Influential German Architects: Reflections on Walter Gropius

This is the second of a small group of posts which reflects on the impact that a small number of Germany architects have had on modern architecture. This post focuses on Walter Gropius.

See our other related posts, here: #architecture

Founder of the Bauhaus, and one of the most highly regarded architects of the 20th century, Walter Gropius (18 May 1883 – 5 July 1969) was one of the founding fathers of Modernism. The German “School of Building” that he founded embraced elements of art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography in its design, development and production.

Like many modernists of the period, Gropius was interested in the mechanisation of work and utilitarian qualities of the factories that were rapidly expanding at that time. In 1908, he joined the studio of renowned German architect and industrial designer Peter Behrens, where he worked alongside two people who would also later become notable modernist architects: Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe.

Of the three young architects working at Behren’s practice, Gropius was the first to put his Modernist ideas to work. In 1911, he and Adolf Meyer designed the Fagus Factory, a glass and steel cubic building which pioneered modern architectural devices such as glass curtain walls, and was built from the floor plans of the more traditional industrial architect Eduard Werner.


(image: wikimedia / Carsten Janssen)

In 1919, Gropius took over as master of the Grand-Ducal Saxon School of Arts and Crafts in Weimar, promptly turning it into The Bauhaus. From then until 1933, the school was one of Europe’s most progressive and influential schools of design, greatly influencing the current of modern art and architecture. The Bauhaus in Dessau was designed in 1925 by Gropius, who distilled his teachings into architectural elements of the building.



Gropius also contributed with published writings, discussing the Bauhaus Manifesto, the role of the artist and the artist’s relationship to his or her work.  After immigrating to the United States, Gropius continued teaching and exploring the Bauhaus ideal. While teaching at Harvard University, he lived with his family in the self-designed Gropius House.


(image: wikipedia)

The Bauhaus was closed by the Nazis in 1933, however, it rose to popularity in the Western world with an exhibition, organized by Gropius, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. By the time Gropius died in 1969, his ideas on architecture and the ideals and elements of the Bauhaus itself had become a staple of modernist architecture.

Photo credit: Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from ArchDaily.


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