Archaeology of Modernism

From door handles and bathtubs to colour samples and pieces of concrete, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation’s building research archive collects and researches components and materials relating to modernist architecture.

The exhibition “Archaeology of Modernism. Building Research Bauhaus Buildings Dessau” in the Bauhaus building shows an excerpt from the building research archive and illustrates the interplay of material and architecture of modernism using components and building materials, plans and eyewitness accounts.

The Bauhaus buildings in Dessau are prototypes – also in terms of building materials. Steel, glass and concrete in particular opened up new possibilities for the Bauhaus architects. Walter Gropius wrote: “thanks to their strength and molecular density, these new building materials – iron, concrete, glass – made it possible to construct wide-span, light-flooded spaces and buildings with the greatest savings in structural mass …” These new possibilities were tested in practice in the Bauhaus buildings.

Much knowledge about the once modern, but now historical materials has been lost over the decades. Many materials proved to be useful and became established. However, some did not. They were simply replaced during later refurbishment measures, and seemingly unimportant items such as electrical wiring or flooring were usually disposed of. However, they also have a place in the building research archive. They are preserved, analysed and repeatedly questioned on unresolved issues of modernist architecture.