A Bauhausler Slumber Party
Founded in the German city of Weimar under Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus art school also existed in Dessau and Berlin. The Bauhaus sites in Weimar and Dessau are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. WMF Program Director Jeff Allen recounts his experience as an overnight guest at the Bauhaus Dessau.
"Let us together create the new building of the future which will be all in one: architecture and sculpture and painting." - Walter Gropius
Walter Gropius’s Bauhaus building complex is an icon of Modernism, an elegant physical manifestation and landmark container for a complex social and creative concept. More than an art school, the Dessau years’ Bauhaus (1925 to 1932) articulated precepts to unite art, craft, technology, and even sport into a common curriculum. The output of staff and students from those years impacted architecture first in Germany and then the world, contributing to the general shift of the status quo fanciful toward more rational and functional expressions of architecture, industrial design, and art as well.
In 1932, with the Dessau City Council shutting the doors, the Bauhaus moved to Berlin, where it continued for a few months more before again bowing to the pressures of the National Socialism movement. In 1945, the Bauhaus Dessau complex was partially destroyed by allied bombings, yet survived. Rough-and-ready repairs allowed the school buildings to be used over and over again in the following decades of the communist German Democratic Republic. The complex was only restored according to GDR guidelines for historical monuments in 1976, and then it was later conserved to the stunning state seen today under the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation; established in 1994, the foundation is passionately dedicated to the preservation of the school's legacy.
The entry ticket of 7.50 euros is a bit rich for what you get: little in the way of interpretation and displays (until the new Bauhaus Museum Dessau opens in 2019, that is the way it is going to stay). Without a ticket for admission, a reasonably priced coffee and breakfast in the downstairs bistro and a visit to the bookshop will gain you free access to a large part of the entry area. Never mind debating the effects on your pocketbook—the real show is looking at it all from outside. It is stunning to walk around the asymmetric wings of the complex and wonder, How can something so unbalanced be somehow so perfect in its equilibrium? To bring value, buy the 13-euro combined ticket; that also gets you inside the nearby Meisterhaus buildings—where the school masters (Gropius, van der Rohe, Albers, Kandinski, and Klee to name some) lived under a canopy of pine trees—as well as the Konsum Building at the Törten row house settlement in the south part of Dessau.
Best, though, is to stay overnight in one of the dozen or so artist studio rooms in the beautiful 1926 Prellerhaus, or Studio Building, at the Bauhaus. Prices start at 45 euros. The Bauhaus Foundation has fixed up the spaces with complimentary less-is-more furnishings, some personalized to reflect a former inhabitant too. Sinks are provided in the room, but because of UNESCO World Heritage Site listing restrictions, the bathrooms and showers are centralized and communal on each floor. No worries: the water pressure is great, so just go with the flow and bring an artist friend or two—ahem, it is a wonderful and memorable experience to stay overnight and highly recommended. Falling asleep in my comfortable bed, I wondered who might have used my room in the 1920s. I swear I heard Marcel Breuer’s ghost complaining about the disorder of my luggage across his table and chairs! Less is more indeed.