Masters' Houses by Walter Gropius

Built 1925-26

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In 1925, the city of Dessau also commissioned Walter Gropius with the construction of three semidetached houses for the Bauhaus masters and a detached house for its director. The plot lies in a small pine-tree wood where Ebertallee stands today – one of the axes of the Dessau Wörlitz Garden Realm between the Seven Pillars of the Georgium and Amaliensitz. In 1926, Gropius and the Bauhaus masters László Moholy-Nagy and Lyonel Feininger, Georg Muche and Oskar Schlemmer as well as Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee were able to move in with their families.


Later tenants included Hannes Meyer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Josef Albers, Hinnerk Scheper, and Alfred Arndt


With this ensemble of buildings, Gropius aimed, using industrially prefabricated and simple “building block” construction elements, to put the principles of efficient construction into practice – both in relation to the architecture and the building process itself. The standardisation of construction elements was, however, in view of the technical resources available at the time, only partially realised.


The houses acquired their form through interleaved cubic corpora of different heights. Vertical rows of windows on the side façades provide lighting for the stairways, while the view of the semidetached houses from the street is characterised by the large glass windows of the studios. The façade of the Director’s House was the only one to feature asymmetrically arranged windows. The sides facing away from the street have generous terraces and balconies. The houses are painted in light tones and the window frames, the undersides of balconies and down pipes in stronger colours.


The semidetached houses are essentially all the same: Each half of the house shares the same floor plan, albeit mirrored and rotated by 90°. Only on the second floor do the halves of the houses differ – the western section always features two additional rooms.


All the houses were equipped with modern furniture, and fitted cupboards were integrated between the kitchen service area and the dining room and between the bedroom and the studio. While Gropius and Moholy-Nagy fitted their houses exclusively with furniture by Marcel Breuer, the other masters brought their own furniture with them. The artists also developed their own ideas with respect to the arrangement of colour, which, with Klee and Kandinsky, for example, was closely related to their own artistic work.


In 1932, the Trinkhalle (refreshment kiosk) was built at the easternmost point of the estate. This small building was the only design by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to be realised in Dessau. It was demolished in 1970, and a pavement inlay today marks the site where the building once stood.


Following the closure of the Bauhaus in 1932, the houses were otherwise let. During the war, the Director’s House was almost completely destroyed; only the basement block remained. Both the garage and the Moholy-Nagy House were completely demolished. In 1956, a detached house with a gable roof was built on the foundations of the Director’s House. Apparently, the building’s owner was denied permission to reconstruct the original, although the reasons for this remain unclear. Comprehensive renovation work on the preserved Masters’ Houses started in 1992. The Kandinsky/Klee House is particularly fascinating because of its interior colour design.


Foundation Masters' Houses

More information about the Masters' Houses visit: www.meisterhaeuser.de.