One can find documents related to the Swiss architect Hannes Meyer (1889–1954) in several archives, namely the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) in Zürich, the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles and the Bauhaus archives in Weimar, Dessau and Berlin. However, the bulk of his private papers are housed in the archives of the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt am Main (DAM), which hold most of Meyer’s personal letters, photographs, photocopies, scrapbooks, as well as published and unpublished articles. Examining this archive allows the diligent researcher to better understand Meyer’s complex personality, the scope of his interests, the evolution of his politics and his architectural career before, during, and after the Bauhaus—in Switzerland, Germany, the Soviet Union and Mexico. Among the many correspondences Meyer maintained that are now preserved in this archive is a batch of letters between Meyer and the Bauhaus-trained architect of Hungarian origin, Tibor Weiner (1906–1965).
Take for instance an undated letter Weiner wrote to Meyer in the beginning of 1938 which the younger architect ends by stating: “Then you also asked me what are my thoughts on Central Europe? I want to get to the other end of the world as soon as possible, if not on the moon.”1 Written shortly after Weiner’s arrival in Paris, this early letter is part of a correspondence—at times continuous, in other periods intermittent—spanning more than two decades. At the time it was written, Meyer and Weiner had known each other for eight years, having first met at the Bauhaus in Dessau and then spent much of the 1930s in the Soviet Union (living most of the time in the same apartment at Arbat Square in Moscow). Now they were, respectively, in France and Switzerland. The two men had much in common. Aside from being formerly teacher and student, fellow travelers and, eventually, Communist Party members (although in different moments and in different places), Meyer and Weiner both came from landlocked Central European countries and shared a common past, as noted above, at the Bauhaus in Dessau and the Soviet Union. They both eventually migrated to Latin American countries during the Second World War, Weiner in Chile and Meyer in Mexico. Later, they both returned to their native countries—with Meyer returning to Switzerland and Weiner to the other side of the Iron Curtain in Hungary—a few years after the war’s conclusion. The correspondence between the two can be characterized as an exchange of letters between a protagonist—Meyer—who due to his historical importance had his effects inscribed in several different archives, and a supporting character—Weiner—whose life story is more elusive and whose scant surviving papers are scattered between family members and at the archive of the Hungarian Museum of Architecture in Budapest. This correspondence is valuable for the insight it provides into aspects of Meyer’s life and work but it also provides a key to understanding the life and career of Weiner, who was certainly influenced by his former teacher, but went on to build a career entirely of his own making.