Bauhaus Aesthetics: Modernism in Dessau, Germany

Posted in: Germany


The recently re-opened Kornhaus Restaurant on the banks of the River Elbe in Dessau. All photos © hidden europe
The recently re-opened Kornhaus Restaurant on the banks of the River Elbe in Dessau. All photos © hidden europe

We have all been affected by Bauhaus. The distinctive school of art, architecture and design developed in Germany after World War I. This essentially modernist movement thrived in the liberal pieties of the period. But those pieties were ruthlessly quashed by the Nazis, who drove many of the Bauhaus leaders into exile. That cruel expedient led to Bauhaus aesthetics spreading very fast around the world — a touch of political persecution made Bauhaus ideas Germany’s number one export.

Bauhaus thinking so powerfully influenced architecture around the world in the last century that we often forget its German roots. The Bauhaus school existed in Germany for just 14 years (from 1919 to 1933); it was based initially in Weimar and then moved in 1925 to Dessau. And it is in the latter city that students of architecture and design will still find a powerful Bauhaus imprint today.

The main Bauhaus building is an icon.

Bauhaus style in Dessau

The original college building, itself called the Bauhaus, is an icon. The pleasure is in the detail. Visitors can see the very rooms where the masters taught, sit in Kandinsky’s studio and wander through the houses where Paul Klee once lived. Klee and Kandinsky resided in the Meisterhäuser (Masters’ Houses), a group of classic Bauhaus villas that Gropius designed for some of the college’s key staff.

The Kornhaus Restaurant

And there is special reason to head for Dessau this fall or winter. One of the most striking of all Bauhaus buildings is the Kornhaus Restaurant on the bank of the River Elbe. After some years of neglect, it has just this month reopened. It was here, on summer evenings, where the master teachers of the Bauhaus would gather to discuss art, politics and life. But the Kornhaus is a special spot at any time of the year. It is open daily from 11 a.m.

The showpiece Bauhaus main building is open daily. The building itself is the main draw but it houses a good exhibition on modernism (open 10 a.m – 5 p.m., admission €6). The Meisterhäuser are closed Mondays, but open on other days from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is presently €7.50, but there is talk of lower charges from January 2013.

How to get to Dessau

Dessau makes an easy day trip from Berlin. At the moment, direct trains leave about ten times each day from Berlin Wannsee. But the services get a big boost from December 9 with a new direct hourly train from Berlin Hauptbahnhof to Dessau. That hourly frequency applies Monday through Saturdays. On Sundays the new service will run every two hours. Travel time from Berlin to Dessau will be 90 minutes.

About the author


About the authors: Nicky and Susanne manage a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine.

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2 thoughts on “Bauhaus Aesthetics: Modernism in Dessau, Germany”

  1. I agree with Tel Aviv. The White City is full of the world most beautiful modern buildings. Not only it´s because its modern architecture, but it´s also full of an amazing and sad history. I think that Tel Aviv compliments Bauhaus tradition in a great way. However, I didn’t want to talk about Tel Aviv. Thank you for reminding me about Bauhaus style. I always wanted to see the place where it all began. It would be an amazing experience to see the iconic Bauhaus building with my own eyes. Bauhaus was a great inspiration for me, and I´m glad that there are still architects that can remember this tradition in their own designs. USA and Canada sheltered many Bauhaus architects, but you can´t really feel it in here. Of course they are some interesting buildings in Chicago. But it´s too scattered, too cold. There was always something missing in here, mostly thanks to our non-existent historical tradition. Well, still something works, something doesn’t. I can’t vote against Wright, but many others are questionable. I did the research where I tried to find the best examples and unfortunately I ended up the other way, with the ugliest ones. Modern architecture can easily go overboard. With design, with decorations, or when it simply wants to appeal too much.


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