcome of this approach was not established from the start but was to be discovered in the spirit of research and experimentation, which Gropius called ‘fundamental research’ that was applied to all the disciplines and their products, from the high-rise to the tea infuser.

ln Weimar itself, Gropius left very few traces as an architect and artist. In 1922, his controversial design for the monument Denkmal der Marzgefallenen was unveiled at Weimar’s main cemetery. Destroyed by the NSDAP, it was rebuilt after WW II. The director’s office of the Bauhaus, which was furnished by Gropius in 1923-1924, was also reconstructed.

In 1923, Gropius initiated a change of course at the Bauhaus with a major exhibition under the motto ‘art and technology - a new unity’. The school now turned towards industrial methods of production. As a result, the highly influential master, Expressionist painter and first director of the preliminary course, Johannes ltten, left the Bauhaus. Gropius appointed the Hungarian artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy as his successor.

With the politically motivated move to the industrial city of Dessau in 1925, a new era began for the Bauhaus. During this period, which is seen as his best and most productive, Gropius designed not only the Bauhaus Building (opened in 1926) but was also intensively involved in the development of the large-scale residential building and the rationalisation of the construction process. The buildings created in Dessau included the Masters’ Houses (1925-1926) that were built for the Bauhaus masters, the Dessau-Torten housing estate (1926-1928) and the Employment Office.

In 1928, Walter Gropius - unnerved by the quarrels in local politics about the Bauhaus - handed the post of director over to the Swiss architect and urbanist Hannes Meyer, whom Gropius had brought to the Bauhaus the previous year as the head of the newly founded architecture class. After moving to Berlin, Gropius dedicated himself completely to his architectural practice and the promotion of New Architecture. The most important completed buildings of this period include the Dammerstock housing estate in Karlsruhe (1928-1929) and the Siemensstadt housing estate in Berlin (1929-1930).

In 1934, Gropius emigrated to England and then on to the USA in 1937. He worked there as a professor for architecture at the Graduate School of Design of Harvard University. In 1938, he organised the exhibition in 1946, Gropius founded the young architects’ association The Architects Collaborative (TAC), a manifestation of his life-long belief in the significance of teamwork, which he had already successfully introduced at the Bauhaus. One work produced by this office is the Graduate Center of Harvard University in Cambridge (1949-1950).

Even beyond his official term as the Bauhaus director from 1919 to 1928, Gropius was emphatically committed to the recognition and dissemination of the Bauhaus idea. When he died in 1969 in Boston, the Bauhaus was at least as famous as its founder.
AWARDS
 
1959
AIA Gold Medal
The American Institute of Architects
1956
Royal Gold Medal
RIBA - Royal Institute of British Architects
BUILDINGS
 
1957 - 1983
Iraq » Bagdad [Baghdad]
1964 - 1979
Germany [Deutschland] » Berlin
1964 - 1975
Germany [Deutschland] » Berlin
1967 - 1970
Germany [Deutschland] » Amberg in der Oberpfalz
1958 - 1963
PanAm Building - MetLife
United States » New York - Manhattan
1956 - 1961
Greece [Hellas] » Athens [Athína]
1954 - 1957
Germany [Deutschland] » Berlin
1949 - 1950
United States » Cambridge
1940 - 1941
United States » New Kensington
1939 - 1940
United States » Wayland
1939 - 1940
United States » Pittsburgh
1936 - 1939
United Kingdom » Histon and Impington
1938 - 1939
United States » Lincoln
1937 - 1938
United States » Lincoln
1929 - 1931
Germany [Deutschland] » Berlin
1927 - 1929
Germany [Deutschland] » Karlsruhe
1926 - 1927
Germany [Deutschland] » Dessau-Roßlau
1925 - 1926
Germany [Deutschland] » Dessau-Roßlau
1921 - 1922
Germany [Deutschland] » Weimar
1921
Germany [Deutschland] » Dahlem
1911 - 1914
Germany [Deutschland] » Alfeld an der Leine
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BIBLIOGRAPHY
 
WRITINGS
BY THE ARCHITECT
Walter Gropius, Bauhaus. Novarquitetura, Perspectiva, São Paulo 1972
Walter Gropius, Apollo in der Demokratie, Florian Kupferberg, Mainz/Berlin 1967
tr. il.: Apollo nella democrazia, Zandonai 1967
Aldo Rossi (ed.), Karl Kraus, Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Bruno Taut, Le Corbusier, Ezra Pound, Walter Gropius, Edoardo Persico, "Testimonianze su Adolf Loos", Casabella Continuità 233, novembre 1959 [Numero dedicato ad Adolf Loos], pp. 43-45 (43-46)
Herbert Bayer, Walter Gropius, Ise Gropius, (ed.), Bauhaus. 1919-1928, Charles T. Branford Company, Boston (MA) 1959
Walter Gropius, Architettura integrata, Arnoldo Mondadori, "Collezione dell'arcobaleno", Milano 1959
WRITINGS
ABOUT THE ARCHITECT
Egon R. Hanus, Le Aquile di Gropius, L’Officina Romana, “Manuali d’Officina”, Roma 2007
review: Danilo Moriero, "Le Aquile di Gropius", La Manovella 11, novembre 2007, p. 94
Cesare Brandi, "Gropius e la tradizione" (1959), in Cesare Brandi. Roberto Barzanti (ed.), Il vecchio e il nuovo nella città antica, Accademia Senese degli Intronati/Betti Editrice, Siena 2007, pp. 55-58
Winfried Nerdinger, Walter Gropius. 1883-1969, Electa, Milano 2005
Gilbert Lupfer, Paul Dr. Sigel, Peter Gossel (ed.), Gropius, Taschen, 2004
Reginald Isaacs, Gropius. Una biografia illustrata del fondatore della Bauhaus, Federico Motta Editore, Milano 1992
Hartmut Probst, Christian Schädlich, Walter Gropius. Der Architekt und Theoretiker, Ernst und Sohn, Berlin 1986
Winfried Nerdinger, Walter Gropius, Gebr. Mann Verlag, Berlin 1985
tr.it.: , Walter Gropius. Opera completa, Electa, Milano 1988
Vittorio Gregotti, "Loos e Gropius/Loos and Gropius", Casabella 495, ottobre/october 1983, pp. 12-13
Rassegna 15, settembre 1983 [Walter Gropius 1907/1934]
Karin Wilhelm, "Walter Gropius. Un ritorno alle prime opere", Casabella 489, marzo/march 1983, "Documenti di architettura" pp. 38-45
Paolo Berdini (ed.), Walter Gropius, Zanichelli, Bologna 1983
Alberto Busignani, Walter Gropius, Sansoni Editore, Firenze 1980
"Gropius sul filo della storia/Gropius and the thread of history", Casabella 338, luglio/july 1969, pp. 2-3, cover
James Marston Fitch, Walter Gropius, Il saggiatore, Milano 1961
Giulio Carlo Argan, Walter Gropius e la Bauhaus, Giulio Einaudi Editore, 1957
Carlo Santi, "Walter Gropius dopo dodici anni di attività americana", Domus 251, ottobre 1950, pp. 9-12
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EXHIBITIONS
 
 
Beyond Bauhaus, Modernism in Britain 1933–66, London, Architecture Gallery, RIBA, 1 october 2019 / 1 february 2020
A Crown for the City. Walter Gropius in Competition, Dessau, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, 22 november 2009/24 january 2010
CREDITS
 
 
Text edit by Klassik Stiftung Weimar
 
 
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