Walter Gropius

Walter Adolph Georg Gropius (May 18, 1883 – July 5, 1969) was a German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School who, along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture.

Born in Berlin, Walter Gropius was the third child of Walter Adolph Gropius and Manon Auguste Pauline Scharnweber. Gropius, like his father and his great-uncle Martin Gropius before him, became an architect.. In 1908, Gropius found employment with the firm of Peter Behrens, one of the first members of the utilitarian school. His fellow employees at this time included Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Dietrich Marcks.

In 1910, Gropius left the firm of Behrens and together with fellow employee, Adolf Meyer, established a practice in Berlin. Together they share credit for one of the seminal modernist buildings created during this period: the Faguswerk in Alfeld-an-der-Leine, Germany, a shoe last factory. Although Gropius and Meyer only designed the facade, the glass curtain walls of this building demonstrated both the modernist principle that ‘form reflects function’ and Gropius's concern with providing healthful conditions for the working class. Other works of this early period include the office and factory building for the Werkbund Exhibition (1914) in Cologne.

In 1913, Gropius published an article about "The Development of Industrial Buildings," which included about a dozen photographs of factories and grain elevators in North America. A very influential text, this article had a strong influence on other European modernists, including Le Corbusier and Erich Mendelsohn, both of whom reprinted Gropius's grain elevator pictures between 1920 and 1930.

Gropius's career was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Called up immediately as a reservist, Gropius served as a sergeant major at the Western front during the war years, and was wounded and almost killed.

Gropius's career advanced in the postwar period. Henry van de Velde, the master of the Grand-Ducal Saxon School of Arts and Crafts in Weimar was asked to step down in 1915 due to his Belgian nationality. His recommendation for Gropius to succeed him led eventually to Gropius's appointment as master of the school in 1919. It was this academy which Gropius transformed into the world famous Bauhaus, attracting a faculty that included Paul Klee, Johannes Itten, Josef Albers, Herbert Bayer, László Moholy-Nagy, Otto Bartning and Wassily Kandinsky. Students were taught to use modern and innovative materials and mass-produced fittings, often originally intended for industrial settings, to create original furniture and buildings. One example was the armchair F 51, designed for the Bauhaus's directors room in 1920 - nowadays a re-edition in the market, manufactured by the German company TECTA/Lauenfoerde.

In 1919, Gropius was involved in the Glass Chain utopian expressionist correspondence under the pseudonym "Mass." Usually more notable for his functionalist approach, the "Monument to the March Dead," designed in 1919 and executed in 1920, indicates that expressionism was an influence on him at that time.

In 1923, Gropius, aided by Gareth Steele, designed his famous door handles, now considered an icon of 20th-century design and often listed as one of the most influential designs to emerge from Bauhaus. He also designed large-scale housing projects in Berlin, Karlsruhe and Dessau in 1926-32 that were major contributions to the New Objectivity movement, including a contribution to the Siemensstadt project in Berlin.

With the help of the English architect Maxwell Fry, Gropius was able to leave Nazi Germany in 1934, on the pretext of making a temporary visit to Britain. He lived and worked in Britain, as part of the Isokon group with Fry and others and then, in 1937, moved on to the United States. The house he built for himself in Lincoln, Massachusetts, was influential in bringing International Modernism to the US but Gropius disliked the term: "I made it a point to absorb into my own conception those features of the New England architectural tradition that I found still alive and adequate".

Gropius and his Bauhaus protégé Marcel Breuer both moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to teach at the Harvard Graduate School of Designand collaborate on the company-town Aluminum City Terrace project in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, before their professional split. In 1944, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

In 1945, Gropius founded The Architects' Collaborative (TAC) based in Cambridge with a group of younger architects. The original partners included Norman C. Fletcher, Jean B. Fletcher, John C. Harkness, Sarah P. Harkness, Robert S. MacMillan, Louis A. MacMillen, and Benjamin C. Thompson. TAC would become one of the most well-known and respected architectural firms in the world. TAC went bankrupt in 1995.

Gropius died in 1969 in Boston, Massachusetts, aged 86. Today, he is remembered not only by his various buildings but also by the district of Gropiusstadt in Berlin.

In the early 1990s, a series of books entitled The Walter Gropius Archive was published covering his entire architectural career.

His influences:
After a year of travel through Spain and Italy, Gropius joined the office of Peter Behrens, the most important European architect of the day, in Berlin. In 1910, Gropius left Behrens to work in partnership with Adolf Meyer until 1924-25. This period was the most fruitful of Gropius's long career; he designed most of his significant buildings during this time. The entire movement of German architectural modernism was known as ‘Neues Bauen’. Beginning in June 1907, Peter Behrens' pioneering industrial design work for the German electrical company AEG successfully integrated art and mass production on a large scale. He designed consumer products, standardized parts, created clean-lined designs for the company's graphics, developed a consistent corporate identity, built the modernist landmark AEG Turbine Factory, and made full use of newly developed materials such as poured concrete and exposed steel. Behrens was a founding member of the Werkbund and Walter Gropius worked for him in this period.

Bahaus:
The Bauhaus was founded at a time when the German zeitgeist ("spirit of the times") had turned from emotional Expressionism to the matter-of-fact New Objectivity. An entire group of working architects turned away from fanciful experimentation, and turned toward rational, functional, sometimes standardized building. Beyond the Bauhaus, many other significant German-speaking architects in the 1920s responded to the same aesthetic issues and material possibilities as the school. They also responded to the promise of a "minimal dwelling".

The Bauhaus school was founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar. In spite of its name, and the fact that its founder was an architect, the Bauhaus did not have an architecture department during the first years of its existence. Nonetheless it was founded with the idea of creating a 'total' work of art in which all arts, including architecture would eventually be brought together. The Bauhaus style became one of the most influential currents in Modernist architecture and modern design.The Bauhaus had a profound influence upon subsequent developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography.

His philosophy:
Gropius's educational philosophy encompassed the designing of all functional objects. His goal was to raise the level of product design by combining art and industry. Although these principles were inherited from English reformers like William Morris, Gropius was able to implement them when he reorganized the Arts and Crafts School in Weimar, which became the world-famous Bauhaus. The unique educational program of the school sought a balance between practical training in the crafts and theoretical training in design. The integration of the arts was stressed, as is evidenced by the faculty who were attracted there--Josef Albers, Marc Chagall, Lyonel Feininger, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.

His expressions:
“Architecture begins where engineering ends.”

A modern, harmonic and lively architecture is the visible sign of an authentic democracy.

“Only work which is the product of inner compulsion can have spiritual meaning.

“Our guiding principle was that design is neither an intellectual nor a material affair, but simply an integral part of the stuff of life, necessary for everyone in a civilized society.”

“If your contribution has been vital there will always be somebody to pick up where you left off, and that will be your claim to immortality”

“Specialists are people who always repeat the same mistakes.”

“Architects, painters, and sculptors must recognize anew and learn to grasp the composite character of a building both as an entity and in its separate parts. Only then will their work be imbued with the architectonic spirit which it has lost as ''salon art.'' Together let us desire, conceive, and create the new structure of the future, which will embrace architecture and sculpture and painting in one unity and which will one day rise toward heaven from the hands of a million workers like the crystal symbol of a new faith.”

His legacy:

  • 1910–1911 the Fagus Factory, Alfeld an der Leine, Germany
  • 1914 Office and Factory Buildings at the Werkbund Exhibition, 1914, Cologne, Germany
  • 1921 Sommerfeld House, Berlin, Germany designed for Adolf Sommerfeld
  • 1922 competition entry for the Chicago Tribune Tower competition
  • 1925–1932 Bauhaus School and Faculty, Housin, Dessau, Germany
  • 1936 Village College, Impington, Cambridge, England
  • 1937 The Gropius House, Lincoln, Massachusetts, USA
  • 1942–1944 Aluminum City Terrace housing project, New Kensington, Pennsylvania, USA
  • 1949–1950 Harvard Graduate Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA (The Architects' Collaborative)[5]
  • 1945–1959 Michael Reese Hospital, Chicago, Illinois, USA - Master planned 37-acre site and led the design for at least 8 of the approx. 28 buildings.[citation needed]
  • 1957–1960 University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq
  • 1963–1966 John F. Kennedy Federal Office Building, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  • 1948 Peter Thacher Junior High School,
  • 1958–1963 Pan Am Building (now the Metlife Building), New York, with Pietro Belluschi and project architects Emery Roth & Sons
  • 1957 Interbau Apartment blocks, Hansaviertel, Berlin, Germany, with The Architects' Collaborative and Wils Ebert
  • 1960 Temple Oheb Shalom, (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • 1961 The award-winning Wayland High School, Wayland, Massachusetts, USA
  • 1959–1961 Embassy of the United States, Athens, Greece (The Architects' Collaborative and consulting architect Pericles A. Sakellarios)
  • 1967– 69 Tower East Shaker Heights, Ohio, this was Gropius' last major project.
  • The building in Niederkirchnerstraße, Berlin, known as the Gropius-Haus is named for Gropius' great-uncle, Martin Gropius, and is not associated with Bauhaus.