On the fifth day, there was the Bauhaus. Well, there was also the Bauhaus on day number four, but this was a different one. The Bauhaus in Dessau was where we were headed. If yesterday’s trip laid the foundation for this pivotal school, the Dessau “campus” brought us the iconic look and feel that is associated with Modernism and the namesake school.
We started the day very similar to all the others, slowly dragging out of bed and down to breakfast. I’m not even sure that eye contact is completely made until every person has a cup of coffee in their hand, but that could just be this sleepy-head’s impression. Once we filled our stomachs, we booked it to the train station. I am being quite literal here, we had about two minutes to spare by the time we reached the station which, in comparison to the average 15 minutes ahead we usually arrived, meant we had left the hotel a little later than expected.
The relationship between Weimar and the Bauhaus and Dessau and the Bauhaus, in the current time period, was on completely opposite spectrums – which could even be a reflection on its past history. Not only were there signage systems which clearly directed us to the Bauhaus, the swarms of people being led by a guide was a clear sign that we were headed in the correct direction. We were like drones, ourselves, finding our way to the center hive of what some would consider the birthplace of the best design period in history.
Our pilgramige became a reality as we walked up to the glass-curtained building. As we walked up to the building, a faint reflection in the surrounding windows could be seen. The letters that adorn the front of the building in stark white type appeared captured in the reflection, as if being framed and shown as a teaser the closer we walked. The moment came when the corner was turned and the building revealed its complete splendor.
Even if you have never heard of the Bauhaus, you hopefully have seen a photo of this revolutionary building. I’m also going to stop and postface the statement above. What seems like expected or well known in today’s standards was not the case in the early 20th century when the Bauhaus was functioning. We see buildings with floating bridges, walls of glass and unique functions and don’t look past the splendor of the construction. This was not the case when Gropius constructed the three buildings located in this city. The ideas were all new, and sometimes not met with acceptance but, instead resistance.
We met Frank, an architect himself and our tour guide, in a large open area that used to be the studio for furniture fabrication. The expansive area was framed by implied arches of concrete and natural light that melded nature and industry. Frank started the tour swiftly as we headed downstairs for a quick recap of what led to this point. As he walked us though the ideologies of the school’s three different directors, he clutched a spiral bound book of old photography that was effortlessly used to provide reference to the material he was covering.
Frank’s admiration for the Bauhaus didn’t start while he was in architecture school but only once he visited the location on his own. However, Frank was enthusiastic and exuberant with his knowledge, both architecturally and historically, about both the people and places of this iconic institution. Frank used his whole body as he talked, pointing fingers, gesturing with his hands and even leaning towards the different elements he focused on the tour. It was invigorating putting all that we learned into a physical context, and taking the extra elements our tour guide added made it that much better.
After touring the Bauhaus proper and the Master’s house, it was time to head back to the little shop. Everyone loves a little shop. On the way, Claudia, Kelsey and I had a very in-depth conversation on the current perception of the Bauhaus movement and ideals in the city – involving the fine line between restoration of historical aspects and preservation of ideas using current sustainability standards. We would be more than happy to talk with you more about that healthy debate, make sure to reach out to ask for more.
Back in Berlin, with the few hours we had off, we headed out to the Jewish History Museum. Words cannot fully describe the impact of both the architecture and exhibits. If you ever have the opportunity, the museum is a must see. With that, we turned in with a nice stroll back to the hotel ready for tomorrow’s day in Berlin.