Bauhaus in America/a film by Judith Pearlman

Submitted by Susan Miller on Sat, 11/03/2007 - 08:00.
11/17/2007 - 16:00

As part of the Greening the modern preservation movement: Bauhaus at the brink series,

Bauhaus in America: a film by Judith Pearlman, followed by a panel discussion with Cleveland architect, Peter Van Dijk and associate professor of art history at Kent State University, Carol Salus, moderated by Christopher Diehl, director of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative.

a true story about architecture, design, art and human nature in the 20th century

Germany, 1919: a group of young people meet in a small town on the cutting edge of a worldwide revolution in art, politics, design and architecture. They are destined to invent the future and rebuild the world; the Bauhaus is their knife.

Inspired by the genius of its celebrated artists and designers, the school generates tremendous heat and influence for fourteen stormy years - until Hitler seizes power in 1933. BAUHAUS IN AMERICA draws this dynamic story into the sweep of history, from the shanty towns of the Great Depression to the steel towers of the Millennium and beyond.

The film opens with three Americans - who were students there - reliving the day the Nazis closed the Bauhaus in Berlin. As the Bauhaus' leading designers are driven into exile, they transform the look of America's cities, interiors, design and art - and are profoundly transformed themselves in the process. Their success has consequences they could never have imagined in Germany.

The circle is closed, decades later, by American students creating a plan for 21st-century Berlin, pointing to a renaissance of Bauhaus ideas now that post-Modernism has sung its song. The Bauhaus is back where it began: in the hands of young people inventing the future and rebuilding the world.

$8 general admission/$6 CIA students, staff and Cinematheque members. For more information, go here.


What Would You Do With The Breuer Building? (from Ingenuity 2007) will be displayed in the hallway of the CIA Building for those who missed it or would like to view it again—the show features twenty seven entries from Australia to Italy with several local architects offering innovative thoughts.

For more information, email millerbowen [at] adelphia [dot] net.

Brought to you by Doty & Miller Architects, D.H. Ellison Co., Peter Lawson Jones, Recent Past Preservation Network, Richard Fleischman Architects, Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, Robert Maschke Architects, Inc., Process Creative Studios Inc., Jim Rokakis, Schmidt Copeland Parker Stevens with assistance from Cleveland Cinematheque, Cleveland Institute of Art, Judson Manor, The Sculpture Center, Intermuseum Conservation Association, AIA Cleveland, Kent State University Art History, Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, Cleveland Artists Foundation, GreenCityBlueLake, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, Studio Techne Architects


Cleveland Cinematheque
11141 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH
United States
( categories: )

Bauhaus film at Cinematheque-Whatif?

  I can't sleep tonight, because I am still thinking about the parking garage proposed for the CIA expansion .  My mind swirls with all the whatifs?    What if CASE still offered a degree in architecture (and, for that matter, a degree in library science, which is just another way of saying, information architecture)  Whatif?  What if the design synergy between CIA and CASE generated REAL design solutions to our energy crisis?  What if CASE/CIA designed solar tubes that were also energy harvesters?  Whatif???? What if CSU and the University of Akron made the Breuer part of their synergy?  Whatif?

we are thinking the same way

Last week Jane Weinzapfel during a talk hosted by Case's Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities said that Cleveland needs a school of architecture. Someone noted that there had been one -- she said resurrect it -- consider this a hiatus. But I submit that Kent's SAED expanded and moved to Cleveland as Steven Fong suggested would do. Collaborating with CIA's industrial design program and leveraging the District of Design as an expanded Milan of the Midwest, and plugged into the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, we have a good set of ingredients for making a delicious "Stone Soup". I am not saying that Case shouldn't resurrect a school of architecture (and Library Science for that matter), but since budgetary issues prevail there currently, maybe we can begin with what is on hand.

We also, as you have pointed out time and time again Laura, have a great inventory of building stock in the city and new and more buildings can infill after we have exploited what is sitting empty. Adaptive reuse, rehab and renovation with some innovative modern additions could transform the St. Clair -- Superior District of Design areas into a vibrant and thriving creative center for innovation in design and manufacturing. (Just the other night I heard whispers about training for robotic manufacturing software -- a skill that requires training in places far from the businesses here in Northeast Ohio that require them.)

What if there was a resurgence of the ideas of the Bauhaus in Cleveland? Consider Walter Gropius' opening manifesto which proclaimed "to create a new guild of craftsmen, without the class distinctions which raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist".

This interest in architecture and sustainability, economic and social balancing can be restaged and seems to be restaging itself here in our community.

In the aftermath of the planning commission's decision on the Breuer Tower, some of us gathered to chat about what happened.  Some expressed dismay that the arts community had not raged against the decision, some were concerned that environmentalists had not come together to protest, still others suggested their astonishment that the Jewish community had missed the link between the Bauhaus influence on modern design and life in America. So after we wandered around stunned for a few weeks, ideas began to percolate and a series was born. This is the beginning of a dialogue about the past and the future. It is a chance to look back at the path we have traveled and a chance to imagine a future that might produce a wonderful, nourishing and delicious gourmet Stone Soup for an innovative Northeast Ohio economy -- truly a green city on a blue lake. Marc offers another fascinating what if here on the subject of a school of natural design and biomimicry.

Jane Weinzapfel suggested that though her firm is often involved in projects in areas that present a "dense weave", she sees Cleveland as having a "loose weave" There is an opportunity here she suggested for a system of winding greenspaces. I wondered if she had seen the Shrinking Cities work of the Kent SAED and CUDC; if she had seen the visionary County Greenprint. This is another ingredient in our particular regional potential.


We hope to come together here to consider what innovation, what creativity in education, in our economy, in our natural and built environment makes sense for our geography, our resources, our future. What is the zeitgeist of Northeast Ohio at the start of this new millennium?


I am not an architect, nor an urban planner, neither am I an economist or politician, but I am concerned about our region, our watershed, this soil, these buildings, this air, these people. I was thrilled to find others who share these concerns. I am pleased to be connected through this social network at realneo and the blogosphere in the region and beyond. As a generalist, I am becoming educated little bits at a time about what we might dream; a vision begins to shape itself. This is not done alone but with many nourishing ideas and ingredients. It is in this way that we will all be fed. Thanks to Betsey Merkel who found me behind a restaurant counter and forced me into the Peter B. Lewis Building where I met Ed Morrison and REI, Jeff Buster and Martha Eakin, thanks for Phil Lane, for MaryBeth Matthews and Tom Strbac, for Tori Mills and Zebra Mussel, for John McGovern and Mark Lefkowitz, for Tim and Gloria Ferris, for Ed Hauser and David Beach, for Paul Alsenas, for Norm Roulet and Sudhir and Philip and Derek, Thomas Mulready and George Nemeth for the technology that keeps the dialogue alive 24-7-365, for Roldo Bartimole whose example of free speech empowers us to speak up and speak out, for James Levin for his creative leadership beyond CPT to Ingenuity, for the folks at the CUDC, the Levin College and Baker-Nord, and CIA, MOCA, SPACES, E4S for their ingenious creative methods of planting the seeds of creativity and revision and re-envisioning in our minds, for David Ellison and Sally Levine whose willingness to rise to the question, What would you do with the Breuer Building stunned us all, for the individual gallery owners and operators, for the artists whose works challenge us with regularity. These are the tip of the iceberg of rebirth that grows here in the region. Surely I have left out many whose bright ideas have not reached me personally so directly (or even who I simply forgot or didn’t know to mention).


Some may call it nay saying, but I submit again that it may more likely be as Martha Graham suggested – blessed unrest. I am hopeful that many who are plagued with this blessed unrest will join the dialogue and add their thoughts to the soup.

we're grateful for you, too

Susan, we all are grateful for you, too, and oftentimes amazed at how much work you can crank out in such a small amount of time. Keep it up, but make sure you get enough rest and vitamins.

Blessed unrest?

Is that what you call it?! (with a smile, of course)

Paul Hawken/Blessed Unrest

This is not one of those 20 minute TED Talks, but takes much longer and bears hearing more than once: The New Great Transformation, Paul Hawken speaks about his new book, Blessed Unrest in the SALT Talks sponsored by the Long Now Foundation.
Stewart Brand intro on the Long Now blog here: Humanity’s immune system
Thanks Jeff Schuler for the suggestion to listen to this. I have listened three times now.

Steven Litt gives you a boost

  Nice of Steven Litt to post the Bauhaus/Breuer events you have coordinated.  I hope we see this listed in the print Plain Dealer as well.  Kudos Susan.  Keep on making noise!

Guardian publishes timely Bauhaus article

Thanks to Dru McKeown for sending this link my way.
House style

The Bauhaus movement emerged as architects and artists began to rebuild a battle-torn Europe after the great war, and became a fashion in itself. Fiona MacCarthy on how it shaped the modern world

Fiona MacCarthy
Saturday November 17, 2007


There is a tremendous pent-up energy in Lyonel Feininger's famous Kathedrale woodcut, used on the cover of Walter Gropius's manifesto for the opening of the Bauhaus in 1919. Feininger's cathedral is not a static, glowering, repressive gothic building but a jazzed-up composition full of dissidence and movement - a vision of the future. Construction, light and music, three lodestars of the Bauhaus, are already in place. Gropius's own original copy of the manifesto is one of the exhibits in a major Bauhaus survey opening at Mima (the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) later in the month. Considering the widespread impact of the Bauhaus, how surprising that this is the first Bauhaus exhibition in Britain since the Royal Academy show in 1968.

What exactly was the Bauhaus? In the simplest of terms, it was an art school set up in opposition to the old European art academies. It evolved a new language of art and design that was abstract and dynamic, liberated from historicism. As Gropius saw it in 1923, "the idea of today's world is already recognisable, its shape still unclear and hazy". The impulse behind the Bauhaus, which was more a philosophy of life than a teaching institution, was to give modernity a precise physical form.

"Bauhaus", that cryptic but now so familiar word - it even became the name of a gothic rock band - is derived from bauen, building in the sense of creating, and haus, the house and spiritual home. It was a grand concept positing the power of the architect and artist in rebuilding a battle-fatigued Europe after the horrors of the first world war. If the Kaiser had won, we would not have had a Bauhaus, which drew much of its artistic vigour from the fact of Germany's defeat. Buildings in the man-made landscape took on a new significance, psychological and sexual as well as purely practical. The Bauhaus first defined the multitude of ways in which the built environment affects the way we live.

What was new about the school was its attempt to integrate the artist and the craftsman, to bridge the gap between art and industry. The unity of arts had of course been a central tenet of the late 19th-century Arts and Crafts movement, and the ideals of William Morris influenced Gropius's planning for the school. But the Bauhaus was the antithesis of the Arts and Crafts movement in fundamental ways. No more romance of handmaking in the countryside: its emphasis was urban and technological, and it embraced 20th-century machine culture. Mass production was the god, and the machine aesthetic demanded reduction to essentials, an excision of the sentimental choices and visual distractions that cluttered human lives.

Students at the Bauhaus took a six-month preliminary course that involved painting and elementary experiments with form, before graduating to three years of workshop training by two masters: one artist, one craftsman. They studied architecture in theory and in practice, working on the actual construction of buildings. The creative scope of the curriculum attracted an extraordinary galaxy of teaching staff. Among the stars were Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Oskar Schlemmer, the painter and mystic Johannes Itten, László Moholy-Nagy, Josef Albers and Marcel Breuer. Bauhaus students were in day-to-day contact with some of the most important practising artists and designers of the time.

The school, masterfully marketed, acquired a reputation and an influence out of all proportion to its physical reality as a single institution in the German provinces. The name Bauhaus soon became a bogey word to adherents of the bourgeois style that it so vigorously opposed. German mothers told their children: "If you don't behave, I'll send you to the Bauhaus."

But to those who responded to its uncompromising vision of the future, the term Bauhaus had a certain magic. The school came to be known for the marvellous masked balls and kite processions, experimental light and music evenings, and "Triadic" abstract ballets that it organised. These occasions welded students of many ages and nationalities together into a community. The Bauhaus was the beginning of the art school as an alternative way of life.

From the workshops of the Bauhaus emanated many products now considered design classics: Marianne Brandt's metalwork; Wilhelm Wagenfeld's table lamp, an opaque glass dome on a nickel-plated shaft; Breuer's deceptively simple tubular steel chair, precursor of the green canvas seated chairs that older readers may remember from their childhood. Bauhaus principles espoused designs whose functional purity set them apart from fashion. But so-called "Bauhaus style" became a fashion in itself - so much so that the description has now become a catch-all, covering work by Modernist designers such as Eileen Gray who were not even there.

The Bauhaus opened in Weimar, but relocated in 1925 after the leftwing Social Democratic Party, which had sponsored it, lost control of the state parliament to nationalists. The school moved to Dessau, a middle-sized industrial city in central Germany. Here Gropius was able to put his most ambitious ideas into practice with a purpose-designed building that combined workshops, lecture rooms, theatre, refectory and student accommodation constructed and fitted out by the Bauhaus staff and students, "the band of fellow workers inspired by a common will".

This was a Modernist utopian project like no other. The completed Bauhaus, with its simple cubic forms and shimmering glass surfaces, was seen to have announced a new international architectural style. The unity was striking: the different functional elements came together to form an abstract geometry, as in a De Stijl painting. To the Russian writer Ilya Ehrenburg, the building seemed "cast of one piece like a persistent thought".

But the Bauhaus could never last in early 1930s Germany. Many Bauhaus staff and students were Jewish; besides, the experimental, abstract direction of the teaching was anathema to the Nazis, who, by 1931, had taken control of the Dessau municipal council. The following autumn, the Bauhaus was closed down, and the Nazis sacked the building, breaking the windows and throwing out the workshop tools. Only international protest prevented them from razing the whole site.

An attempt was made to resurrect the Bauhaus in Berlin in a disused telephone factory. But soon after it reopened, Hitler became chancellor; the Nazi regime was entrenched in opposition to an institution viewed as "one of the most obvious refuges of the Jewish-Marxist conception of 'art'". On April 11 1933, Berlin police raided the premises. Photographs show Bauhaus students being loaded into trucks.

By the time of the closure, many of the staff associated with the Bauhaus in its great creative period were dispersing. Gropius had resigned in 1928. Klee left for Bern and Kandinsky for Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1933. Albers emigrated to America in 1933, where he taught at Black Mountain College in Chicago and developed a foundation course based on the original ideas of the Bauhaus. Moholy-Nagy went to Chicago, where in 1937 he founded his own art institution, the "New Bauhaus", which, like its successor, the Chicago Institute of Design, adopted and expanded Gropius's original curriculum. The Nazis' banning of the Bauhaus only gave its ideas greater international impetus.

London was the first stopping point for many of the émigré masters, who arrived with a touching faith in Britain's liberal traditions. Gropius and his wife, Ise, arrived in 1934, followed by Breuer the next year; together they formed the nucleus of a Bauhaus community in exile at Lawn Road Flats in Hampstead. Wells Coates's early reinforced concrete block of flats was one of very few buildings in London that bore any relation to Modernist ideals.

Disappointingly, Britain in the mid-1930s was less in tune with the Modern than the émigrés had expected, and the opportunities for work, at a period of commercial despondency, were slim. Most travelled on to what the Modernist critic Herbert Read called "the inevitable America". But there were some who stayed, infusing British art schools with Bauhaus principles. Naum Slutsky, the brilliant metalworker who had been master goldsmith at the Weimar Bauhaus, was still teaching at Birmingham as late as 1964.

A search for the surviving Bauhaus spirit in this country would have to start at Impington, the village college in Cambridgeshire designed in 1935 by Gropius in partnership with Maxwell Fry. It was Gropius's only significant architectural commission in this country, and it came from Henry Morris, a notably eccentric and imaginative chief education officer. Morris created the concept of the village college, an education and arts centre for the whole local rural community, from childhood to old age. Gropius and Fry planned the building at Impington with functional wings splaying out from a big, broad, sociable central corridor, already a proven Bauhausian idea.

The Cambridgeshire college was a welcoming building, human in its scale. Nikolaus Pevsner, another German émigré, detected new poetic qualities in Impington: "Can it have been the effect of English picturesque notions on the more rigid intellect of Gropius?" With its splashes of bright colour and its witty porthole windows, this was Bauhaus loosened up, and it set the pattern for progressive school-building in Britain after the war.

The nation also came close to a Bauhaus way of life at Dartington in Devon. This was a fascinating social experiment initiated by Leonard Elmhirst, a Yorkshire-born disciple of Rabindranath Tagore, and his (fortunately) wealthy American wife, Dorothy. One of its main aims, which ran in parallel with Gropius's ambitions at the Bauhaus, was to "integrate the creative artist into the workaday world of realities". Dartington, too, became an avant garde international community committed to a multitude of disciplines - painting and sculpture, music, theatre, dance, modern crafts. The house for the headmaster of the progressive Dartington Hall School was designed in the white-cube Modern style reminiscent of the Bauhaus masters' houses at Dessau. The Ballets Jooss company from Essen, ejected by the Nazis in 1934, were welcomed at Dartington, and pictures of the Jooss dancers give the strange impression of the Bauhaus resurrected in the Totnes countryside.

The Bauhaus started much that we now take for granted. A revolution in the art schools of this country began in the immediate postwar period with the reconstituted Royal College of Art. The new principal, Robin Darwin, was a painter. As at the Bauhaus, the professors were themselves practising architects, artists and designers, stars in their own spheres. RCA students were specifically trained for the emerging design professions. The ethos of the RCA - attuned to new technologies, self-confident, anarchic - quickly spread to other colleges. It was this Bauhausian energy and commitment in the art schools from the 1960s onwards that turned Britain from a predominantly literary culture to the visually alert nation we (sometimes to our surprise) now find ourselves to be.

There was a postwar sequel to the Bauhaus in Germany, too: the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm, opened in 1955. The first rector, the Swiss-born architect Max Bill, a former Bauhaus student, designed the Ulm school buildings in a style best described as late-Bauhaus lookalike. The school had ties to Braun AG, the leading German domestic equipment manufacturers. Braun's beautiful, functional wall clocks, food mixers, radios and record players became, like prewar Bauhaus furniture, their period's cult objects; clean-lined to the point of anonymity, they defined modern design for a generation.

I have always loved Bauhaus's peculiar combination of solemnity and regimented craziness. Over the years, I have met a number of ex-Bauhaus masters, and I visited Ise Gropius, Walter's wife, in the wonderful Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts, shortly before her death in 1982. But it was not until last spring that I saw the Dessau buildings, which had for many years been marooned in communist East Germany. I now understand what Rayner Banham meant when he called the Bauhaus at Dessau "a sacred site". What made it so moving? Not just the architectural coherence of the school and the masters' houses nearby in the pine woods, but the weight of its history. Bauhaus ideas survived to shape the modern world.

· Bauhaus 1919-1933 is at Mima, Middlesbrough, from November 23 to February 17

Information R/evolution

The National Trust for Historic Preservation wrote an article entitled "Beverly Hills Waterworks, Beverly Hills, California," in their insert publication, which is ironically titled "Information."

I defy any one to find an electronic copy of this article!  If you do, then, as this video implies, we  don't need cataloguers and we don't need librarians:

Information R/evolution.

The clock is ticking....find it...NOW.