The Spirit of Bauhaus

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Dates
from 19 October 2016 to 26 February 2017 temas.
Venue
Les Arts Décoratifs, 107, rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris. France

Walter GROPIUS

Walter Adolph Georg Gropius was born in Berlin, son and grandson of architects, whose influence led him to study architecture in Munich and Berlin. After completing his studies, he worked in Peter Behrens' practice, to later become independent. Between 1910 and 1915, he worked primarily on the rehabilitation and expansion of Fagus Factory in Alfeld. With its thin metal structures, large glazed surfaces, flat roofs and orthogonal forms, this work was a pioneer of modern architecture.

In addition, Gropius founded the famous Bauhaus School, a design school that taught students to use modern and innovative materials to create buildings, furniture and original and functional objects. He was in charge of it first in Weimar and then in Dessau, from 1919 to 1928.

From 1926, Gropius was intensely devoted to the design of housing blocks, which saw the solution to social and urban problems, inaddition to betting for the racionalization in the construction industry, which would allow to build faster and more economically.

Before the First World War, Gropius was already part of a movement of aesthetic renovation, represented by the Deutscher Werkbund, which aimed to unite art with industrial design.

After the war, Gropius, in his role as director of the Sächsischen Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts and Crafts) and Sächsischen Hochschule für bildene Kunst (Superior School of Fine Arts), decides to merge the two schools under the name of "Staatliches Bauhaus "combining their academic goals and adding an architecture section. The building constructed for the school itself is a symbol of the most representative ideas of the Bauhaus: "form follows function".

In 1934 Gropius was forced to leave Germany due to the Nazi agressions suffered by the Bauhaus and his own work. He lived and worked for three years in England moving to America later, where he was professor of architecture at the Harvard Design School. In 1946 The Architects Collaborative, Inc., a group of young architects known as TAC, of which he was responsible of the direction and trainig of the memebers for several years.

Walter Gropius died in Boston in 1969, at the age of 86 years old. His buildings reflect the style of the Bauhaus, with new materials used in their construction and giving them a modern look, unknown at that time. Smooth facades and clear lines, lack of unnecessary decorative elements. This architecture has made of him one of the key leaders of the so-called 'International Style' in architecture.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in Aquisgran the 27th of Marz of 1886 and died in Chicago the 17th of August of 1969. He was active in Germany, from 1908 to 1938, when he moved to USA and where he was until his death. He was also considerate a “master” of the Modern Movement, since the 50s, and he was one of the fathers of this movement with Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Mies van der Rohe, who in his childhood was guided by masters as Hendrik Petrus Berlage or Peter Behrens, he always kept tabs of the Villlet-Le-Duc’s rationalism or Karl Friedrich Schinkel eclectic classicism, having a strong connection with the architectural historicism. As he said in his manifesto “Baukunst und Zeiwille” about this: “it is not possible to move on looking back”.

In 1900 he began to work with his father in the stone workshop of the family and shortly afterward he move to Berlin to work with Bruno Paul in 1902, designing furniture. He planned his first house in 1907, the “Riehl House” in Neubabelsbers and worked from 1908 to 1911 in Peter Behrens’s studio. There he was influenced by structural technics and designs based on steel and glass, as the AEG project in Berlin. While he was in Behrens’s studio he designed the Perls House.

In 1912 he openned his own studio and projected a house in The Hague for Kröller-Müller marriage. The studio received few jobs in its first years, but Mies, contrary to architects as Le Corbusier, in his first years he already showed an architectural policy to follow, being an architect that changed little his architectural philosophy. To his epoch belonged the Heertrasse House and Urbig House as his principal projects.

In 1913 se move to the outskirts of Berlin with his wife Ada Bruhn with whom he would have three kids. The family broke up when Mies was posted to Romania during the World War I.

In 1920, Ludwig Mies changed his surname to Mies van der Rohe and in 1922 he joined as member to the “Novembergruppe”. One year later, in 1923, he published the magazine “G” with Doesburg Lisstzky and Rechter. During this period he worked in two houses, the Birck House and the Mosler House. In 1926, Mies van der Rohe held the post of chief commissioner of the German Werkbund exhibition, being his president this year. In this period he projected the Wolf House in Guden and the Hermann Lange House in Krefeld and in 1927, he met the designer Lilly Reich, in the house exhibition of Weissenhof, where he was director, and he planned a steel structure block for her.

In 1929, he received the project the German National Pavilion to the International Exhibition of Barcelona) rebuilt in 1986=, where he included the design of the famous Barcelona Chair.

In 1930, he planned in Brün – present Czech Republic -, the Tugendhat Villa. He managed the Dessau’s Bauhaus until his closure in 1933. The Nazism forced Mies to emigrate to the United States in 1937. He was designated chair of the Architecture department in Armour Institute in 1938, the one that later merged with the Lewis Institute, forming the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and where he took the responsibility to build a considerable extent of the foundations of the Intitute from 1939 and 1958. One of the buildings of this complex is the Crown Hall, IIT (1950-1956).

In 1940, he met the person who would be his partner until his death, Lora Marx. He became citizen of the USA in 1944 and, one year later, he began with the Farnsworth House’s project (1945-1950). During this stage, in 1948, he designed his first skyscraper: the two towers of the Lake Drive Apartments in Chicago, which were finished in 1951. Shortly after, he planned other building of this typology, the Commonwealth Promenade Apartments, from 1953 to 1956.

In 1958 he projected his most important work: the Segram Building in New York. This building has 37 storeys, covered with glass and bronze, which built and planned with Philip Johnson. He retired from the Illinois Institute of Technology the same year. He also built more towers and complexes as: the Toronto Dominion Centre (1963-1969) and the Westmount Square (1965-1968) and designed the New Square and Office Tower of The City of London (1967).

From 1962 to 1968, he built the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, which would be his last legacy to the architecture. The building that rose as exhibition hall is made of steel, glass and granite.

He died in Chicago the 17th of August if 1969 leaving behind a large legacy and influence to next generations.

The Mies van der Rohe’s most famous sentences are “Less is more” and “God is in the details”.
 

LILLY REICH

Lilly Reich (b. Berlin, Germany, 16 June 1885 - d. Berlin, Germany, 14 December 1947). In 1908, after training to become an industrial embroiderer, Lilly Reich began working at the Viennese workshop of Josef Hoffmann. In 1911, she returned to Berlin and met Anna and Hermann Muthesius. In 1912, she became a member of the Deutscher Werkbund (German Work Federation). In 1920, she became the first female member of its board of directors. She was also a member of the Freie Gruppe für Farbkunst (independent group for colour art) in the same organisation. In 1914, she collaborated on the interior design of the Haus der Frau (woman’s house) at the Deutscher Werkbund exhibition in Cologne. She managed a studio for interior design, decorative art and fashion in Berlin until 1924. In the same year, she travelled to England and Holland with Ferdinand Kramer to view modern housing estates. Until 1926, she managed a studio for exhibition design and fashion in Frankfurt am Main and worked in the Frankfurt trade fair office as an exhibition designer.

Reich met Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1926 and collaborated closely with him on the design of a flat and other projects for the Deutscher Werkbund exhibition held in Stuttgart in 1928. In 1927, she moved into her own studio and apartment in Berlin. In mid-1928, Mies van der Rohe and Reich were appointed as artistic directors of the German section of the 1929 World Exhibition in Barcelona, probably owing to their successful collaboration on the Deutscher Werkbund exhibition in Stuttgart. In late 1928, Mies van der Rohe began to work on the design for the Tugendhat House in the Czech town of Brno. This was completed in 1930 and, alongside the Barcelona Pavilion, it is considered to be a masterpiece of modern architecture. The interior design for Tugendhat House was created in collaboration with Lilly Reich.

In 1932, Lilly Reich played an important role at the Bauhaus in Dessau and Berlin. In January 1932, the third Bauhaus director, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, appointed her as the director of the building/finishing department and the weaving workshop at the Bauhaus Dessau. She also continued to serve in this capacity at the Bauhaus Berlin, where she worked until December 1932.

In 1934, Reich collaborated on the design of the exhibition Deutsches Volk – Deutsche Arbeit (German people – German work) in Berlin. In 1937, Reich and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe were commissioned to design the German Reich exhibition of the German textile and clothing industry in Berlin. This was subsequently displayed in the textile industry section of the German Pavilion at the Paris World Exhibition of 1937. In 1939, she travelled to Chicago and visited Mies van der Rohe there. Following her return to Germany, Reich was conscripted to the military engineering group Organisation Todt (OT). After the war (1945/46), she taught interior design and building theory at Berlin University of the Arts. Reich ran a studio for architecture, design, textiles and fashion in Berlin until her death in 1947.

JOSEF ALBERS

Josef Albers was born in Bottrop (Westphalia, Germany) in 1888 and died in 1976 in New Haven, Connecticut, in the United States, his adopted country to where he emigrated in 1933, the year of the rise to power of the Nazi party, which impeded the continuation of the Bauhaus where Albers had been a teacher at its venues in Weimar, Dessau and Berlin. Having moved to America, Albers taught at Black Mountain College (North Carolina) until 1949. He was later head of the Department of Design at Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut), retiring from that position in 1958. From his early years at the Bauhaus in his native Germany until the end of his career at Yale, Albers combined artistic creation with teaching and many leading American artists trained with him.

VASSILY KANDINSKY

Kandinsky was born Moscow in 1866 into a comfortable and cultured family. He learnt German from his grandmother, and took lessons in piano, cello and drawing. In 1885, he began to study law at the Moscow faculty, going on to complete his thesis. But when he was just on the point of obtaining a teaching position, in 1895, he decided to break with his legal career and devote himself to art. He then went to Munich to learn painting, and very soon set up as a teacher himself by creating, with other Munich artists, the Phalanx art group. Through this association he met Gabriele Münter, a German-American artist, who was his companion until 1914. With her, he travelled throughout Europe and North Africa and then, in 1906, established himself in Paris for a year. At this time, his works consisted of small paintings, often landscapes in the impressionist style, like a travel logbook, which gained him the reputation of a dilettante in the Parisian milieu.

It was not until 1908, back in Germany, where he was living with Gabriele Münter in Murnau, that his real artistic career began. Although his favourite themes – landscapes, popular culture – remained the same, he treated them in an increasingly abstract manner with a growing autonomy of colours. In 1914, when war broke out, he left Munich to take refuge in Switzerland, then went to Moscow where he remained until 1921. There, he began to write a text, conceived as the companion piece to Concerning the Spiritual in Art, “On Materialism in Art”, which would not be published until 1926 as Point and line to plane. During this period, he painted little, favouring, for material reasons, drawing and works on paper. Then, as the new regime established itself, he devoted his attention to the creation of the country’s new artistic structures, such as the IZO, the state body responsible for fine arts.

Nevertheless, his situation, as much artistic as financial and political, had become precarious. During an official mission in 1921, he decided to remain in Germany with his wife Nina. Walter Gropius, director of the Bauhaus Movement, offered him a teaching position, which he would occupy up until the school’s closure in 1933 and his departure for France. At this time, his German nationality obtained in 1927 having been revoked, the stateless Kandinsky established himself in Paris. It was not until 1939 that he became a French citizen, in extremis before the start of the Second World War. Until 1944, the Kandinskys led a secluded life in Neuilly-sur-Seine, where the artist pursued his final research objectives.

Marcel Breuer

Marcel Breuer, born in Hungary in 1902, was educated under the Bauhaus manifesto of “total construction”; this is likely why Breuer is well known for both his furniture designs as well as his numerous works of architecture, which ranged from small residences to monumental architecture and governmental buildings. His career flourished during the Modernist period in conjunction with architects and designers such as founder of Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe.

Breuer began his career as first a student, then a teacher at the Bauhaus, a position that he secured in 1925. Incidentally, it was also the year that Breuer earned recognition for his design of the “Wassily” chair, a tubular steel chair – sleek and functional – that represented the industrial aesthetic and formal simplicity of the Modernist period.

In 1937 he was invited by instructor and colleague Walter Gropius to become a faculty member at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There, he and Gropius worked together in a joint architectural firm. In 1941, Breuer split off from Gropius and opened his own practice. Much of Breuer’s early work was an exploration into post-war living. Projects like the “bi-nuclear house” were among many that were developed from this period by Breuer and his contemporaries. This was an era of the post-war boom, new materials and industries, prefabrication and the commodity of home ownership. By the 1950's, Breuer designed approximately sixty private residences.

Breuer’s career made a turning point when he was commissioned in 1953 to design the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Headquarters in Paris. This public and monumental building marked Breuer’s return to Europe and public projects. It was also around this time that Breuer established a satellite office in Paris to oversea other European commissions while still working on projects in the United States.

In 1963, Breuer began work on the Whitney Museum of Art in New Yor Ckity, probably one of his best-known public projects. The museum clearly speaks to Breuer’s Brutalist design tendencies – the primary use of concrete, the top-heavy form, and minimal glazing. Over the next few decades, Breuer designed housing projects, various buildings in universities and schools across the country, museums, research centers, the US Embassy in the Netherlands, and several buildings for the United States government in Washington. His design career was also filled with various iterations of the “Wassily” chair and other furnishings whose aesthetic still carries associations and influence today.

Marcel Breuer died in New York, United States, in 1981 at the age of 71.

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