Exploring Berlin’s Bauhaus Legacy

Berlin enjoys a significant role in the history of Bauhaus architecture, along with Weimar and Dessau. However, Bauhaus was a short-lived movement due to the Nazis’ claim it was a “degenerate art form.”

One of the most enjoyable off-the-beaten-path experiences in Berlin is to seek out some Bauhaus-designed buildings, several of which are in good condition today.

The Bauhaus school, started by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919, aimed to teach its students a total art — one that unified crafts with fine art and technology. The school’s name is a combination of the German words for “house” and “construction.” It was centered in Berlin from 1932 to 1933. The school’s style continues to be one of the most influential in modernism. Apple’s Steve Jobs was reportedly a fan of Bauhaus and took its principles to heart when designing his company’s products.

You’ll have to head to museums to see some of the furniture, wallpaper, and other famous pieces created in Bauhaus style, but some of the style’s largest creations are in plain view on Berlin streets.

Mies van der Rohe House in Berlin

Restored in the 2000s, this house designed for Martha and Karl Lemke by Bauhaus director Mies van der Rohe in 1932, is the last van der Rohe built in Germany before immigrating to the United States. Single story, with the characteristic flat roof, this L-shaped building incorporates natural light via glass facades. It is open to the public.

Walter Gropius’ Otte House in Berlin

On Wolzogenstr, this private house was finished in 1922. Because it was built in Gropius’ early stages of Bauhaus design, it doesn’t have all the trademarks of Bauhaus design, but is an interesting reference point for architecture lovers who want to see the design style’s development.

Bruno Taut’s housing project in southwest Berlin

Reached by U-Bahn stop Onkel Toms Hutte, this is referred to as his “Onkel Tom” project, referencing a nearby local business. It was built in 1926, and along with the Horseshoe Complex, is a great example of the Garden City Movement. This movement, begun in the late 1800s in England, went well with Bauhaus’ thinking when creating housing developments. Garden City movement designs called for clusters of self-contained suburbs surrounded by greenbelts. Like the Horseshoe Complex, the Onkel Tom housing project provides accommodation for more than 1,000 households and emphasizes functionality. It also exhibits color in the design — for example, to complement the positions of the sun. This is a typical signature of Taut’s design projects.

The Bauhaus Archiv

Found in Berlin’s Tiergarten district, the Bauhaus Archiv museum houses and exemplifies the Bauhaus design movement. Walter Gropius drew the plan for this building many years before, but the museum wasn’t constructed until the 1970s. It has a distinctive roof, like a flotilla of thin ship’s sails, but people come to see what’s inside. The Archiv has exhibitions of furniture, ceramics, and photography.

The Neue Nationalgalerie

This modernist building was designed by Mies van der Rohe and built in 1968 after he immigrated to the United States. The New National Gallery is an example of van der Rohe’s flexible spaces — which involve glass “curtain” walls and open-plan flooring. Unfortunately for the gallery, this minimal design makes the exhibition difficult to light properly, but the building itself is a work of art. The Neue Nationalgalerie is near Potsdamer Platz.

The Horseshoe Complex

Bruno Taut built about 10,000 homes in Berlin before he left because of Nazi pressure. This is one of the best known of his complexes, appearing on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Colorful — that’s Taut’s signature — this housing estate provided light, space and “joy” to 1,000 families who were pinched by high costs of living and shortages of accommodation in the city. The apartments were constructed in a U shape, so each one would have adequate light as well as a view of the public grounds.

Image from Flickr’s Creative Commons

About the Author: Willa Curare is an architecture student from Illinois. Interested primarily in the Bauhaus movement in Chicago, she enjoys blogging about architecture. When she visited Berlin, she found Venere.com hotels in Berlin to be the best deal.

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