We arrived in Berlin on Saturday afternoon and exited the train as the sun bounced off the walls and ceilings. As we left the small cabin and entered the expansive glass covered train station, the cooler air grabbed and surrounded the group.
The group shuffled through the station towards the exit, passing clusters of people surrounding the storefronts. A woman dressed in purple holding a concession tray handed Milka chocolate samples to the group — with that we knew Berlin was going to be a great city.
We threw the bags into the hotel room and ventured back outside to explore the SoHo-esque city. People roamed the streets, laughing and enjoying the cool weather. Berlin managed to have a symbiotic relationship between the urban jungle, which contained storefronts and restaurants, and natural areas — each showcasing the culture and electricity of the Capital of Germany.
Aperol Liqueur, Prosecco, a fresh orange slice and topped off with club soda. The bright orange drink fizzles as it is poured into the wine glass sitting on the counter. This refreshing glass is the quintessential drink for calm evenings outside where the sun is shining, but it isn’t too hot. Our group talked for what seemed like two hours as we enjoyed both each other’s company and this digestif.
Sunday morning came to the sound of alarm clocks, coffee machines and courtyard water features. I shared my unusual sleeping habits which consist of a preference for it being pitch black and completely silent – which led to my discontentment for, what most people would consider white noise, the water fountain heard from my room.
Breakfast more than made up for that fiasco, and anyways, we were headed to Weimar to see where the Bauhaus started – so nothing can really bring us down from that. So, to be prepared for the trip, we brushed up on our design history while trying not to be distracted by the group of soccer fans on the train that seemed to be having a lot of fun.
This romantic little town was everything you would expect from a small, quiet village in Germany. Flower beds flanked the cobblestone walkways that seemed to invite us into the city. Only a few people were trickling down the pathways in which we were headed — it seemed as if the whole town was still asleep at our arrival time.
The further into the heart of Weimar we journeyed, the more crowds began to congregate, painting a picture of a bustling town. There was a flower market expanded on the central square, where street vendors and spectators seemed to intertwine between the quick moments they shared with one another. Laughter and the patter of feet on the pathways created symphonic sounds filling our heads with the melody of tranquility. The air was clear and sweet from the flowers blooming as they lured our attention with their vibrant display of colors.
We waited for Aaron in the foyer of the main Bauhaus building, which is currently used as the Architecture portion of the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. As an architectural masters student, Aaron took us on a tour of the Bauhaus with a different perspective than the one that we are so used to hearing in the design history book.
Aaron spoke with conviction and knowledge on the history and political significance leading up to and during the Bauhaus time period. He wove a story that intertwined with the information we reviewed on the train, giving more insight into the reasons certain decisions were made.
I obviously can’t continue without talking a little about the Bauhaus, which “officially” started in 1919. There was a lot of historical and political decisions that led up the perfect situation of Walter Gropius opening this new academy with a revolutionary pedagogy. Gropius decided to combine fine arts and craftsman into one school and since this was something that was very radical for the time period, not everyone thought it should succeed. He established the school to allow for experimentation and development of new art theories. Everything was going great, until the town people wanted to see what their taxes were paying.
Fighting against pushback that was already in place, Gropius pushed forward with the masters (teachers who were most knowledgeable in the subjects) and students within the school, having them work on material for the 1923 fair. Some iconic design pieces resulted in this rush to create showpieces for the fair – and although they may have looked aesthetically pleasing, they were not always functional.
The Bauhaus, additionally, built a model home they hoped to be the precident for single-family living for the growing middle class. However, once again, this was somewhat of a letdown in terms of functionality. Eventually, in 1925, funding had been cut so much that the school in Weimar had to be closed.
Aaron wrapped up the tour by sharing his thoughts on the Bauhaus in Weimar, which captured the same sentiment that we had all felt. The Bauhaus in Weimar made mistakes and it isn’t the iconic look that we know today. The most important thing is they took these mistakes and moved forward, past them, to create design which follows their well known mantra: form follows function. Additionally, if they hadn’t have failed in Weimar, the Bauhaus potentially wouldn’t have grown to the movement it had become.
As the tour concluded, it felt as if we were stepping into of the pages of the design history books and seeing the story as a whole. We will continue with the Bauhaus tomorrow when we visit the Dessau location, where the school moved after it’s days in Weimar were over.