The Kornhaus, a restaurant and pub, was erected in 1929–30 on the banks of the Elbe near the steamship pier, and commissioned by the city of Dessau and the Schultheiss-Patzenhofer Brewery. The name commemorates the granary that stood there from the mid-1800s until the 1870s.The Kornhaus was planned by Bauhaus architect Carl Fieger and built using a mix of construction techniques with brickwork walls and a reinforced concrete frame. The individual cubic corpora are grouped around the kitchen and the catering block. The upper floor included a dance hall and a restaurant area from which one reached the banks of the Elbe. The front, semicircular building in the west was originally conceived as an open balcony, but in mid-construction, was closed in with glass. The basement floor featured a bar with a separate entrance.In spite of several refurbishments, many of the Kornhaus’ original features are still preserved. Renovated in 1996, the building is today once more open to the public – a historically resonant meeting place in one of Dessau’s most attractive places.
In 1925, the city of Dessau commissioned Walter Gropius with the construction of three semidetached houses for the Bauhaus masters and a detached house for its director. The plot lies in a small pine-tree wood where Ebertallee stands today – one of the axes of the Dessau Wörlitz Garden Realm between the Seven Pillars of the Georgium and Amaliensitz. In 1926, Gropius and the Bauhaus masters László Moholy-Nagy and Lyonel Feininger, Georg Muche and Oskar Schlemmer as well as Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee were able to move in with their families. Later tenants included Hannes Meyer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Josef Albers, Hinnerk Scheper and Alfred Arndt.
The façade of the Director’s House (Gropius) was the only one to feature asymmetrically arranged windows. The sides facing away from the street have generous terraces and balconies. The houses are painted in light tones and the window frames, the undersides of balconies and down pipes in stronger colours. All the houses were equipped with modern furniture, and fitted cupboards were integrated between the kitchen service area and the dining room and between the bedroom and the studio. While Gropius and Moholy-Nagy fitted their houses exclusively with furniture by Marcel Breuer, the other masters brought their own furniture with them. The artists also developed their own ideas with respect to the arrangement of colour, which, with Klee and Kandinsky, for example, was closely related to their own artistic work.In 1932, the Trinkhalle (refreshment kiosk) was built at the easternmost point of the estate. This small building was the only design by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to be realised in Dessau. It was demolished in 1970, and a pavement inlay today marks the site where the building once stood.
Following the closure of the Bauhaus in 1932, the houses were otherwise let. During the war, the Director’s House was almost completely destroyed; only the basement block remained. Both the garage and the Moholy-Nagy House were completely demolished. In 1956, a detached house with a gable roof was built on the foundations of the Director’s House. Apparently, the building’s owner was denied permission to reconstruct the original, although the reasons for this remain unclear. Comprehensive renovation work on the preserved Masters’ Houses started in 1992. The Kandinsky/Klee House is particularly fascinating because of its interior colour design.
The famous American painter and graphic artist Lyonel Feininger (1871 – 1956) lived in Dessau for some years in the 1920s just like his artist colleagues Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, László Moholy-Nagy and Oskar Schlemmer. In 1919 he was appointed to be the first Master of the State Bauhaus in Weimar by Walter Gropius, Bauhaus founder and Architect of the Dessau Bauhaus building. On Gropius‘ wishes Feininger moved with the Bauhaus from Weimar to Dessau and stayed with the school nearly the longest of all his colleagues. He spent the years in Dessau experimenting, this was the time when some of his most important works emerged.The move from Weimar to Dessau was not easy for Feininger. He declined a chair at the Bauhaus school in Weimar, the successor institution of the Bauhaus. His friendship with Walter Gropius, his artist colleagues and his loyalty to the Bauhaus community seemed to be very important to him in spite of growing differences. What clinched the decision for him was the chance to follow his own artistic inclinations without having to teach. When Fritz Hesse, the mayor of Dessau visited the Bauhaus in Weimar to bring it to Dessau and was received by Kandinsky and Feininger, Feininger hald already declared that he would go to Dessau if he did not have to teach. Both the town and his Bauhaus colleagues accepted this decision. Lyonel Feininger’s relationship with the Bauhaus was ambivalent. On the one hand he valued his personal contacts and the intellectual interchange with the other painters, on the other hand he distanced himself from the institution that called itself a College of Form but that was concentrating more and more on design.
In July 1926 the Bauhaus had long since moved to Dessau and, shortly before the opening of the Bauhaus building, Feininger moved into one of the Master’s Houses designed by Gropius. Feininger’s position at the Bauhaus was unique. He belonged to the teaching staff at a school but he did not have to teach, he only had to create an atmosphere. This was an indication as to how open and unconventional the intellectual climate at the Bauhaus was, and how much esteem the artist personality enjoyed.
Feininger who had a special aura offered Bauhaus students the possibility to take part in a consultation in his atelier where he explained his works. He was convinced that art could not be taught so he tried to influence his students with conversations rather than didactic lecturing. It is thus possible to talk of a third private Bauhaus painting class alongside those of Klee and Kandinsky.
Feininger only took part sporadically in the Bauhaus life. Now and again he went to the popular parties (sometimes in fancy dress) but he normally kept a low profile.
The Bauhaus acknowledged him with exhibitions. Even the second Bauhaus director Hannes Meyer, who did not really know how to handle Feininger, used the photograph of the great master’s pointing finger for a Bauhaus brochure. The integrity of Feininger and his work withstood all Bauhaus disputes.
In late autumn 1933 the Bauhaus was banished from Dessau due to the rising power of the right wing parties. The Feininger family, who still lived in one of the Master’s Houses, had to leave Dessau too. The Bauhaus reopened in Berlin but closed shortly thereafter. The Feiningers later emigrated to USA.
Lyonel Feininger’s former house has been open for visitors since its reconstruction in 1994; it houses the Kurt-Weill Centre in Dessau. The building’s colouring is remarkable. The colourful stairwell and the spacious light atelier will impress every visitor.
„Gentlemen, we’re through with Weimaring, let’s go Dessauing!“
Lyonel Feininger, 1925
More about Bauhaus here!
Photos: Enric Boixadós
For a long time I love the Bauhaus architecture. I always passed Dessau on my way to Berlin, but it has been my wish to visit. And finally, I made it. And what I discovered was magnificent. Every Bauhaus lover should go there and see it with own eyes.The Bauhaus has a special role to play in the history of 20th century culture, architecture, design, art and new media. As a School of Design, the Bauhaus revolutionised artistic and architectural thinking and production worldwide, and is considered a headstone of the Modern age, which may be visited in Dessau until nowadays.
Dessau is the city with which the Bauhaus is most closely associated worldwide. This is not only because the Bauhaus exerted its influence here longer than elsewhere, and experienced its heyday here. Dessau is also the only place in which the 3 Bauhaus directors – Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – were active and where almost all the Bauhaus buildings were built. These are now regarded as icons of 20th century architecture.
Bauhaus Dessau Foundation was established in 1994 and is dedicated to the preservation of a rich legacy and simultaneously makes contributions to shaping the environment of modern life. The foundation is supposed to collect things, which document and explore ideas of the historical Bauhaus, to provide the workshop’s planning and to develop the academy as an institution of teaching. Conferences and seminars as well as exchange with international students and experts of different fields are completing the profile.
Thus, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation has become an important institution for scientific research of Bauhaus history and for present day’s design discourse. Bauhaus Dessau once again has great impetus on architecture, design and fine arts. Photos: Enric Boixadós