Tomás Saraceno’s “Sundial for Spatial Echoes“ is a lively contrast to the building’s no-nonsense geometry
A new Bauhaus museum in Weimar, Germany, celebrates the history and legacy of the little school that changed the world.
Say the “B” word and what usually comes to mind are the furniture and architecture of Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. At the new Bauhaus Museum in Weimar, Germany, you’ll see plenty of the chairs, tables, lamps and tableware that epitomize the product-driven success of the school. But one of the first things you come across is a telescoping tower of what looks like tin cans sitting on two blocks of wood—the whole thing enveloped by a spiral of metal strips. If it weren’t under glass in a museum, you might smile or scoff or think nothing of it at all. But long before the Bauhaus married art and industry, the school was a dream in search of itself—as much a utopian ideal infused with mysticism as it was an effort to elevate craft. Such rough-around-the-edges constellations of seemingly random materials are central to the experience here, expressing the spirit of discovery and experimentation that animated the institution, especially in its early years.
Marcel Breuer’s Wassily chair is one of the many now classic designs on view in Weimar
The work of Berlin-based architect Heike Hanada, the museum is a far cry from the controlled chaos of Frank Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris or the sinuously torqued volume of Mexico City’s Museo Soumaya, designed by Fernando Romero. An austere nearly windowless cube that could be mistaken for a bunker (or a mausoleum), the structure sits behind an expansive plaza, forbiddingly seductive. “I do not believe in spectacular architecture,” Hanada says. “Our cities are becoming overcrowded with so-called icons and landmarks constantly competing with each other.” Her goal, she says, was to employ “an abstract and minimal language... to establish a rather silent and contemplative space.”
One of the museum’s few windows sits at the top a vertiginous staircase and offers a view of the memorial to the victims of the nearby Buchenwald concentration camp
The museum’s severe interior serves as a recessive vessel for the main event. There’s nothing in its design to distract visitors from pondering a colorful plan for a housing estate (a document by Walter Determann that suggests the insular visuals of an outsider artist); a seemingly unstable baby cradle by Peter Keler; or the oak dining table created by Mies van der Rohe, a Parsons-like affair that is the polar opposite of his ubiquitous, scissor-legged Barcelona chair in steel.
Georg Muche’s recently restored Haus am Horn was state-of-the-art when it came to residential design in 1923
With three floors of material, it’s easy to spend all day here, but when it comes to things Bauhaus, there’s a lot more to see in this charming burg. Make time for a tour of the school’s original campus with its scrupulous reconstruction of Gropius’ office; then pop by the Hotel Elephant on the market square for a drink in its art- and book-filled salon, or lunch on the garden terrace. Fortified and refreshed, head off for a look at the Haus am Horn, a prototype for affordable mass-produced housing the Bauhaus presented to the public in 1923. Designed by faculty member Georg Muche, a painter, and realized by Gropius and fellow architect Adolf Meyer, the simple white box spun of steel and concrete was radically reductive, but featured an up- to-date kitchen, a commodious bathroom (a near novelty at the time), built-ins and a double-height central space that was meant to serve as living room and studio.
Hand puppets by Eberhard Schrammen are among the many pieces that reflect the playful side of the Bauhaus
The Bauhaus was short-lived. Politics and public suspicion propelled it from Weimar to Dessau and finally, Berlin, where the National Socialists shut it for good in 1933. Faculty and students scattered. László Moholy- Nagy and Mies van der Rohe found their way to Chicago. Gropius landed at Harvard. Painter Josef Albers settled in at Black Mountain College, newly formed in North Carolina. Arguably, that diaspora made the Bauhaus better known outside Germany than within. But not anymore. Nein, nicht länger.
Filmed recreations of theater pieces created by Oskar Schlemmer and others play in a gallery devoted to performance at the Bauhaus
ADD A DAYTRIP
Design aficionados eager to learn more about the varieties of German modernism may wish to visit surrounding cities of Gera, home to buildings by Henry van de Velde and his star pupil, Thilo Schoder; Jena, where Gropius built two private homes and one of his first students, Ernst Neufert, executed several institutional projects; and Erfurt, where the commercial buildings of Heinrich Herrling strike a streamline moderne note that wouldn’t be out of place in South Beach.
The bar and lounge of the Hotel Elephant is a stylish spot for a postmuseum refreshment
Photography by: MARCEL BREUER, ERNST VON SIEMENS KUNSTSTIFTUNG; TOMÁS SARACENOS KUNSTWERK, ANDREW ALBERTS, HEIKE HANADA LABORATORY OF ART AND ARCHITECTURE 2019