1919–1925: Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar / State Bauhaus Weimar

Director: Walter Gropius
Responsible body: Free State of Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach (1919/20), State of Thuringia (from 1920)

Walter Gropius united the Großherzoglich-Sächsische Kunstschule (Grand Ducal School of Fine Arts) in Weimar with the Großherzoglich-Sächsische Kunstgewerbeschule (Grand Ducal School of Arts and Crafts) to found the Staatliches Bauhaus Weimar (State Bauhaus Weimar) in 1919. His goal was an ambitious one: to reform teaching, architecture, and art and crafts. With a preliminary course, studies of form and colour, and practical training in the workshops, the focus was on a multi-faceted educational concept, creative methods, and the development of the students’ creative talents on an individual basis. In the Thuringian elections in February 1924, conservative and right-wing parties formed an alliance and gained a majority in the state’s legislative assembly. By the end of the year, they had made drastic cuts to the budget of the Bauhaus, which was not to their taste at all. “As a precaution”, the masters were dismissed as of 1 April 1925. On 26 December 1924, the Bauhaus declared the school in Weimar closed.

1925–1932: Bauhaus Dessau. Hochschule für Gestaltung (University of Design)

Directors: Walter Gropius (until 1928), Hannes Meyer (1928 – 1930), Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (from 1930)
Responsible body: City of Dessau

When the end of the Weimar school was in sight, the Bauhaus received offers from several cities interested in giving the school a new home. It was decided that the new school would be hosted by Dessau – an aspiring industrial town governed by social democrats. One of the most important local companies was Junkers. With the change in direction towards “art and technology – a new unity”, which Gropius had already announced in Weimar, the Bauhaus now underwent a change in strategy. Its orientation shifted away from arts and crafts and began to concentrate on the development of prototypes for industrial serial production.

In 1926, the Bauhaus Dessau was officially designated “Hochschule für Gestaltung” (University of Design). On 4 December of the same year, it was able to present not only its own school building, the Bauhaus Building, but also the Masters’ Houses and the first houses on the Dessau-Törten Housing Estate, including the Steel House. Up until 1932, numerous other Bauhaus buildings were added, such as the Konsum Building, the Employment Office, and the Kornhaus. The seven years in Dessau are regarded as the most productive and successful era of the Bauhaus. In 1928, Hannes Meyer took over as director. With his appointment, a strong social and cooperative design approach took centre stage. Alongside introducing science-based teaching, systematic needs assessment, detailed functional analysis, and purposeful construction, he successfully led the Bauhaus workshops towards designs that were more in keeping with industrial production. The power and influence of the Nazi Party grew in Dessau and Anhalt, and Hannes Meyer was dismissed without notice on 1 August 1930. His successor, Mies van der Rohe, was given the task of de-politicising the school. He also shortened the preliminary course, and then abolished it completely in 1932. Work in the workshops was limited to groundwork for architecture.

On 22 August 1932, at the request of the Nazi Party, the Dessau city council decided to close down the Bauhaus as of 1 October.

1932/33: Bauhaus Berlin

Director: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Responsible body: private institute

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe tried to continue to run the Bauhaus as a private institution, housed in a factory building in the Steglitz district of Berlin. It was financially viable partly due to licencing income, and also because of a contractual agreement that guaranteed payment of the teachers’ salaries until the end of 1935. The former Hochschule für Gestaltung (University of Design) was now named “Freies Lehr- und Forschungsinstitut” (Free Teaching and Research Institute).

After a raid by the Secret State Police (Gestapo), the Bauhaus building in Berlin was sealed on 11 April 1933. On 20 July, the teachers decided to close down the Bauhaus.

1945–1949: Post-war period

In March 1945, the Bauhaus building was also hit during the bombing raid on Dessau. The delicate steel and glass façade was now so damaged that most of it had to be removed. As early as 1945, the reinstated Lord Mayor Fritz Hesse, supported by Hubert Hoffmann and Carl Fieger as well as other former Bauhaus members, attempted to revitalise the Bauhaus institutionally. In 1946/47, however, the restoration plans must be considered a failure and it must be recognised that there are still reservations about the Bauhaus and Neues Bauen. However, the Bauhaus building continued to be used, the glass façade of the workshop wing was filled in with brick walls and wooden windows were installed.

The interior layout was adapted to the needs and technical requirements of the time. After 1948, workshops for training in the building trade and, in addition to a gymnasium, a training centre for bricklaying and carpentry were housed here. In the mid-1950s, further remodelling work began on the building shell of the workshop wing. The brick walls were opened up over a large area. Instead of the small-format wooden windows, all-round steel window strips are inserted and the wall surfaces and parapets are plastered in a light colour. This harmonises the appearance of the workshop wing with that of the north wing.

1976–1986: Wissenschaftlich-Kulturelles Zentrum (Scientific-Cultural Centre, WKZ) Bauhaus Dessau

Directors: Georg Opitz and from 1986 Michael Siebenbrodt
Responsible body: City of Dessau. Supervision of content until 1986: Hochschule für Architektur und Bauwesen (University of Architecture and Building, HAB) Weimar (Opitz’s position was financed by the Weimar institute)

In the 1960s, the German Democratic Republic increasingly recognised the Bauhaus as cultural heritage. Accordingly, the Bauhaus Building was reconstructed on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 1976. It was restored in keeping with its status as a listed building, and the Wissenschaftlich-Kulturelles Zentrum (Scientific-Cultural Centre, WKZ) was established there. During this period, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation began to build up its collection, and the Bauhaus stage was reinstated. The WKZ developed into an important institution that was a forum for exchanges on urban planning, architecture, and urban development.

1984–1986: Weiterbildungsakademie (Academy of Further Education) at the Hochschule für Architektur und Bauwesen Weimar (University of Architecture and Building, HAB)

Rector of the HAB: Bernd Grönwald
Responsible body: HAB Weimar

The Sektion Gebietsplanung und Städtebau (Department of Area Planning and Urban Development), founded at the HAB in Weimar in 1969, was the only training centre for town planners and urban developers in the German Democratic Republic. The department was also affiliated with the WBI, a further education institute for professional planners and architects. Research on and reception of the Bauhaus, which had begun in 1976, provided an important stimulus. This marked the beginning of a positive reassessment of the Bauhaus heritage, which ultimately paved the way for the extensive renovation of the Bauhaus Building in Dessau in 1976. Research on the Bauhaus also led to closer cooperation with the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1996, the HAB changed its name to the Bauhaus University Weimar.

1984–1986: Experimentier- und Bildungszentrum Bauhaus Dessau Außenstelle des Amtes für industrielle Formgestaltung (Experimental and Educational Centre Bauhaus Dessau, branch of the Office of Industrial Design, AiF)

Head: Karl-Heinz Burmeister
Responsible body: Amt für industrielle Formgestaltung (Office of Industrial Design, AiF)

The Amt für industrielle Formgestaltung (Office of Industrial Design), based in Berlin, was the state institution responsible for the planning, management, and supervision of industrial design in the German Democratic Republic from 1972 to 1990. It was also in charge of developing export strategies. In response to the ideas that emerged from the Bauhaus Dessau with regard to industrial design, the Office of Industrial Design set up an education centre in the Bauhaus Building.

1986–1990: Bauhaus Dessau – Zentrum für Gestaltung (Centre for Design)

Director: Rolf Kuhn (from 1987)
Responsible body: Bauhaus Board of Trustees (Ministry of Building [MfB], Office of Industrial Design AiF, Ministry of Culture of the German Democratic Republic)

The Bauhaus Dessau Zentrum für Gestaltung (Centre for Design) opened in 1986. It gave planners, architects, designers and artists the opportunity to experiment with and critically evaluate German Democratic Republichousing and urban development as well as the industrial reshaping of the landscape. The objective was to initiate and try out specific changes. The international Walter Gropius seminars (1987 and 1989) played a significant role.

In 1989, the term “Industrielles Gartenreich” (Industrial Garden Realm) was coined. Reform ideas from the 19th and 20th centuries were to serve as inspiration for processes of transformation within the central German industrial region. On the basis of this socially and ecologically oriented planning practice, development strategies were formulated for Dessau and the region.

1990–1994: Bauhaus Dessau

Director: Rolf Kuhn
Responsible body: Federal Republic of Germany (interim), and after its foundation in 1990, also the State of Saxony-Anhalt

Since 1994: Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Directors: Rolf Kuhn (1994 – 1998)
Omar Akbar (1998 – 2009)
Philipp Oswalt (2009 – 2013)
Claudia Perren (2014 – 2020)
Barbara Steiner (since 2021)
Responsible body: Foundation under public law, Foundation Board (Federal Republic of Germany, State of Saxony Anhalt, and the city of Dessau)

The Bauhaus Dessau Foundation was founded in 1994. With an artistic and scientific orientation, its objective is to research, maintain and provide education on the Bauhaus heritage in the form of its buildings, its collection and a wide range of themes relating to architecture, design and art.

Today, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation works in a historiographically reflexive manner, analysing the significance and potential of the Bauhaus heritage for the 21st century. It does this in the knowledge that the historical narratives about the Bauhaus and its influence have long since reached a wider audience. In this process, there has been a move away from accounts focussing purely on Europe with claims of universal validity.

Institutional references to the Bauhaus

When the Bauhaus closed in 1932, its influence continued to reverberate all over the world. Many of the Bauhauslers went into exile during the Nazi era, and a large number of its international students from 29 different countries returned home. This contributed to the spread of Bauhaus ideas internationally, whether it was at institutions such as the New Bauhaus in Chicago (founded in 1937), the Black Mountain College in North Carolina (founded 1933), the White City in Tel Aviv, or through exhibitions mounted in important museums all over the globe.

In West Germany, the Hochschule für Gestaltung (School of Design) in Ulm was founded in 1953, with the aim of continuing to work in the spirit of the Bauhaus. It became an institution of international importance until it closed in 1968.

The research and exhibition project Bauhaus Imaginista in 2019 was dedicated to the transcultural interconnections and migration histories of the Bauhaus. At this point in time, the history of the Bauhaus left the confines of unified western historiography. Research was focused on the multi-faceted, cross-national exchange of ideas and encounters through which Bauhaus concepts have been translated, changed, or interrogated in a variety of cultural and geographical contexts.

In addition to the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, there are two other Bauhaus institutions with extensive collections: the Bauhaus Museum in Weimar and the Bauhaus Archive Museum of Design in Berlin. Through the Bauhaus Cooperation, a non-profit organisation, the three institutions now carry out joint projects on a regular basis.

The Bauhaus Museum Weimar is the newest museum of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar (Weimar Classicism Foundation). It was opened in 1955 on the site of the former art museum at Theaterplatz. Around 168 objects, donated by Walter Gropius to the Kunstsammlungen zu Weimar (Art Collections of Weimar) when the Bauhaus left the Weimar, form the basis of the Klassik Stiftung’s Bauhaus collection.

The Bauhaus Archive was founded in Darmstadt in 1960, when the art historian Hans Maria Wingler started the collection and organised first exhibitions. In 1971, the Bauhaus Archive moved to Berlin. Two years after his death, between 1976 and 1979, Gropius’ plans for a new building were realised by his associate Alex Cvijanovic (The Architects Collaborative) and Hans Bandel on a site beside the Landwehrkanal.