Unbuilt Bauhaus Architecture

Many an idea at the Bauhaus remained as no more than a utopia – the designs from back then that were never built still look timeless and modern to us today

By Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau

Untitled (Bauhaus building, Dessau, architect Walter Gropius, view from the west with workshop wing) (1931/1932) by unknownBauhaus Dessau Foundation

Bauhaus architecture was revolutionary and ahead of its time. Walter Gropius created the Bauhaus and made that avant-garde school great. Here, big ideas for innovative, groundbreaking architecture for the future were devised and implemented. Probably the most famous building in Bauhaus architecture is the Bauhaus building itself, which was built in Dessau from 1925-6.

Its seemingly weightless steel construction and striking suspended glass facade made it architecturally as in other ways a ‘laboratory of the modern age‘. The workshops (pictured here) became testing ground for the production of utility items and for prototypes in architecture.

It was all about constantly using forms and functions in daring new ways, as exemplified by this experimental Bauhaus building. The Steel House by Richard Paulick and Georg Muche was designed in 1927 and is made of prefabricated steel panels.

The industrial aesthetic of the building planned as a dwelling house is deliberate. Steel, the new building material for the time, was to be used not just as support pillars for the structure but also made visible as the outer shell.

Muche/Schlemmer Master House (1925-26), architect: Walter Gropius, 2018 (2018) by Walter Gropius (Architecture) and Yakob Israel Willmington-Lu (Photo)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

In Dessau, prototypes were built that today are icons of modernity – such as the Masters Houses (1925/6) by Walter Gropius (pictured here the Houses Muche / Schlemmer).

But there were also some visionary ideas that were never put into practice and remained as no more than a utopia. Here are three of them.

Marcel Breuer (1950-08-08) by Walter SandersLIFE Photo Collection

1. Project dwelling and studio houses

Marcel Breuer (1902–81), Model BAMBOS 1, 1926-7

Marcel Breuer experimented with steel as well, creating his design classic, the tubular steel chair, when he was a student and junior Master at the Bauhaus in Dessau. It was not until later, after emigrating to the USA to escape the Nazis, that he began his second career as an architect.

Marcel Breuer (1950-08-08) by Walter SandersLIFE Photo Collection

With its supporting struts the dwelling house he conceived for his family in 1947-8 in the American New Canaan (Connecticut) is heavily reminiscent of an earlier idea by this restless designer.

Detached house Bambos 1 (dwellings for the young masters, not executed) (1927, 2002) by Marcel Breuer (design) and Bauhaus Dessau Foundation Ziolkowski/Seilkopf (model)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

As early as 1926-7 he designed a series of spectacular dwelling and studio houses (here in a model, 2002) for himself and his colleagues in Dessau as a counter-design to the smart group of Masters’ Houses by Gropius.

Kandinsky/Klee Master House (1925-26), architect: Walter Gropius, 2020 (2018) by Walter Gropius (Architecture) and Yakob Israel Willmington-Lu (Photo)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

It was also a small rebellion. While the Masters (like Kandinsky, Klee or Schlemmer) were moving into their supposedly luxurious Masters’ Houses in the pretty pine woods …

Studio Building (1925-26), architect: Walter Gropius, view from East, 2018 (2018) by Walter Gropius (Architecture) and Yakob Israel Willmington-Lu (Photo)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

… the junior Masters just got 20 m² single rooms in the Studio House right next to the workshops. They complained that this was “anti-social“, especially as it was, after all, they who worked hardest for the Bauhaus idea.

Detached house Bambos 1 (dwellings for the young masters, not executed) (1927, 2002) by Marcel Breuer (design) and Bauhaus Dessau Foundation Ziolkowski/Seilkopf (model)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

So Marcel Breuer, Josef Albers, Hannes Meyer, Herbert Bayer, Otto Meyer-Ottens und Joost Schmidt demanded their own estate. And the BAMBOS project was born. This was an acronym formed from the initial letters of the surnames of the rebellious potential residents.

Freedom, panache and audacity were what these groundbreaking dwelling and studio houses were intended to symbolise, two box-like structures, clearly differentiated by their functions, forming a single unit.

The living area was to be on the garden level, with the working area, “almost like a camera raised on its tripod above the landscape” (Breuer), placed on stilts. Entirely made of metal, the hovering upper storey was mainly supposed to give an impression of lightness.

BAMBOS 1 Design (1927) by Marcel BreuerBauhaus Dessau Foundation

The estate was planned right opposite the Bauhaus building. It was to be put into practice using prefabricated elements – the Director’s preferred building method. But Gropius initially rejected the project. When Breuer threatened to quit Dessau, Gropius finally approved the funding. But the money was never paid out. In 1928 Marcel Breuer ended his contract with the Bauhaus, and so the future architect’s first revolutionary project came to nothing.

Round house, architect Carl Fieger, 2 variants with ground plan, section and views (1930/1931) by Carl Fieger (design)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

2. Project Small House 

Carl Fieger (1893-1960), Rounde house , 1924

Garden front of a pair of semi-detached houses for doctors (undated (ca. 1924)) by Carl FiegerBauhaus Dessau Foundation

Carl Fieger’s motivation was quite different. This talented draughtsman and designer worked in Walter Gropius‘s private firm and while he was there in his own time developed his own innovative designs which, however, like this ‘Semi-Detached House for Doctors’ (about 1924) were never built. His design was aligned with the new Objective Architecture of Le Corbusier and the Bauhaus.

Untitled (Bauhaus buildings in Dessau, architect Walter Gropius, photo of preliminary design drawing by Carl Fieger, west elevation) (1925) by Carl Fieger (design)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Even before his 1925 preliminary drawings definitively put his mark on the face of the new Bauhaus building and the School’s visionary style …

Round house, architect Carl Fieger, 2 variants with ground plan, section and views (1930/1931) by Carl Fieger (design)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

… he was confronting Germany‘s acute housing shortage in the early 1920s …

… and planning an unusual round house made of standardised building elements – with an optional round (left) or polygonal (right) ground plan. At 70 square metres it offered room for an entire flat.

This small house was to be made either of shotcrete sprayed on to a metal frame (left) or of 16 self-supporting lightweight panels (right). Fieger called for a new type of house that could be industrially manufactured and built in series.

"We need today to invent the house incorporating all modern technical achievements, and that must be cheap enough to be affordable for the majority of those who need housing.”

Round house model by Carl Fieger (2018)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

The published designs attracted a lot of attention among experts. But only about 100 years after it was designed, Fieger’s round house could be seen for the first time to the original scale in 2018 as an inflatable airdome and made in PVC.

Untitled (Dessau-Törten housing estate, Fieger House, view and groundplans) (1926) by Carl FiegerBauhaus Dessau Foundation

The architect designed factories, sports centres and schools, but what was most important to him was finding a new ideal for living and optimising the layout of the mini-house and the smallest flat. His residential house of 1927 is the only design of Fieger‘s for rationally planned small houses that was actually built.

"Courtyard House A" design inside (1931) by Eduard LudwigBauhaus Dessau Foundation

3. Project Court House 

Eduard Ludwig (1906-1960), "Low rise with a courtyard" Type A, 1931

Untitled (Terraced house estate Friedrichstr. Dessau; from Ludwig Hilberseimer's class) (1930-08) by Eduard LudwigBauhaus Dessau Foundation

Eduard Ludwig arrived at the Bauhaus in late 1928 when Breuer and Fieger had already left Dessau for Berlin. Trained as a carpenter, from his fifth semester he was taught architecture by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the third and last Bauhaus Director.

"Courtyard House A" floor plan (1931) by Eduard LudwigBauhaus Dessau Foundation

While his predecessor Hannes Meyer had been concerned with social issues in architecture and forced through building in tandem with industry, what was more important to Mies van der Rohe was architectural theory and the aesthetics of the ‘art of architecture’ …

… and he trained his students in the spirit of his own view of architecture, which primarily explored the harmony between free space and its boundaries. A typical class assignment was to design a terrace of low-rise buildings with their own residential courtyard.

"Courtyard House A" design inside (1931) by Eduard LudwigBauhaus Dessau Foundation

These court houses were closed to the public space on their north side and opened with floor-length windows to the inner courtyard. Interior and exterior merged; the courtyard served as an extension of the living room.

Ludwig, too, based his ideas on his master’s materials and forms. It’s no coincidence that a Weissenhof chair (Mies van der Rohe designed it in 1927 for the estate of the same name in Stuttgart) takes pride of place here.

"Courtyard House A" design (1931) by Eduard LudwigBauhaus Dessau Foundation

In his assignment ideas, Mies van der Rohe was more concerned with the draughtsmanship of the design and less with putting it into practice.

Trinkhalle by Mies van der Rohe (1932), replica of Bruno Fioretti Marquez (2010-2014), at the Masters' Houses Dessau, 22.7.2016 (1932, 2010-2014) by Mies van der Rohe, Bruno Fioretti Marquez (replica), and Yvonne Tenschert (Photo)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

But he did put one building into practice in Dessau – the drinking hall in the wall next to his Director’s House. In the design was involved one of his best students – Eduard Ludwig.

"Courtyard House A" design outside (1931) by Eduard LudwigBauhaus Dessau Foundation

Ludwig did in the end get to build a court house project, long after his time at the Bauhaus. In 1957 five single-storey detached family houses with gardens were built from his designs in the central city location of Berlin’s Hansa Quarter …

… with the so-called atrium houses forming residential courtyards into which the residents can withdraw in absolute privacy. Incidentally, the architect himself moved into one of the houses.

Glass high-rise by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, model with landscape features by Oskar Herzog in front of the former Deutsche Kolonialmuseum building in Berlin (1922) by Curt Rehbein (?) (Photo)Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who like Walter Gropius emigrated to the USA and took the Bauhaus avant-garde out into the world, in 1953 retrospectively described its myth, “The Bauhaus was an idea, and I believe that the cause of the gigantic influence that the Bauhaus has had in the world can be sought in the fact that it was an idea.”

This idealistic design for this glass high-rise (created in 1922, even before his time at the Bauhaus) remained a utopia.

Read more about Carl Fieger

Read more about Marcel Breuer
Credits: Story

Text / Concept / Realisation: Astrid Alexander

Editing: Astrid Alexander, Cornelia Jeske

Translation: Catherine Hales, Stephan Schmidt

© Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau


Credits: All media
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