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haiku for the book “Gropius” by Gilbert Lupfer and Paul Sigel

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Mar 12, 2012 01:04 AM
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by bubba of the bubbles ( last modified Mar 11, 2012



up from the Homeland
couldntdraw worth a do-dang
but dude had vision

Gropius was one of the originalModern mavens alongside Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Frank LloydWright. Even though he couldntdraw worth a hoot, he became an architect and worked for the proto-modernist,Peter Behren (many of the early modernists [Le Corbusier and Mies] passedthrough Behrensshop).

Gropius was there when Behrendesigned his most famous structure, the AEG Turbine Factory, in 1910. TheFactory used iron and glass to create an open, airy atmosphere for workers andassembly. Despite the structure being held up by iron beams, Behrens still feltthe need to ground the building withthick and heavy but non-supporting pillars at the corners. Gropius thought thiswas not authentic and that thebuilding had been aestheticallymanipulated.

Peter Behren's AEG Turbine Factory (1910).
 Note thick chunky corners not 
needed to support the building.

Gropius, along with Adolph Meyer, wasable to forge his own path in 1911 with the design of buildings at the Fagus (shoe)Factory, a commission that would last until 1925. With the Fagus Factory,Gropius and Meyer were the first to use structure, reinforced concrete in thiscase, to liberate the outside walls from structural constraints, either real orimagined. They invented the curtain wall (a non-structural wall of windows) andthe glass corner (an architectural jab-in-the-eye of Behrens unnecessarybeefy corners). In 1913, Gropius published an influential article titled The Development ofIndustrial Buildingswhich included photos of factories and grain elevators in the United States(something that later influenced Le Corbusier and Mendelsohn).

Gropius's response to the same problem (1911): 
Glass corners (and a poke in the eye!).

Gropius continued his experiments instructure-free shells with the design and construction of the Model Factory atthe Werkbund Exhibition in Cologne in 1914. With this building he perfected thecurtain wall and also showed the influence of Frank Lloyd Wrights WasmuthPortfolio, published in Germany in 1910.

Gropius's Model Factory (1914)

Between 1914 and 1918, World War Iput a stop to most construction. While this was unfortunate, it was a time formany architects to pause and think about the big picture and how architecturefit into it. Based on those reflections, Gropius started the Bauhaus in 1919with the manifesto that "The final product of all artistic endeavor is thebuilding."

Unlikemany of his contemporaries, Gropius wasn’t political; however, he made afateful decision in 1920 to design a memorial to honor the workerswho lost their lives in the Kapp Putsch, an attempt by right-wing conservatives(proto-Nazis) to overthrow the democratic government. Bauhaus's associationwith the monument came back to haunt him and Bauhaus later when the NationalSocialists came back into power in 1933 and destroyed the monument and shutdown Bauhaus.

Memorial (1920)

In1922, the big architectural “contest” was the design for the Chicago Tribunetower. Chicago was world famous for architecture at that time because of the skyscrapersof Louis Sullivan and the Prairie School of Frank Lloyd Wright. Although a somewhatuninspired (but ultimately beautiful) gothic design was ultimately chosen,Gropius’s Modern design introduced him to a broader swath of the United States.

Chicago Tribune proposal (1922)

By1924, Gropius had embraced “White Modernism” with the Auerbach House in Jena,Germany. He then set forth in 1925 to 1926 designing and building for the newBauhaus in Dessau, Germany, including the houses for the masters (teachers),dormitories for the students, and teaching buildings for the school, all inwhite.

Bauhaus school buildings in Dessau.

Master's house at the Bauhaus in Dessau. 

Auerbach House.

Whenthe National Socialists took power in January 1933, they required architects toregister with the government with the end goal of having architecture definedby the German state. Gropius tried to make the argument to authorities thatModernism was a good fit for Germany because it was guided by rationalism (thatis, function over form). However, the Reich Chamber of Culture, under the bootheel of Joseph Goebbels, found its architectural home in Roman revivalism fusedwith Art Deco (sometimes called “Severe Deco”). With his architectural freedomtaken, Gropius moved to England in 1934 with the goal, not realized, of settingup a new Bauhaus. In 1937, Gropius moved to the United States to be a professorof architecture at Harvard, becoming the chair the following year until hisretirement in 1952.

Gropiusnever quite found his mojo again after leaving Germany, but the house hedesigned and built for himself in 1938 in Massachusetts showed how theInternational Style aptly conveyed to building techniques (wood frame) in theUnited States.

The Gropius crib in Massachusetts (1938).

This isanother one of those fabulous architect books by Taschen I’m currently addictedto. A great introduction to a great architect with lots of great photos.

Sidenote: Gropius is also famous for designing an icon of Modern doorware, thelever handle:

That's purdy!

Side-side note: Check out the submission (below) Adolf Loos had for the Chicago Tribune building. Dude was post-Modern before po-Mo was (un)cool!

Loos: Why you so wacky?




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