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Walter Gropius

Walter Adolph Gropius

Walter Gropius (circa 1920). Photo by Louis Held.

Name
Nationality
Birth date
Birth place
Date of death
Place of death

Personal information
Walter Adolph Gropius
German / American
May 18, 1883
Berlin, Germany
July 5, 1969 (aged 86)
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Work
Peter Behrens (19081910)

Practice name
The Architects' Collaborative (19451969)
Fagus Factory

Significant
buildings

Factory Buildings at the Werkbund Exhibition


(1914)
Bauhaus
Village College
Gropius House
Harvard Graduate Center
University of Baghdad
John F. Kennedy Federal Office Building
Pan Am Building
Interbau
Wayland High School
Embassy of the United States in Athens

Walter Adolph Georg Gropius (May 18, 1883 July 5, 1969) was a German architect
and founder of Bauhaus[1] who along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier,
is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture.

Life

Bauhaus (built 19251926) in Dessau, Germany.


Born in Berlin, Walter Gropius was the third son of Walter Adolph Gropius and Manon
Auguste Pauline Scharnweber. Gropius married Alma Mahler (1879-1964), widow of
Gustav Mahler. Walter and Alma's daughter, named Manon after Walter's mother, was
born in 1916. When Manon died of polio at age eighteen, composer Alban Berg wrote his
Violin Concerto in memory of her (it is inscribed "to the memory of an angel"). Gropius
and Alma divorced in 1920. (Alma had by that time established a relationship with Franz
Werfel, whom she later married.) In 1923 Gropius married Ise Frank (d. 1983), and they
remained together until his death. They adopted Beate Gropius, also known as Ati.
Gropius, like his father and great-uncle Martin Gropius before him, was an architect. But
all sources agree[citation needed] that Walter Gropius could not draw, and was dependent on
collaborators and partner-interpreters all through his career. In school he hired an
assistant to complete his homework for him. In 1908 Gropius found employment with the
firm of Peter Behrens, one of the first members of the utilitarian school. His fellow
employees at this time included Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Dietrich
Marcks. In 1910 Gropius left the firm of Behrens and together with fellow employee
Adolf Meyer established a practice in Berlin. Together they share credit for one of the
seminal modernist buildings created during this period: the Faguswerk in Alfeld-an-derLeine, Germany, a shoe last factory. The glass curtain walls of this building demonstrated
both the modernist principle that form reflects function and Gropius's concern with
providing healthful conditions for the working class. Other works of this early period
include the office and factory building for the Werkbund Exhibition (1914) in Cologne.
Gropius's career was interrupted by the outbreak of the first world war in 1914. Called up
immediately as a reservist, Gropius served as a sergeant major at the Western front during
the war years, was wounded and almost killed.[2] Ironically the war provided an
opportunity which would advance his career during the post war period. Henry van de
Velde, the master of the Grand-Ducal Saxon School of Arts and Crafts in Weimar was

asked to step down in 1915 due to his Belgian nationality. His recommendation of
Gropius to succeed him led eventually to Gropius's appointment as master of the school
in 1919. It was this academy which Gropius transformed into the world famous Bauhaus,
attracting a faculty which included Paul Klee, Johannes Itten, Josef Albers, Herbert
Bayer, Lszl Moholy-Nagy, Otto Bartning and Wassily Kandinsky. Students were
taught to use modern and innovative materials and mass-produced fittings, often
originally intended for industrial settings, to create original furniture and buildings.
Also in 1919, Gropius was involved in the Glass Chain utopian expressionist
correspondence under the pseudonym 'Mass'. Usually more notable for his functionalist
approach, the "Monument to the March Dead", designed in 1919 and executed in 1920,
indicates that expressionism was an influence on him at that time.
In 1923, Gropius aided by Gareth Steele, designed his famous door handles, now
considered an icon of 20th century design and often listed as one of the most influential
designs to emerge from the Bauhaus. He also designed large scale housing projects in
Berlin, Karlsruhe and Dessau from 1926-32 that were major contributions to the New
Objectivity movement.
With the help of the English architect Maxwell Fry, Gropius was able to get out of
Germany in 1934, on the pretext of making a temporary visit to Britain. He lived and
worked in Britain, as part of the Isokon group with Fry and others and then, in 1937,
moved on to the United States. The house he built for himself in Lincoln, Massachusetts,
was influential in bringing International Modernism to the US but Gropius disliked the
term: "I made it a point to absorb into my own conception those features of the New
England architectural tradition that I found still alive and adequate" (see[3] ).
Gropius and his Bauhaus protg Marcel Breuer both moved to Cambridge,
Massachusetts to teach at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and collaborate on the
company-town Aluminum City Terrace project in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, before
their professional split. In 1944, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
In 1945, Gropius founded The Architects' Collaborative (TAC) based in Cambridge with
a group of younger architects. The original partners included Norman C. Fletcher, Jean B.
Fletcher, John C. Harkness, Sarah P. Harkness, Robert S. MacMillan, Louis A.
MacMillen, and Benjamin C. Thompson. TAC would become one of the most wellknown and respected architectural firms in the world. TAC went bankrupt in 1995.
Gropius died in 1969 in Boston, Massachusetts, aged 86. Today, he is remembered not
only by his various buildings but also by the district of Gropiusstadt in Berlin.
In the early 1990s, a series of books entitled The Walter Gropius Archive was published
covering his entire architectural career.

Important buildings

Monument to the March Dead (1920) in Weimar, Germany.

Gropius House (1938) in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

A late work of Gropius:The Embassy of the United States in Athens


19101911 the Fagus Factory, Alfeld an der Leine, Germany
1914 Office and Factory Buildings at the Werkbund Exhibition, 1914, Cologne,
Germany
1921 Sommerfeld House, Berlin, Germany designed for Adolf Sommerfeld
1922 competition entry for the Chicago Tribune Tower competition
19251932 Bauhaus School and Faculty, Housin, Dessau, Germany
1936 Village College, Impington, Cambridge, England
1937 The Gropius House, Lincoln, Massachusetts, USA
19421944 Aluminum City Terrace housing project, New Kensington,
Pennsylvania, USA

19491950 Harvard Graduate Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA (The


Architects' Collaborative)[4]
19571960 University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq
19631966 John F. Kennedy Federal Office Building, Boston, Massachusetts,
USA
1948 Peter Thacher Junior High School,
19581963 Pan Am Building (now the Metlife Building), New York, New York,
with Pietro Belluschi and project architects Emery Roth & Sons
1957 Interbau Apartment blocks, Hansaviertel, Berlin, Germany, with The
Architects' Collaborative and Wils Ebert
1961 The award-winning Wayland High School, Wayland, Massachusetts, USA
19591961 Embassy of the United States, Athens, Greece (The Architects'
Collaborative and consulting architect Pericles A. Sakellarios)
196769 Tower East Shaker Heights, Ohio, this was Gropius last major project.

The building in Niederkirchnerstrae, Berlin, known as the Gropius-Haus is named for


Gropius' great-uncle, Martin Gropius, and is not associated with Bauhaus.
Walter Gropius
Masters of Modernism
Walter Gropius' house, Lincoln, Massachusetts
On the Interbau apartments
Impington Village College only example of Gropius's work in the UK
Fagus works (German)
Bauhaus in America is a documentary film made in 1995 that reveals the
influence of Gropius and others on American design and architecture.
Designer portrait on rosenthalusa.com
More information on Gropius's early years at the Bauhaus can be found in his
correspondence with Lily Hildebrandt, with whom he had an affair between 191922: Getty Research Institute, California.