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Berlin boasts an impressive array of architectural works by Walter Gropius (1883-1969), the founder of Bauhaus School. Often called “The Father of Modernist Architecture”, Walter has left a lasting architectural impact on Germany. Even though he never gained a formal degree in architecture, this didn’t stop Gropius from unleashing his avant-garde vision and internationally-informed style all across Germany and further afield. Let’s take a look back at his contribution to the world of architecture.
From the Fagus Factory and the John F. Kennedy Building, Walter Gropius constructed several impressive buildings. Designed in 1910, the Fagus factory, a shoe manufacturing plant remains a crucial early example of modernist architecture. Gropius shares the credit for this building with his partner Adolf Meyer, with whom he also went on to establish an architectural practice with. With the factory’s innovative and artistic design, the Fagus Factory foreshadowed the modernist movement and the work of the Bauhaus School, founded by Gropius.
The Bauhaus was arguably the most influential modernist cultural phenomenon of the 20th century. Starting in 1919, this unique school had a distinct approach to teaching and understanding art, believing that creativity and manufacturing should be brought together. In short, Gropius founded the Bauhaus with the goal of unifying all forms of art and design, with attention given to functionality, industry and manufacturing. Strangely, although the school’s name is translatable as the “house of building’, it did not offer architectural classes until 1927. From its early beginnings, the school became hugely influential throughout Western Europe and America. The huge impact of Bauhaus can be seen around the world today. The teachings of the Bauhaus have been upheld throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The sleek, elegant and modern styles of today can be traced back to the school’s designs. Steve Jobs even considered the Bauhaus as of one his greatest influences for his Apple products. So, even our precious iPhones are linked to the Bauhaus.
Alongside his work at the Bauhaus school, Gropius designed a number of houses. One of his most famous houses was his own family residence, Gropius House. Now a National Historic Landmark, Gropius created this housekeeping fully in the Bauhaus philosophy. Set amid forests and fields, the house is an example of Gropius’ emphasis on simple, yet innovative design. It did receive some criticism from neighbours who thought it clashed with the rest of the neighbouring homes, which were in the Colonial Revival style. This wasn’t the only project by Gropius that was criticised. The Pan Am Building, now known as the MetLife Building was criticised for the way it stood awkwardly in the middle of the city. However, it has since become an iconic landmark, having appeared numerous times in a variety of popular films over the last fifty years.
Up until his death in 1969, Gropius was at the helm of many major projects, including the design of the US Embassy in Athens and the Huntington Museum of Art, in West Virginia, USA. Gropius’ work and his design school continues to influence the world of art and architecture. Not only has Gropius left behind many innovative buildings, but also the Gropiusstadt district in Berlin. As a pioneering master of modernist architecture, he received an AIA Gold Medal, and in the 1990s a series of books were published covering his whole architectural career. He’ll always be remembered as one of the most important architects and educators of the 20th century.
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