The Employment Office by Walter Gropius (1928-29)

Following the introduction of compulsory unemployment insurance and its merger with the labour exchange in 1927, the city of Dessau invited Walter Gropius, Hugo Häring and Bruno Taut to participate in a restricted competition for the design and construction of an employment office. Gropius was awarded the contract in early 1928; by May 1929, the building was finished. Career guidance, job placement, cash payouts of unemployment support with a constant, seasonally variable flow of public were carried out here.

Gropius’s employment office is distinguished by the same goal of rationalisation taken by the economy. He planned two parts defined by their functions and designed a long, two-storey administration block and a protruding one-storey circular building with a glazed shed roof for the public. A traditional cubicle-based office structure would not cope with the large number of visitors. This meant choosing a ground plan that would permit the public to be channelled, thereby allowing the job-seeking process to proceed smoothly. Separated according to sex and profession, there were five entrances for the job-seeking men and women, behind each of which lay sectors organised along similar lines.

Although the façade of the circular building was without windows, its interior gave cause for wonder thanks to the shed roof, which allowed light to flood into the building from above. The interior walls in the upper part of the building are made of glass, so that light can flood right through the building.

The Bauhaus workshops participated in the interior design; the construction management was in the hands of Max Krajewski, graduates of the Technical University of Berlin and Richard Paulick, head of Walter Gropius’s architectural office in Dessau.

Faced with yellow tiles, the steel skeleton is, due to its unusual ground plan, a highly interesting example of functional architecture. Since its restoration in 2002/03, the building has been home to the city of Dessau’s Trading Standards and Traffic Office.

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