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01 February 2019

A recent competition to design a new home for the Bauhaus collection in Weimar attracted 536 entries, not only from within Germany but also across Europe and the wider world.

 


Rebuilding Bauhaus: 100 Years On


By Lauren Throup

 

Summer 2011 saw the launch of a competition to design a New Bauhaus Museum in Weimar, aiming to finally provide a suitable home for the collection in the city where Bauhaus was first conceived. After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the Eastern city that was already a destination for cultural tourism owing to the Romantic writers Goethe and Schiller realised the drawing power of being the first home of the Bauhaus from 1919-1925.

During the period of the DDR, a considerable collection of objects and documents was assembled and, at present, Weimar holds the second largest collection of Bauhaus artefacts in the world, with over 300 items that offer a unique and invaluable insight into the development of the Bauhaus School in its early years. Since 1995 the collection has been displayed in a classical building opposite the city’s historic theatre, charming but inadequate in size.

The competition attracted 536 entries, not only from within Germany but also across Europe and the wider world. The winning entry, by German architects Heike Hanada in association with Benedict Tonon, was announced in early 2012. Their bold design houses six floors within a single rectilinear structure that incorporates spacious, white interiors that will allow the exhibited pieces to take pride of place in their new home, still close to the historic centre. Competition judges were particularly impressed by the deceptively simple design, the exterior of which consists of illuminated glass panels which, by night, will give the museum a translucent appearance. 

The Weimar competition is just one branch of an array of events and celebrations planned to coincide with the centenary year of the establishment of Bauhaus by Walter Gropius in 1919.

A similar competition has seen Spanish architectural firm Gonzalez Hinz Zabala win the contract to design and build another new Bauhaus museum in Dessau, where the school moved in 1925 into the world-famous building designed by Gropius with Adolf Meyer, in which the collections on show were even more cramped than in Weimar.

Gonzalez Hinz Zabala won out after initially having been awarded joint first with New York firm Young & Ayata. The American design, which featured a conglomerated network of organic-looking pods built over a labyrinth of walkways that would have connected the museum and the park surrounding it, ultimately lost to Gonzalez Hinz Zabala’s less outlandish, though still stunningly effective, design.

Gonzalez Hinz Zabala's 'black box' design will feature a two-storey outer shell of glass and steel, within which an upper floor unit, intended as the primary exhibition space, will be suspended. This will create a foyer on the ground level enclosed within glass walls, encouraging unity with the surrounding park, and offering flexibility as an additional exhibition space within the museum.

Meanwhile, the Bauhaus Museum (Bauhaus-Archiv, Museum für Gestaltung) near the Landwehrkanal in the former West Berlin, which first opened in 1979 in a posthumous building by Gropius, is undergoing a major refit for the centenary.

Led by Tour Director Alan Powers, ACE Cultural Tours’ Bauhaus: German Modern Art and Design tour for 2019 is set to include a visit to the newly completed museum in Weimar, while the two other projects are expected to open later in the year. The tour places the Bauhaus in its historical context, with visits to preserved textile and pottery workshops, museum collections and buildings by Gropius’s contemporaries, such as Erich Mendelsohn.

Early in 2019, Thames and Hudson will publish Alan’s new book, Bauhaus Goes West, an investigation of the exchange of skills and insights that took place as former Bauhaus staff and students fled Nazi Germany and settled in Britain and the USA.

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