Gropius, Walter 1883-1969

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GROPIUS, Walter 1883-1969

PERSONAL: Born May 18, 1883, in Berlin, Germany; immigrated to London, England, 1934; immigrated to the United States, 1937; died July 5, 1969, in Boston, MA; married; wife's name, Ise; children: Ati (daughter).

CAREER: Architect. Worked in the practice of Peter Behrens, Berlin, Germany, 1907-10; private practice with Adolph Meyer, 1910; Weimer School of Art (renamed Bauhaus, 1919; moved to Dessau, 1925), director, 1918-34; Maxwell Fry, London, England, architect, 1934-37; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, graduate School of Design, professor of architecture, chairman of department, 1937-52; in practice with Marcel Breuer, 1938-43; founder of The Architects' Collaborative (TAC), Cambridge, 1945. Architectural works include: workers' houses, Janikow, near Dramburg, Germany, 1906-09; Fagus-Werk, Alfeld-an-der-Leine, Germany (with Adolf Meyer), 1911; World's Fair, Ghent, Belgium (interiors), 1913; Werkbund Exhibition, Cologne, Germany (with Meyer), 1913-14; Adolf Sommerfeld House, Dahlem, Berlin, Germany, 1921; Chicago Tribune Building (competition entry), 1922; State Theater, Jena, Germany (renovation; with Meyer), 1923-24; Auerbach House, Jena (with Meyer), 1924; director's house at the Bauhaus, Dessau, Germany, 1925; Gropius residence, Dessau, Germany, 1925; Bauhaus building, Dessau, 1925-26; Muller factory, Kirchbraach, Germany, 1926; terrace houses, groups I and II, Törten, Dessau, 1926; Weissenhof houses (two), Stuttgart, Germany, 1926-27; Zuckerkandd House, Jena, 1927; terrace houses, group III, Törten, 1927; Dammerstock housing, near Karlsruhe, Germany, 1927-28; city labor office (Arbeitsamt), Dessau, 1927-28; Lewin House, Zehlendorf, Berlin, 1928; terrace houses, group IV, Törten, 1928; Feder Furniture Stores, Berlin, 1929; Am Lindenbaum housing development, Frankfurt, Germany, 1929; Spandel-Haselhorst housing development, Berlin, 1929; (supervising architect) Siemensstadt District, Germany, 1929-30; copper houses, Finow, Germany, 1931; Bahner House, Berlin, 1933; Maurer House, Dahlem, Berlin, 1933; apartments, St. Leonard's Hill, Windsor, Berkshire, England (with E. Maxwell Fry), 1935; London Film Productions laboratories, Denham, Buckinghamshire, England (with Fry), 1936; Donaldson House, Sussex, England (with Fry), 1936; Levy House, Chelsea, London (with Fry), 1936; Impington Village School, Cambridgeshire, England (with Fry), 1936; Gropius House, Lincoln, MA (with Marcel Breuer), 1937; Professor J. Ford House, Lincoln, MA (with Marcel Breuer), 1938; Hagerty House, Cohasset, MA (with Marcel Breuer), 1938; Chamberlain House, Sudbury, MA (with Marcel Breuer), 1939; Frank Mansion, Pittsburgh, PA (with Breuer), 1939; housing development, New Kensington, PA (with Breuer), 1941; Abele House, Framingham, MA (with Breuer), 1941; Catholic church, Torreon, Mexico (with J. Gonzales Rejna), 1945; junior high school, Attleboro, MA (with The Architects' Collaborative [TAC]), 1948; Harvard University Graduate Center, Cambridge, MA (with TAC), 1949-50; Wherry District housing, Quonset, RI, 1953; Interbau apartment, Berlin, Germany (with TAC), 1955; U.S. Embassy, Athens, Greece (with TAC), 1956; Pan American building, New York, NY (with Pietro Belluschi), 1957; University of Baghdad, Iraq (with TAC), 1957; Temple Oheb Shalom, Baltimore, MD (with TAC), 1958; Academic Quadrangle, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, 1959; office and apartment building, London (with TAC), 1960; school, Berlin, (with TAC), 1962; Rosenthal Ceramics Factory, Selb, Germany (with TAC), 1963; Thomas Glass Factory, Amberg, Germany (with TAC), 1967; Tower East office building, Cleveland, OH, 1967; Huntington Gallery, Huntington, WV (with TAC), 1968; John F. Kennedy Federal Office Building, Boston, MA, 1968.

AWARDS, HONORS: Gold Medal, American Institute of Architects, 1959.


Programm des stätlichen Bauhauses, [Weimar, Germany], 1919.

Idee and Aufbau des stätlichen Bauhauses, [Munich and Weimar, Germany], 1923.

(Editor) Neue Arbeiten in Bauhauswerkstätten, [Munich, Germany], 1925.

Internationale Architektur, A. Langen (Munich, Germany), 1925.

Bauhausbauten, [Munich and Dessau, Germany], 1928.

The New Architecture and the Bauhaus, translated from the German by P. Morton Shand, Faber & Faber (London, England), 1935, Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), 1937, reprinted, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1965.

(Editor, with Herbert Bayer and wife, Ise Gropius) Bauhaus 1919-1928, Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), 1938, reprinted, Arno Press (New York, NY), 1972.

Rebuilding Our Communities, P. Theobald (Chicago, IL), 1945.

Architecture and Design in the Age of Science, [New York, NY], 1952.

Scope of Total Architecture, Harper (New York, NY), 1955.

Architektur: Wege zur optischen Kultur, [Frankfurt and Hamburg, Germany], 1956.

(With Kenzo Tange and Yasuhiro Ishimoto) Katsura:Tradition and Creation in Japanese Architecture, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1960.

(Editor, with Arthur S. Wensinger) The Theater of theBauhaus, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 1961, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1996.

(Editor, with others) The Architects Collaborative,1945-1965, Architectural Book Publishing (New York, NY), 1966.

Vertical City, [Urbana, IL], 1968.

Apollo in the Democracy: The Cultural Obligation of the Architect, translated and edited by Ise Gropius, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1968.

(With TAC) Town Plan for the Development of Selb, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1970.

Walter Gropius: Das Spätwerk (exhibition catalog), [Darmstadt, Germany] 1970.

Walter Gropius: Buildings, Plans, Projects 1906-1969 (exhibition catalog), introduction by James Marston Fitch, [Washington, DC], 1973.

SIDELIGHTS: German-born architect Walter Gropius spent the second half of his life in the United States and made significant contributions to the field of design on both continents. He was the father of functionality, and he and his peers felt that buildings and objects should be designed for maximum efficiency and simplicity of use.

Gropius was not formally trained as an architect, but he learned from Peter Behrens, one of the German architects who influenced the British Arts and Crafts movement and whose goal was to adapt good design to machine production. In 1910 Gropius set up practice with Adolf Meyer. They designed the Fagus Works in Alfeld an der Leine in 1911 and the office building at the Werkbund Exhibition in Cologne in 1914, using a combination of masonry and steel construction from which external glass sheathing was hung. The plan of the Cologne building was axially designed in the Beaux-Arts tradition, but the major influence was predominantly that of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose "prairie houses" were widely known in Europe through the 1910 and 1911 publications of Ernst Wasmuth in Berlin. Gropius and Meyer were influenced by Wright's style, especially in the horizontality and the wide overhanging eaves, but also in the symmetry, the corner pavilions, and the whole spirit of Wright's concept.

In 1919, after becoming director of the Weimer School of Art, Gropius renamed it the Bauhaus, which means "building house," and in 1925 moved it from Weimar to Dessau, where he designed a new building and four residences for instructors. They resembled interlocking cubes, set like sculptures in a pine forest close to the school. These "master houses," which were occupied by Gropius, and by such faculty as Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Oskar Schlemmer, included the tubular steel furniture of Marcel Breuer. The only building to survive World War II was the house that had been shared by Klee and Kandinsky; it was restored at a cost of $1.3 million after it was included on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1996.

While at the Bauhaus, Gropius wrote the first of a series of Bauhaus books, Internationale Architektur. Perhaps the earliest published compendium of modernism and protomodernism, this book is credited with identifying the emerging aesthetic that would later be dubbed international style. From such seminal works as the classical AEG factories of his mentor, Peter Behrens, and Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin building, to revolutionary works such as Erich Mendelsohn's Hat factory, Gerrit Rietveld's Schroeder House, Le Corbusier's Citrohan House, and his own design for the Chicago Tribune building, as early as the writing of this book in 1924 Gropius had selected the landmark modern designs that continued to be influential well after his death,proving his vision to be enduring. Next to these works, he transposed the unconscious architecture of the American grain silo, and the sophisticated skyline of Manhattan, which he had seen on a visit during the 1920s. He was one of the first Europeans to grasp fully the vast American potential for modernism.

Gropius designed theaters, houses, and industrial buildings. He also made significant contributions to the typologies of mass housing, or siedlungen, and to the modern open-plan school; his works can be studied for their primary emphasis on either social or aesthetic concerns. Outstanding among the socially significant works to which he was committed is the Siemensstädt Siedlung, built in 1929 and considered the finest of Gropius's German wohnungstyp for the working man. The complex included the light, air, and individual balconies and common open space of his theoretical housing designs of the 1920s and early 1930s in a fully unified, sleek, white design on a monumental scale. Also in the category of socially inspired works was Impington Village College, built in 1936 in collaboration with E. Maxwell Fry. This school and community center became a demonstration project for the social benefit of the common man. It was sponsored by an elite band of British liberal architects and intellectuals who had brought Gropius to their country as a refugee in 1934 after he was driven out of Germany by the Nazis.

After Gropius immigrated to the United States in 1937, one of his first projects was the house he built, with Marcel Breuer, in Lincoln, Massachusetts. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the construction of this house, a writer for Interior Design, who was also a student of Gropius, wrote that "as if prophetically, Gropius sensed the inherent weakness in the world fully coming to terms with our time. He wrote in 1946 that there is no such thing as an 'International Style' unless we speak of the ubiquitous 'applied archaeology' being practiced everywhere. The architecture of our time, he said, is in constant flux by its very definition, rather than consisting of a set form of rigid images."

Gropius headed Harvard University's School of Architecture from 1937 to 1952. He and a group of architects with whom he worked on the Harvard Graduate Center formed The Architects Collaborative (TAC), and were responsible for the design of many buildings in the United States and abroad. Gropius published a number of books as author or editor, including The Theater of the Bauhaus, which was reprinted by Johns Hopkins University Press in 1996.

A Design Week contributor covering a show of Bauhaus photographs being exhibited by the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London in 2003 noted that "1250 students passed through the Bauhaus doors. Those students then spread the Bauhaus philosophy of art and industry working hand-in-hand. As Michael Hoppen himself says, 'If you have used an adjustable reading lamp, or live in a house partly or entirely constructed from prefabricated materials, then you are closer to the Bauhaus influence than you might realize.'"



Fitch, James Marston, Walter Gropius, [New York, NY], 1960.

Herbert, Gilbert, The Dream of the Factory-madeHouse: Walter Gropius and Konrad Wachsmann, [Cambridge, MA], 1984.

Herdeg, Klaus, The Decorated Diagram: HarvardArchitecture and the Failure of the Bauhaus Legacy, [Cambridge, MA], 1984.

Isaacs, Reginald R., Gropius: An Illustrated Biography of the Creator of the Bauhaus, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1991.

Jaeggi, Annemarie, Fagus: Industrial Culture fromWerkbund to Bauhaus, Princeton Architectural Press (Princeton, NJ), 2000.

Lane, Barbara Miller, Architecture and Politics inGermany: 1918-1945, [Cambridge, MA], 1968.

Nerdinger, Winfried, editor, The Walter Gropius Archive: The Collection of the Busch-Riesinger Museum, [New York, NY], 1990.


Architectural Record, March, 2003, Suzanne Stephens, "Do Recent Collaborations of Design Architects for the WTC Site Show that Gropius Had It Right?," p. 65.

Choice, February, 1966, review of The New Architecture of the Bauhaus, p. 765; July-August, 1969, review of Apollo in the Democracy: The Cultural Obligation of the Architect, p. 639.

Design Week, November 20, 2003, "Image School," p. 36.

Interior Design, January, 1989, "Gropius House Fiftieth Anniversary," p. 162; March, 2004, Ned Cramer, "The Bauhaus Effect," p. 170.

Interiors, May, 2000, Gerrit Terstiege, "Walter, Walter, Everywhere," p. 61.

Theater Journal, October, 1998, Dean Wilcox, review of The Theater of the Bauhaus, pp. 405-407.

Times Literary Supplement, October 3, 1980, John Willett, review of Bauhaus: A Selection of Publications, p. 1102.*



Architectural Record, August, 1969.

Design, August, 1969.

Newsweek, July 14, 1969.

New York Times, July 6, 1969.

Progressive Architecture, August, 1969.

Royal Institute of British Architects Journal, August, 1969.

Times (London, England), July 7, 1969.*