Exhibitions – Retrospective

Bauhaus Dessau – Workshop of Modernism

Permanent Exhibition

Since 2007, the Bauhaus Building in Dessau has housed a permanent exhibition on the history of the renowned “School for Design”. In the architectonic shell of the Bauhaus Building, this exhibition presented the diverse paths developed by the School for Design, exemplified by selected objects and documents taken from the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation’s collection.

Over the course of a process of spatial reorganisation, this exhibition will be presented in revised form in the basement of the glass workshop wing from 19th April 2009. A significant amount of work has been invested in the new presentation – occasioned not least by the distinctive spatial parameters.

The exhibition concept refers as of now to the Bauhaus’ self-image as an integrated and interdisciplinary workshop. Following the extreme differentiation between the independent design-related disciplines in the 19th century, the declared intention was to reunite all arts under one roof. They should, in deference to the medieval “Bauhütten” (mason’s lodges) – which also provided the inspiration for the “Bauhaus” name – unite their strengths, their faculties complementing one another. This objective was symbolised by the “building”, the equivalent of the cathedral. This was to embody a new social ideal, on the brink of a new age. With its foundation by Walter Gropius in 1919, the Bauhaus made this task its own. The aim was to educate a new, young and responsible generation of designers for the modern industrial age.

In order to capture these visionary ideas and goals of the Bauhaus, the exhibition portrays the relationships between education, the arts, architecture, product design, and between the people and their lives at, and with, the Bauhaus. At the same time, examples of work elucidate how the students took notes as they pursued the complex courses, and how these were instrumentalised in their findings and products, such as the ashtrays of Marianne Brandt. Similarly, the exhibition shows how lessons within the institute shifted from the initially strong fine art bias of the Weimar phase of the Bauhaus to a focus on production and architecture in Dessau. The early Weimar phase is represented by works that include a child’s chair by Marcel Breuer, dating from 1923.

The exhibition focuses chiefly on the Dessau period of the Bauhaus, from 1925 to 1932. In this phase, the school, the workshops and the architecture department were able to develop their greatest potential. That each of the Bauhaus’ directors put an emphasis on different concepts and practices is also explicit. While the Bauhaus’ founder Walter Gropius oriented himself according to the principle of “Wesensforschung” (investigation of the phenomenological) on “the spiritual and technical instruction and training in the crafts of creatively gifted persons for artistic work in design, particularly in relation to the building” and on “the implementation of practical trials, especially in relation to the construction of houses and their fittings, and the development of prototypes for industry and trade”, the second Bauhaus director, Hannes Meyer, focused on “theoretical training in construction”, and the resultant “organisation of life processes”. His central credo was “The people’s needs, not luxury”. Products such as the Bauhaus wallpaper, the Kandem table lamp or light, foldaway furniture are testament to this.

As its third director, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe influenced the tenor of the late Bauhaus. His concept, his bias towards an art of construction utilizing contemporary structures and refined materials with elegantly proportioned, “flowing” spaces, is represented for example by his famous tubular steel chair.

The mediation of the condensed, multifaceted content of the exhibition occurs by means of a complex process of sensory perception, on the one hand on a multimedia level, and on the other through the contemporary presentation of some 100 objects selected from the Bauhaus’ collection in an environment steeped in atmosphere.

Curators: Omar Akbar, Wolfgang Thöner, Lutz Schöbe, Kirsten Baumann Scenography: chezweitz & roseapple, Detlef Weitz and Rose Epple, with Holger Jansen, Richard Fulton, Will Tomlinson and Isabel Prugger Architecture: kubix, Berlin media technology: serve-u, Berlin turn into a exhibition floor: Johannes Bausch, architect, Berlin