If you're into architecture, you've surely heard of the Bauhaus movement. This artistic and architectural movement celebrates its 100th anniversary this year with exhibitions and other events all over Germany.
In North Rhine-Westphalia, you can learn about the impulses that gave rise to what would later become Bauhaus and see its first architectural manifestations. But Berlin, Dessau, and especially Weimar are the German cities that are forever linked with this movement.
Come along and get a glimpse of all things Bauhaus you can do not just in 2019 but after as well in these three places.
- Bauhaus in Berlin, Dessau, and Weimar: sights to see
- Bauhaus in Berlin
- Bauhaus in Dessau
- Bauhaus in Weimar
- The Bauhaus app
Bauhaus in Berlin, Dessau, and Weimar: sights to see
Bauhaus in Berlin
Examples of the Bauhaus movement in Berlin are scattered throughout the city. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll spot architectural vestiges of the style in multi-story car parks, housing estates, flat roofs, cubic angular buildings, and no-nonsense un-ornamented facades.
Historically, Berlin is often considered the third city of the Bauhaus movement. The progressive design school moved here from Dessau (and before that, Weimar) in 1932.
In Berlin, it was led by its third director, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. However, it was politically criticized by the Nazis for its “degenerate communist ideas”. The school only operated for ten months here, before the Nazi regime forced it to close in 1933.
Although Berlin was where the world saw the final closure of the Bauhaus school that had such a revolutionary impact on approaches to art and design, the movement never really finished. After its closure, students and teachers emigrated and spread the school of thought throughout the world.
Original Bauhaus exhibition at the Berlinische Galerie
The Berlinische Galerie is a museum for art, photography, and architecture in Kreuzberg, Berlin. It’s one of the city’s newest museums. As of 2019, it’s host to a wonderful centenary exhibition of Bauhaus artifacts.
On show are over 1000 different pieces. Some from the Bauhaus-Archiv’s extraordinary treasure trove, others on loan from international museums and private collections. Rather than a traditional chronological approach, the exhibition explores the Bauhaus movement by looking at 14 different case studies (one for each year of the school’s existence).
One example of these case studies – and my personal favorite – is the famous geometric tea infuser designed by Marianne Brandt – stylish but essentially practical.
The exhibition is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm except on Tuesdays. As the exhibition is part of the 100th anniversary celebration of Bauhaus, it can get quite busy. Avoid the lines by getting a skip-the-line ticket in advance.
Find more details and buy your card here.
Temporary Bauhaus Archiv
The iconic Bauhaus Archive in the Tiergarten is unfortunately under renovation and modernization, to be completed for a big reopening in 2022 to fully commemorate the centenary. However, the Bauhaus Archive museum has opened a temporary exhibition in Charlottenburg, which still has much to offer.
This temporary version of the museum is an exhibition hall as well as a space for talks, film screenings, and interactive debates. It’s in the same building as the Bauhaus Archive shop, where workshops take place and historic photos and documents are on show.
On display are a good timeline of Bauhaus events and – while I was there – also an overview of the women who played a role in the Bauhaus movement.
Admission is free, and is open from 10 am – 6 pm from Monday to Saturday.
Siemensstadt is a large modernist housing estate in Berlin’s Charlottenburg-North and Spandau districts. Although its minimalist buildings might not look like much at first glance, it is an important relic of the Bauhaus movement and now recognized as one of Berlin’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The aim behind Siemensstadt was to create affordable housing for workers at the nearby Siemens factory plant. Six architects set to work on this project and built a total of 1,379 apartments fitting the brief between 1929 and 1934.
Among the architects involved was the first director of the Bauhaus school, Walter Gropius. In keeping with the Bauhaus mindset, the buildings were created with functionality and social practicality at the top of the priority list.
Walking through the housing estate, it’s easy to compare their iconic style with surrounding modern buildings. A good route to take is from U Bahn station Siemensdamm through the Mäckeritzstrasse the Goebelstrasse, partly up and down the Jungfernheideweg and further through the Goebelstrasse until you reach the crossing with the Heilmannring, where you'll find a small information center (it was closed when I was there).
At various points in Siemensstadt, blue panels give more information about the buildings and their architects.
Dinner and a night at the Ellington Hotel Berlin
The 4-star Ellington Hotel is housed in what was once an entertainment venue. Built between 1928 and 1931 by architect Erich Mendelsohn, the building originally known as the Haus Nürnberg belongs to a substyle of the Bauhaus Movement, the “Neue Sachlichkeit” or “New Objectivity”. Although remodeled in 2007, much of the 1920s and 1930s elements have been retained in the entrance rooms, staircases, and hall.
Hotel Ellington gladly partakes in the centenary celebrations by offering a Bauhaus starter at it's Duke restaurant. The dish consists of a langoustines tartar with aioli, sepia, charcoal, saffron, spirulina, and pimenton de la Vera. It can be ordered from Monday to Saturday from 6 p.m. onwards and I was lucky enough to try it during my one-night stay at the hotel.
The Duke has been awarded 15 Gault & Millau points, so I knew I was in for a treat.
The Duke offers the choice between a fixed 3-course or 5-course menu or to eat à la carte. I chose the latter. My dinner started with two amuse-bouches followed by the Bauhaus starter which was exquisite. Served separately to create a beautiful Bauhaus construction, if you will, the ingredients needed to be taken together at every bite.
As my main course, I had a perfectly prepared turbot with an assortment of vegetables and the best pierogi I ever had. Both the pierogi and the turbot came with a subtle nutty running butter. I'm starting to drool just thinking of it again.
And then came dessert. I always check the desserts before I order anything and so I knew they had something called “I love chocolate”. How could I not order this? It turned out to be the perfect end to a perfect meal: a combination of milk chocolate mousse, white chocolate ice cream, and a chocolate biscuit that was both crunchy and rich.
The service was excellent too and I loved the vibe at the restaurant. Some fancy restaurants can make you feel rather uncomfortable when eating there by yourself (or at least, I think so) but the Duke has a warm ambiance which is only enhanced by the soft jazzy/loungy music playing.
I can only highly recommend it.
After dinner, it was time to retreat to my room. Rooms at the Ellington are modern, featuring air conditioning, a TV, and an elegant open-plan bathroom with a shower. WiFi is free throughout the hotel and guests can make use of the gym. Massages and training sessions can be booked separately.
Aside from the Duke restaurant, the hotel also has a lounge bar, a conservatory, and a summer terrace. It's proximity to the Wittenbergplatz Underground Station, the famous Europa Center and shopping street Kurfürstendamm make this hotel an excellent base to explore the city.
Bauhaus in Dessau
Dessau is the city where the Bauhaus really came into its stride, which makes it a fascinating place to visit, full of quintessential traces of the art and design movement.
The city is considered to be where the key images and features of Bauhaus products, buildings and ideologies were first formed. It's no surprise then, that today Dessau is home to the largest amount of original Bauhaus edifices in the world.
Dessau was the second home of the school, which Walter Gropius relocated there in 1925 after the Weimar faculty closed down. Dessau was home to a significant phase of the school, as it was here that architecture began to be taught, along with a big expansion of other genres of design too.
The Bauhaus Building
The school itself was housed in the Bauhaus Building, which is an icon of modern design today. When it was built, with its box-like shapes, it represented an entirely new architectural language – one that people had never witnessed before.
It had a workshop wing, a “Festive Area”, and student flats, among other things. It's possible to visit the building and you can even spend the night in a restored former student room.
Meisterhäuser von Walter Gropius / Master's house of Walter Gropius
Close to the Bauhaus school building are the “Meisterhäuser” or Masters’ Houses. These were designed by Walter Gropius himself and created to house the teachers of the Bauhaus Academy and their families.
Even today they look incredibly modern thanks to their stylized Bauhaus features – white geometric structures with clean lines and flat roofs. There are seven houses in total (three semi-detached, and one detached for the director). They were all designed with exactly the same layout but positioned at right angles respective to each other to not look identical.
The houses were restored and reopened in the 1990s and registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the world’s most famous artists, designers, and architects such as Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky lived in these buildings.
Today, you can walk around the houses and even visit them – except for one which is currently an artist residence. Some have been reconstructed to reflect how they would have looked at the time, some are now exhibition spaces. They are open daily, and guided tours (about an hour-long) are available too.
A drink at the Kornhaus restaurant
The Kornhaus restaurant was commissioned by the city of Dessau in 1929. It’s a fantastic lunchtime destination – based on the banks of the River Elbe with superb waterside views and good value food. It’s named after a historic granary that occupied the site until the 1870s.
The Kornhaus cafe was designed by Carl Fieger, who had worked with Walter Gropius for several years. His concept was a two-story rectangular shape that fitted against a semi-circular glass-clad cafe projecting over the riverbank.
An archetypal Bauhaus building, with its sweeping curves and interlocking cubic blocks, the Kornhaus fitted the brief perfectly. It united art and functional design, and responded to its environment, in harmony with the lines and curves of the river.
While a visit is interesting because of the architecture, the food gets mixed reviews and so I decided to just go there for a drink in the afternoon. First of all, the surroundings are amazing, with the Kornhaus bordering a large park and overlooking the Elbe river.
Secondly, I was surprised by how busy it was when I got there. The restaurant was actually full! Luckily, there were two tables by the bar in the entrance area and I was allowed to take a seat there to enjoy some tea and cake. The cake was amazing – a big slice of tangerine cheesecake – and I was surprised to only pay €5.8 in total at such an iconic place.
I did have a look inside the restaurant but as it was so crowded, I didn't take a photo as to not disturb the people there.
Bauhaus Museum Dessau
The brand-new Bauhaus Museum opened in Dessau at the beginning of September 2019. It’s a striking glass structure in the city’s central park. A building within a building, the collection is housed in a black concrete cube (with no natural light to preserve the exhibits) on the first floor set within a spectacular glass facade.
The ground floor hosts the cafe, the shop, a Bauhaus play park for kids and an open exhibition area.
The museum, open daily, tells the story of this new way of living. The collection of around 49,000 exhibits demonstrates how the ideas forged in Dessau in the 20s contribute to our modern culture today.
When I was there, the focus of the exhibition was on the work and experiments of the students of the Bauhaus school. There was so much to see, and then there were also the audio stations and the materials that could be touched. I highly recommend it.
Good to know: You need to get your ticket for the museum beforehand as you need to choose a timeslot during which you'll visit.
Laubenganghäuser and the Törten Settlement
What I'd planned to visit but didn't end up having the time for, was the Törten Settlement. I'd already done some research about this area so I don't want to withhold that from you.
During the Weimar Republic (1919 – 1933) there was a great need for affordable housing. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius began to tackle this by constructing the cost-effective Dessau-Törten housing estate, made up of 314 terraced houses.
The five ‘Houses With Balcony Access’ (also known as Laubenganghäuser) were an extension of the Törten estate. They were designed and built by Hannes Meyer in 1929. Meyer was a Swiss architect and the second director of the Bauhaus school.
The row of buildings (90 flats in total) was designed for people on low incomes. Their main feature is the communal gangway or balcony, that leads to a staircase at the front. This communal balcony space acted to promote neighborliness and a sense of community.
The above is just a selection of probably the most iconic or important Bauhaus places in Dessau but there are many more and you could easily spend two full days visiting them all.
Good to know:
It often takes a bit of time walking between the different Bauhaus sites in Dessau but fear not: there's a Bauhaus Bus!
Bus line 10 connects all Bauhaus buildings and runs daily between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
More information: dvg-deassau.de
Bauhaus in Weimar
Weimar played a hugely important role in the history of the movement. It was here that Walter Gropius began his Bauhaus school in 1919, and where it existed until 1925 when political pressures forced the school to move to Dessau.
In the beginning, architecture wasn’t a focus of the school until it moved to Dessau. Students were instead taught to look at the world in a totally new way. The first few years were about experimentation, and then eventually designing for industrial manufacture.
This new school had a very egalitarian approach – students didn’t need any academic qualifications, just talent. Gropius’s aim was to create a new guild of craftsmen. He wanted to break down the barrier between fine arts and applied arts.
Walking through the city, you don't immediately see that much evidence of Bauhaus design in the buildings, which are largely Classical in style but there are quite a few fascinating Bauhaus buildings nevertheless. Not to mention a wonderful collection of artifacts. Together, they tell the story of the movement’s early days and the context in which it was born.
The rights to the works of several Bauhaus artists are owned by an organization which means I couldn't publish photos of the interiors of the places I visited here or on social media. You'll just have to go visit Weimar for yourself to see those :-)
Bauhaus Museum Weimar
The Bauhaus Museum Weimar is perhaps a long-overdue tribute to the city’s important role in defining the movement in the 20th century. It was opened in April 2019 to mark the Bauhaus’s 100th anniversary.
Designed by architect Heike Hanada, the building is true to its muse in style, being a white minimalistic cube. Among a selection of permanent and temporary exhibitions, the Weimar Bauhaus Museum boasts the world’s oldest collection of Bauhaus treasures, personally collected by Walter Gropius himself.
The museum is open daily, but only half-a-day on Mondays.
Good to know: This Bauhaus Museum too requires you to choose a specific time slot for your visit.
Exhibition “Van de Velde, Nietzsche und die Moderne um 1900” in Neues Museum Weimar
The new permanent exhibition at the Neues Museum is called “Van de Velde, Nietzsche and Modernism around 1900”. The collection pays tribute to the protagonists of early modernism that paved the way for the founding of the Bauhaus school.
What was it about Weimar that made it the ideal area for this new wave of thinking? How did figures like Friedrich Nietzsche, Harry Graf Kessler, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, and Henry van de Velde influence the Bauhaus philosophy?
The exhibition tackles these questions and takes a closer look at the environment that cultivated this radical shift in art and design. It does so through objects, sketches and cool 3D creations.
The grand museum building itself dates back to the mid-19th century when it was founded as the Grand Ducal Museum. It's majestic staircase and high ceilings add a little extra to your visit.
The museum is open all weekdays except Tuesdays.
Haus Hohe Pappeln
Built in 1907 and 1908, Haus Hohe Pappeln was the residence of Henry van de Velde and his family. Van de Velde was a Belgian architect that opened the School of Applied Arts in Weimar that eventually developed into the Bauhaus. He designed the entire house himself, from the wall colors and upholstery to the furnishings and fixtures.
He and his family lived there until 1917 when they were forced to sell it and leave the country because of an increase in hostility towards foreigners during World War 1. The house, now open as a museum, has been restored and reconstructed according to Van de Velde’s initial plans.
The tour of Haus Hohe Pappeln takes you through the gardens and living spaces of the house, including the dining room, salon and newly re-furnished study.
Haus Am Horn
The pioneering Haus Am Horn is the only true Bauhaus building in Weimar and amazingly, the first ever building to be constructed according to Bauhaus principles of design. With Am Horn, the masters and students presented their ideas of a modern way of living.
It is a simple structure – a small white rectangular cube of steel and concrete with a flat roof. Designed by Georg Muche, it was actually a model house built for the first Bauhaus exhibition in 1923. It was intended to be part of a larger estate, but funding for the school was soon cut and it was forced to relocate.
You can now visit the house to to learn why it was built and laid out the way it was. It's also possible to walk around in the garden.
The main building of the Bauhaus University of Weimar
The Bauhaus University’s main building was designed by Henry van de Velde and finished in 1911. This was one of the most influential art academies of the time and became the epicenter of the Bauhaus school in 1919. It was renovated in 1999 and is now used as the Weimar university’s Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism.
Today, the main building is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s worth popping in to see the rather dramatic spiral staircase and you can even take a tour led by a student.
Right outside the building, there's now also the “Bauhaus Atelier” which basically acts like a souvenir shop and coffee bar. It's nice to grab a drink and sit outside when the weather allows it.
The Nietzsche Archiv
Founded by Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, the Nietzsche Archive documents the life and work of her brother, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. It’s housed in Villa Silberblick which was where Nietzsche spent his final days.
After his death, Elisabeth commissioned Henry van de Velde to modernize and refurbish the building. It is now one of the most interesting and meticulous examples of the artist’s work. Much like Haus Hohe Pappeln, everything within it was designed by Van de Velde. This idea of total design is known as Gesamtkunstwerk.
Today, it hosts both an exhibition documenting the life and work of Nietzsche as a showcase of what the house looked like with Van de Velde's furniture in it. There's a great free audio guide that's available in English and that guides you through the rooms with short bits of information. It only takes 20 minutes, or 30 if you listen to all the additional commentaries.
The Weimar Card
The Weimar Card offers free entry to a whole bunch of sights and activities in Weimar, including all the Bauhaus sites mentioned in this article. So if you plan on seeing and doing a lot while you're in the city, it's worth looking into.
The card costs €32.5 and is valid for 48 hours from the moment of activation (which equals writing your name, the date, and the time of first use on the back of the card).
There's also a BauhausCard 2019 which gives you access to over 70 Bauhaus sights in Thuringia. However, it only runs until the end of the 2019.
The Bauhaus app
The Bauhaus+ app is available for iOS and Android. It includes information on events, contributions about Bauhaus in Weimar, as well as audio tours through exhibitions at the Bauhaus Museum, the Neues Museum, the Gaus Am Horn and from the spring of 2020 also the Nietzsche Archiv.
And that's it! If you want to learn more about the Bauhaus centenary, have a look at the official website. For more information on things to do around Germany, the website of the National Tourism Board is where you need to be.
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I was invited to visit the Bauhaus sites in Berlin, Dessau, and Weimar by the German National Tourist Office and the cities of Berlin, Dessau, and Weimar. As always, I was free to describe my experience there as I wanted.