The Bauhaus (1919-1933) is considered the most important educational institution of the 20th century for architecture, art and design. The influence of the famous state-run college extends to the present day.
The Bauhaus Archive is currently closed. The most extensive collection on the history of the Bauhaus can currently be seen in the temporary bauhaus-archiv in Knesebeckstraße at Ernst-Reuter-Platz.
Bauhaus - a myth. A word that not only makes the heart of architecture fans beat faster. Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, Paul Klee, Johannes Itten, Marianne Brandt and Gunta Stölzl are just a few names that stand for one of the most influential art movements in the field of architecture, art and design of the 20th century. Their ideas had a lasting influence on Classical Modernism and are today associated with styles such as Functionalism, New Objectivity or Modern Building.
Fit for everyday use and without frills
In 1919, architect Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in Weimar as an art school. He adopted the principles and methods of Henry van de Velde’s Kunstgewerblichen Institut (Institute of Applied Arts). Inspired by the masons’ guilds of the Middle Ages, masters and students attempted to combine art and craftsmanship. The educational institution focused on a new form of building that broke with the historicism of the imperial era. As in the "Werkbund" movement, the "Bauhäusler" produced works and designs for industrial mass production: their aim was to create functional everyday products with clear design that were affordable for everyone.
Politically and financially under pressure from right-wing parties and the Thuringian government, the school moved to Dessau in 1925. A similar situation was to happen there in 1932: the National Socialists won the municipal elections in Dessau in 1931 and forced the closure of the Bauhaus. The school then moved in 1932 to Berlin-Lankwitz. There, political reprisals finally led to the closure of the private institution in 1933, with some of the pupils and teachers having to emigrate abroad.
Ulm 1955: Opening of the Hochschule für Gestaltung (School of Design). Here is where art historian Hans Maria Wingler met the Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. Wingler began to deal intensively with the history of the Bauhaus, gathering documents and objects. He came across artistic remains, collected donations and preserved designs by former Bauhaus students. The collection grew.
Darmstadt slope becomes Berlin plane
In 1960 Hans Maria Wingler founded the Bauhaus Archive. Initially he exhibited his collection in Ernst Ludwig House on the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt. But soon the space proved insufficient. He needed his own building. In 1964 Walter Gropius drafted a design for this new building, which was to be built on the Rosenhöhe in Darmstadt. But these plans came to nothing, as the envisaged 6 million DM in construction costs were too much for the Darmstadt municipality.
Years later another solution was found: the city of Berlin promised the Bauhaus Archive a new home and to fully finance the new building. An attractive offer. In 1971, the Bauhaus Archive moved to the River Spree, initially moving to Schlossstraße 1a in Charlottenburg, which today is home to the Bröhan-Museum für Jugendstil, Art déco und Funktionalismus (Bröhan Museum for Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Functionalism).
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new building would take another five years, during which time Walter Gropius passed away and his long-standing collaborator Alexander Cvijanovic took on responsibility for further planning and construction.
The architect was confronted with a number of problems: Gropius’ Darmstadt design was based on a hillside location. In Berlin, however, Cvijanovic was assigned a flat plot in Klingelhöferstraße in Tiergarten (Berlin Mitte). In addition, Gropius’ design envisaged a prestigious north façade. However, the Berlin building had to face the Landwehr Canal, running to the south of the plot of land.
Cvijanovic found the right solutions. He rotated the building 180 degrees to the south compared with the original design, among other things. Further changes were also made, including the striking pedestrian ramp designed by him, which leads visitors to the entrance of the Bauhaus Archive.
Original Gropius ideas, on the other hand, include the distinctive saw-tooth roofs, whose light openings allow light to enter without the glare of the sun or shadows. Simple and functional, a little futuristic. No wonder then that the building served as the location for the American science fiction film “Æon Flux”.
The Bauhaus Archive opened in 1979: the core of the collection, which grew steadily since then, consisted of the artistic remains gathered by Hans Maria Wingler. Draft drawings, manuscripts, letters. The aim of the Bauhaus Archive was to illustrate the history, practice and impact of this avant-garde art movement internationally.
A new building is needed
The museum has been closed since summer 2018 while the old building undergoes a process of complete renovation and technical modernisation. As the collection continued to grow over the decades, an extension became unavoidable and a competition was launched for its design.
In 2015, architect Volker Staab won the competition with his design for a glass museum tower. The extension is to be completed by 2025. “The temporary Bauhaus-Archiv/Museum für Gestaltung” in Knesebeckstraße 1-2 in Charlottenburg has opened for the transition. It offers smaller exhibitions as well as a programme.
Meanwhile, the new construction site information centre "the bauhaus view" in Klingelhöferstraße informs you on two floors about the future Bauhaus Archive / Museum of Design and the associated extension.
Our tip off the beaten track – three Bauhaus directors in or near Berlin
- Gropiusstadt (1962-72)
by Walter Gropius, Johannisthaler Chaussee, Berlin Neukölln
- Bundesschule des Allgemeinen Deutschen Gewerkschaftsbundes (ADGB Trade Union School) (1928-30)
by Hannes Meyer and Hans Wittwer in Bernau, Hannes-Meyer-Campus 9
- Lemke House (1932)
by Mies van der Rohe, Oberseestraße 56/57, Berlin Lichtenberg
Comprehensive information on Berlin Modernist buildings and their history can be found on our website:
Practical information from visitBerlin
To explore the city, we recommend the Berlin Welcome Card for public transport. It can be supplemented with the museum pass of the National Museums in Berlin. With one admission price you can visit 30 museums free of charge. Children and young people up to the age of 18 have free admission to many museums.