Hannes Meyer: the “unknown” second Bauhaus director

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Swiss architect Hannes Meyer led the Bauhaus concerning the giants of Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe. As we go on our Bauhaus a hundred collection Checking out the school’s centenary, we profile the director that has a marred legacy.


Meyer is referred to by some as the “unidentified” Bauhaus director. Concealed between the immense shadows of Walter Gropius plus the Bauhaus’ origins, and Mies van der Rohe and its quick demise, Meyer, the second director on the Bauhaus, put in just two decades in the function just before remaining dismissed, ostensibly for political explanations.

His tenure sheds mild on the fraught internal politics with the Bauhaus, and its connection to the broader politics of Germany. Before this nonetheless, and in fact Gropius’ Original cause for selecting him, was to immediate what numerous believed was a protracted-overdue addition to your Bauhaus: the architecture Office.

Swiss architect Hannes Meyer was hired to run the Bauhaus’ architecture department

Meyer was born in Basel in 1889, training as an architect both here and in Berlin, before returning to Switzerland and opening his own practice in 1919. Early on in his career, it was clear that Meyer’s interests lay more in town planning, urban design and the social value of architecture than buildings themselves.

At the end of the first globe war, Meyer labored in Krupp’s Workplace in Essen, creating large new housing estates. He had, some a long time prior to, been to visit the yard metropolis of Letchworth, as well as Bourneville and Port Sunlight, which affected his plans for Freidorf to the Swiss Housing Company, the first total-scale cooperative in Switzerland.

Before joining the Bauhaus, Meyer designed several housing estates including Freidorf. Image is by Werner Friedli

Working with the coop’s founder Bernhard Jaggi, Meyer not only designed the buildings – which he wrote were based “on the modular system of an architectural order” – but worked to figure out how the coop itself would function once residents moved in.

Gropius hired Meyer to guide Bauhaus’ architecture Section

In 1926, Meyer began to collaborate with Hans Witten, manufacturing some of his most popular – albeit unbuilt – styles. Amongst them ended up the Basel Petersschule as well as Geneva League of countries building, a pair of rigorous metal schemes that appear to share Considerably with designs within the Intercontinental Model.

It was with the Basel Petersschule plan that Gropius became aware of Meyer though looking for your director for The brand new architecture Section.

Related story Walter Gropius: the ideas man who founded the Bauhaus

His initial option was Dutch architect and designer Mart Stam, who had collaborated with Meyer over the journal ABC Beiträge zum Bauen (contributions on creating), which they co-Established in Zurich in 1923, in addition to Hans Schmidt and El Lissitsky. But when he declined, the invitation went out to his second option, Meyer, who recognized and joined the school in 1927.

The Bauhaus and Gropius had extensive been struggling with the divide between unique inventive expression and industrial mass manufacturing, a break up concerning the old Bauhaus epitomised by Klee and Kandinsky, and the youthful like Gropius, who needed to make a new style of creative Expert with the device age.

Meyer became director soon after one year

Substantially of The varsity’s rigidity was mysterious to Meyer, who would enter into it as a intense believer in technological know-how’s power to develop mass culture, along with the part from the collective in Innovative operates rather then the individual. In architecture, this translated into functionalism, and a philosophy Meyer termed Die Neue Baulehre (The brand new way to make).

“The new house is usually a prefabricated unit for web-site assembly…an industrial merchandise and a work of experts,” he wrote in the Bauhaus journal in 1928, “…along with the architect? He was an artist and has grown to be a specialist in organisation!”

Meyer designed the DGB Trade Union School, the second largest project undertaken by the Bauhaus, after the school building in Dessau. Photo is by Clemensfranz

After Meyer had been leading the architecture department for just one year, Gropius left the school. He appointed Meyer his replacement as director on 1 April 1928, due to their shared belief in social involvement. It was an appointment that would continue Gropius’ vision for the school but do nothing to quell internal frustrations.

Meyer before long brought The varsity two of its most important making commissions: 5 apartments buildings in Dessau as well as ADGB Trade Union College in Bernau by Berlin, and in 1929 the Bauhaus turned a financial gain for The 1st time. Just one calendar year later on even so, Meyer was forced to go away the school.

Meyer dismissed as a consequence of his communist sympathies

Many have cited The college’s inside divide as opposed to Meyer’s communist sympathies (about which he was normally open) as the main reason behind his dismissal.

But as political tensions grew, the Main mayor of Dessau Fritz Hesse wrote, “issues inside the Bauhaus get A lot more unbearable everyday… communist students were getting the trendsetters… a discussion with Meyer appeared required.”

This dialogue would end in the mayor invoking his Specific correct to dismiss Meyer instantly.

Meyer designed five apartments buildings in Dessau while director of the Bauhaus. Photo is by MH.DE

Meyer prepared for political protest, outlining his thoughts in an open letter to Hesse entitled My Expulsion from the Bauhaus. “It is a crime to offer the stale fodder of yesteryear’s art theories as nourishment to young people who, as designers, will have the society of tomorrow all to themselves,” he wrote.

But it really quickly grew to become obvious that there was no hope of regaining his position, even just after attempts to solicit enable within the Russia.

After Bauhaus Meyer moved towards the USSR and Mexico

As opposed to his colleagues, Meyer would not vacation to America, ripe as it absolutely was with commissions from capitalists. On leaving Germany, Meyer declared, “immediately after a few years of Performing within the capitalist system, I am confident that working beneath these types of circumstances is quite senseless.”

He travelled to Moscow, accepting an invitation to work in city layout for the first five-yr-prepare. He would sooner or later outlive his welcome, but not ahead of scheduling the town of Birobidzhan, the executive centre on the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. He would produce later on in 1942 relating to Soviet architecture, “It’s a really new architectural variety that reflects the corresponding stages of socialist developing in the USSR, as well as the dynamic will to a much better daily life for that 193 million folks of that nation.”

Related story Herbert Bayer: designer of the Bauhaus’ universal typography

In 1936, Meyer relocated to Geneva for 2 many years, ahead of moving to write-up-revolution Mexico, where communist architect Juan O’Gorman was advertising and marketing the need for the really technological architecture that would meet up with the state’s demands. By the point of Meyer’s arrival, momentum had been misplaced, and Meyer struggled to rekindle it as director with the Institute of City Research and Scheduling.

The institute was shut following two a long time, but Meyer would continue on to operate for governmental bodies, where he could thrust the social goal of architecture through hospitals, educational facilities and housing.

He returned to Switzerland in 1949, residing there until finally his death in 1954 – his legacy, marred as it is actually by his Bauhaus dismissal, stays underexposed.

Dezeen’s Bauhaus 100 series explores the enduring influence of the school

The Bauhaus is the most influential art and design school in history. To mark the centenary of the school’s founding, we’ve created a series of articles exploring the school’s key figures and projects.

See the complete Bauhaus a hundred sequence ›

Primary illustration is by Vesa Sammalisto, added illustration is by Jack Bedford.

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