Masters’ Houses
by Walter Gropius (1925–26)

Parallel to the Bauhaus building, the city of Dessau commissioned Walter Gropius to construct three pairs of identical semi-detached houses for the Bauhaus masters and a detached house for the director. These were built in a small pine wood on the street now known as the Ebertallee.

Modular architecture

Gropius planned to build the complex based on a modular principle, using industrially prefabricated components. With this he wished to realise the principles of rational construction, both in the architecture and in the process of building per se. In view of the technical resources available at the time, his plan was only partially realised.

The buildings take the form of interlocking cubic structures of various heights. Towards the street the semi-detached houses are distinguished by generously glazed studios; vertical strip windows on the sides let light into the staircases. Only the director’s house featured an asymmetric arrangement of windows. The light-coloured houses have generously-sized terraces and balconies and feature colourful accents on the window reveals, the undersides of the balconies and the drainpipes.

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Famous residents

Walter Gropius and László Moholy-Nagy furnished their houses entirely with furniture by Marcel Breuer, while other masters brought their own furniture with them. All of the houses were fitted with built-in cupboards and modern household appliances. The list of residents reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of modernists: László Moholy-Nagy, Lyonel Feininger, Georg Muche, Oskar Schlemmer, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, along with their families. Others lived here later, including Hannes Meyer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Josef Albers, Hinnerk Scheper and Alfred Arndt. For the colour design of the interiors, artists such as Klee and Kandinsky developed own ideas that were closely related to their works.

War and its repercussions

After the closure of the Bauhaus in 1932 the houses were let to third parties. The director’s house was destroyed in the war; work on its reconstruction began just a few years ago. The only building realised in Dessau by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was rebuilt at the same time: a kiosk on the eastern edge of the complex, which had been demolished in 1970. The rest of the complex was extensively renovated in 1992. The house that Kandinsky and Klee originally lived in and decorated is particularly fascinating on account of its colourfulness.