* 1883 Berlin
† 1969 Boston
Walter Gropius, born in Berlin in 1883, made history as a groundbreaking architect and designer as well as the Bauhaus founder.
After discontinuing his architecture studies in Munich, Gropius worked under Peter Behrens in Berlin from 1908 to 1910. He then began working as a freelance architect. His early works, among which the "Faguswerk" in Alfeld an der Leine from 1911, and the "Musterfabrik" (Model Factory) for the Kölner Werkbundausstellung (Exhibition of the Cologne section of the German Work Federation) from 1914 are worthwhile mentioning, are proof of Walter Gropius' progressive approach to architecture. He had overcome the massive facades of the pasts in favor of glass walls that seemed almost weightless. Walter Gropius's style clearly did without historism, ornaments or symbolic features, his entire emphasis was on the functionality of basic geometric bodies. His works that were made before the war make him the founding father of modern architecture and initiator of "Neues Bauen" (New Architecture).
But Walter Gropius went even further. World War I and the November Revolution were decisive events: He became member of the "Arbeitsrat für Kunst" ('Workers council for art' or 'Art Soviet'), which had the objective to democratize arts and to make it more accessible for the people. The idea of the Bauhaus in Weimar, founded by Walter Gropius in January 1919, is partly based on the demands of the "Workers council for art", which were combined with other progressive concept to create a pathbreaking program. A new unity of arts and an abolition of the demarcation between arts and handicrafts. An ahistorical approach combined with an economic-industrial notion, as a reaction to social problems in the period between the wars by means of standardization and typification. This lead to the development of a new esthetic conscience, especially with regards architecture and mass production.
Walter Gropius was director of the Weimar Bauhaus, which had to change its location first to Dessau and finally to Berlin, up until 1928. His most prominent works are the Bauhaus building in Dessau (1925/26) and the 'Meisterhäuser' (Master Houses). Walter Gropius also participated in many competitions (Piscator theater, Berlin Reichsbank and others) and created functional residential buildings like the one in the settlement Karlsruhe-Dammerstock. The urgent problem of housing shortage in the 1920s was the basis for the development of systematic approaches and concepts of standardization that would meet future requirements.
Walter Gropius fled from the Nazi regime in 1934, at first to England, where he worked together with Maxwell Fry; he responded to a call to the Harvard university in Cambridge/Mass. in 1937, where he was holding a chair up until 1952. However, throughout the time, he continued working as an architect and made the concept of "Neues Bauen" (New Architecture) popular in the USA. Walter Gropius realized big projects in co-operation with the federation "TAC" (The Architects Collaborative), founded in 1945, such as the Harvard Graduate Center or the Pan Am Building.
Walter Gropius' oeuvre is completed by groundbreaking furniture design objects, as well as by models of railway carriages and even cars (models for Adler, 1930) He died in Boston in 1969.
Cf.: Giedion, Sigfried: Walter Gropius. Mensch und Werk, Stuttgart 1954.