February 21, 2020

The Bauhaus Versus the Nazis

““Together let us call for, devise, and create the construction of the future, comprising everything in one form: architecture, sculpture and painting,” Walter Gropius declared in the Bauhaus Manifesto of 1919.

There are few symbols of Modernist design and architecture more iconic that his Bauhaus building in Dessau. And the structure did become that future; the epicenter of a design approach, style, and philosophy that permeates so much of the present. And yet, for many years, the building was derelict. The future Gropius had dreamed of seemed to have bitterly failed when the school had been closed by the Nazis in 1932, and turned into a bombed-out husk by 1945.

There is certainly truth in the tale of the Bauhaus’s dissolution and restoration as an example of the forces of good succumbing to, but eventually overcoming, the forces of evil. There are many Bauhaus tales though, and they show not a simple Bauhaus-versus-the-Nazis dichotomy but rather how, to varying degrees of bravery and caprice, individuals try to survive in the face of tyranny.”

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