bauhaus
imaginista
●Edition 3: Moving Away
Article

“All artists interlock!”

How Bauhäuslers created the “New Germany” and promoted the national economy

The Third Reich was in ruins, the surrender not yet signed. An architect painstakingly working his way through the debris to the Schöneberg town hall found a sign on the door of the building authority with his name. Appointed to office by the German Communist Party (KPD), city counselor Hans Scharoun immediately looked around for his people: “I’ve looked everywhere for you, where are you? Here we go!”

Scharoun immediately brought two men who once had been close to Walter Gropius and Ludwig Hilberseimer into official positions—Wils Ebert and Selman Selmanagić, two former students of the Bauhaus, which under Hannes Meyer had become pronouncedly proletarian. Together with Albert Buske, Max Gebhardt, and Waldemar Alder, Ebert and Selmanagić—a trained locksmith and social democrat and a carpenter and communist respectively—immediately began to establish strategic collectives in all the design and rebuilding fields, looking forty years into the future—a trade fair collective, a furniture collective, a collective for industrial construction, a collective for the reform of art academies, and a planning collective that would for the next five years organize the reconstruction of Germany’s capital.

In this, one easily recognizes the co-op principle of the Meyer era, discovering a resemblance to co-op 2 via Hajo Rose and his advertising agency in Amsterdam, which was linked to the Dutch resistance. Bauhaus affiliation and/or contact to the ABC Group Basel, experience of resistance and many years of membership in one or another of the various Marxist parties, whether KPD, KPO, or SAP, were the basis for the extremely effective network structures to which Mart Stam, Ida Falkenberg-Liefrinck, and Hajo Rose belonged. In addition to Stam, Falkenberg-Liefrinck, and Rose, other Bauhäuslers who gathered after the war in the soon-to-be GDR were Franz Ehrlich and Kurt Junghanns—one liberated from the concentration camp Buchenwald and the other from Sachsenhausen—the whole circle of friends from the German city of Hagen (Albert Buske, Max Gebhard, Waldemar Alder, Heinrich Brocksieper), as well as Hubert Hoffmann and Kurt Kranz, Herbert Hirche, Joost Schmidt, Alfred Arndt, Klaus Wittkugel, Theo Balden, Gustav Hassenpflug, Peter Keler, and Marianne Brandt—who all hailed from different parts of Germany.

They all became linked together through quasi-institutional cooperative Bauhaus structures—the Hellerau Workshops, the Leipzig Trade Fair Office, various reconstruction collectives in Dresden, Dessau, Thuringia, as well as the various postwar attempts to reestablish the Bauhaus. Many had been members of the Rote Zelle, the KOSTUFRA (Kommunistische Studentenfraktion) and, especially during the Bauhaus period in Berlin, the Kollektiv für sozialistisches Bauen (Collective for Socialist Architecture), located near the MASCH (Marxist Workers’ School). Since Mies van der Rohe also arranged for his students to audit the classes of Heinrich Tessenow and Hans Poelzig, they met students of the TU Charlottenburg, who, in addition to their studies, worked mainly for GEHAG (Gemeinnützige Heimstätten-, Spar-, und Bau-Aktiengesellschaft). Therefore, in addition to the rapidly established networks of a party/political nature, connections with industry, foreign trade, and the development of practical link with the municipal housing industry loomed large in these associations.

The Berliner Planungskollektiv (Berlin Planning Collective) in 1946, from left to right: Hans Scharoun, Selman Selmanagić, Reinhold Lingner, Luise Seitz, Herbert Weinberger, Wils Ebert.
Estate Family Selmanagić.

Selman Selmanagić commented on this as follows: “Urban planning, trade fair construction, advertising, that was political work for us.”1 Archived correspondence and minutes of meetings from the estate give evidence of how one player took over from the other in these activities: Albert Buske set up the trade fair office, Selmanagić negotiated, Wils Ebert represented him, Kurt Kranz or Hajo Rose produced graphic illustrations for the joint work. Services offered encompassed the full range of Bauhaus know-how: architecture, interior design, ceramics, color design, signets, letterheads, and, above all, innovative trade fair designs. In addition, factories and printshops were rebuilt, and exhibitions for China, Romania, and Bulgaria were staged. More than two dozen collective exhibitions, four of them for the People’s Republic of China, were the sole responsibility of Selmanagić, who in this way carried the reputation of the Bauhaus to Beijing, and also Cairo.2

Of all these co-op-like collectives, the Berliner Planungskollektiv (Berlin Planning Collective) is the most thoroughly researched. However, the planning work it produced has never been regarded as derivative of the Bauhaus, and certainly not programmatically communistic.3 This is due to the fact that the well-known Berliner Kollektivplan (Berlin Collective Plan) of 1946 is most commonly, albeit wrongly, referred to as the Scharounplan. As with all the other Bauhäusler collectives of the time, a handshake was enough to decide on a collaboration. For example, designs for the participatory exhibition Berlin plant. Erster Bericht and Berlin baut auf—as with the extensive exhibition planning itself—were based on a detailed analysis of its Bauhaus origins.4

My central thesis is that immediately after the war a group of designers took up the legacy of Meyer’s Bauhaus by performing fundamental work in the fields of advertising, exhibition design, furniture production, and urban planning for Berlin, Dessau, and Dresden—all projects undertaken on behalf of a society based on a planned economy that was, in addition, comprehensively cooperative. This vision for the planning and construction of a socialist society, last prevalent at the Bauhaus in 1930, was presented in an aesthetically adept manner. The small Bauhaus groups operated through established political and ecclesiastical resistance structures and networks, and, like the Berlin Planning Collective, had at their disposal a well-developed set of spatial planning instruments and a differentiated visual system of “popular” signs, whose tonality and meaning could be objectively and hermeneutically filtered out from the different objects and material produced—furniture, elaborately designed advertising brochures, spatial images, and speech acts. The following characteristics catch the eye in such an analysis: the idea of non-profit collective work and socialized production, the concept of Volksbedarf (popular demand) based on “brotherhood” (Mart Stam), a special interest in the spatiality of organized leisure inspired by promenades, sports facilities, and clubs, and, last but not least, a pronounced preference for employing a surrealistic visual language.

All this can be seen as a reflection of the Bauhaus era, when the most innovative philosophers, psychologists, and art theorists of the time visited the school as guest lecturers. For example, in addition to Karel Teige, the teacher of “literature, advertising, typography,” instructors in logical empiricism and practitioners of Gestalt psychology also presented talks. One learns from the recollections of Bauhaus students of the period that these guest teachers confronted them as veritable therapists, poets, and magicians, recommending the “logical structure of the world” (Rudolf Carnap), the emancipatory thought of Karl Marx (“disposable time”), and the “complex qualities of Gestalt” (Felix Krueger).5 The “activists of the first hour”—that circle of friends who had gathered around Hajo Rose, Umbo, and Fritz Kuhr6—listened enthusiastically to Teige and Carnap, as well as Karlfried Graf Dürckheim, Otto Neurath, and Karl Duncker, and and in the moment of institutional crisis cleaved, as Selmanagić affirmed, “fanatically” to their charismatic teacher Hannes Meyer.7 Above all, with his co-op idea Meyer set an effective precedent during his Dessau directorate, but Mies van der Rohe and Richard Neutra left equally clear traces with their generous manner and through the transcendent equanimity of their architecture: “Building and the world of the senses”8 was the silent code of the last generation of Bauhaus students to be trained simultaneously in Gestalt psychology, Marxism and surrealism. It seems to have been Neutra’s summer course of 1930, which synthesized these various biological, therapeutic, and sociological approaches, that mediated the transition from Meyer to Mies.

Bauhäuslers fill the control centers of the economy

Kollektivplan 1946, plan section with Reinhold Lingner’s concept of the urban landscape.
Estate of Reinhold Lingner, IRS Erkner.

Isometry of one of the apartments of the Kollektivplan Berlin, after 1946.
Estate Selmanagić in family possession, drawer not identified.

Development concept in the area of the residential cell Friedrichshain with Stalinallee, drawing Selman Selmanagić, after 1946.
Estate Selmanagić in family possession.

Richard Neutra at the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee.

Before the filling of professorships and the training of architects could be considered, at war’s end networks of Bauhäuslers and former MASCH auditors filled the control centers of the economy. Planning groups were successfully formed in Saxony and Brandenburg, and, in particular, members of the Dessau Ausbauwerkstatt (finishing workshop) grouped around the Hellerau workshops in Dresden. They promoted socialist ideas at trade fairs, using surrealistic floating assemblages of products, and at the same time anticipated the socio-spatial distribution of productive forces in regionally complex, networked structural plans conceived with a 40-year timeframe.

The Bauhäuslers Franz Ehrlich, Selman Selmanagić, and Herbert Hirche, together with the interior architect and furniture designer Liv Falkenberg-Liefrinck of the Rotterdam De Opbouw, were all involved in designing the Leipzig trade fairs, the SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany) party school at Kleinmachnow, the business school in Plessow, and the administration academy Forst Zinna at the Hellerauer Werkstätten. In addition, they designed furniture for artists returning from emigration, including the painter Max Lingner and the writer Friedrich Wolf. With their ongoing production for central offices, party schools, and trade associations (such as Konsum, a cooperative retail chain founded by the Soviet Military Administration (SMAD) in 1945), the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau of the VVB Sachsenholz shaped the appearance of newly created institutions for eight years.9 From the visitors’ room of President Wilhelm Pieck to the first postwar foreign trade fair appearances, the Soviet-occupied zone and the young GDR aspired to be extremely modern. As exclusive as individual government commissions may be, Hellerau’s prototypes and sample books also had a broader impact: more than a million copies of Selmanagić’s bentwood seminar chairs would come to furnish universities and colleges over the years. Until the GDR’s end, many scientific institutes maintained a professor’s room, outfitted with a desk for writing and meetings, as a greeting from the Bauhaus and a great honor.

Especially in Dresden, where the communist group around the Buchenwald-Kapo and Franz Ehrlich’s friends Robert Siewert and Otto Falkenberg (husband of Liv Falkenberg) led economic reorganization efforts, it was clear from the outset that the desired re-socialization of war-damaged Germany must be based on functionalism and new building projects. Ehrlich, Kurt Junghanns, and, from 1948, Mart Stam led the reconstruction. Edmund Collein cleared the Berlin Friedrichshain district of debris, and in Potsdam another Bauhäusler collective worked together with the “red gardeners” from landscape architect Herta Hammerbach’s area.

With regards to postwar reconstruction, everyone looked to the example Rotterdam. Warsaw, Dresden, and Berlin were still busy clearing the debris as they planned to compete with this model city of reconstruction. Hans Schmidt-Basel had been promoting the “Lex Bernoulli”10 in lectures everywhere after 1945, a plan that involved the communalization of land and soil, and uniform design emanating from a single source: Hans Scharoun’s term for this project was the “Recultivation of the burnt-out cultural steppe.” Thanks to the gardeners, the project was conducted under a decidedly “green” sign. Who would prepare the succeeding generation for this task? The was Bauhaus dead and its authority figures scattered in all directions—Hannes Meyer in Mexico, Richard Paulick in China, Martin Wagner in the United States.

The “trade fair collective” with Wils Ebert, Herbert Hirche, Kurt Kranz, Selman Selmanagić, Leipzig Spring Fair, 1946.
Estate Selmanagić in family possession, photo: unknown.

Selman Selmanagić, clubroom of the SED party college “Karl Marx” of the CC of the SED on the Hakeburg in Kleinmachnow. The S-form typical for Selmanagić follows the cosmological theory of forms of Paul Klee.
Estate Selmanagić in family possession.

Kurt Kranz and Selman Selmanagić, design for a booth at the Leipzig Fair, 1946.
Estate Selmanagić in family possession.

Front page of the exhibition brochure, St. Eriksmesse Stockholm, 1948.
Graphics and typography Kurt Kranz. Klaus Wittfogel was also involved in the first international presentation of the Soviet-occupied zone with a brochure.
Estate Selmanagić in family ownership.

Fighting for the school

In the search for suitable university professors for the rebuilding of architectural education, those in immediate reach were the first to attain posts: Otto Haesler, Edvard Heiberg, and Mart Stam. Due to his suitability as a lecturer and probably also on account of his prior pedagogical experience, the efforts of the responsible state authorities to find a figurenhead for this project concentrated on Stam, then head of the Amsterdam School of Arts and Crafts. Parallel to Hubert Hoffmann in Dessau, as the offical SED party organ, Neues Deutschland, was already announcing, it was thought Stam could ensure that there would be a new Bauhaus.11

When Stam moved to the Soviet zone of occupation at the end of 1948, the small Bauhaus community left in Germany were not the only group hoping for a systematic new beginning for German art education and design theory. After all, Stam arrived with the imprimatur of the Soviet Military Administration, had long been expected by the mayor of Dresden, and acted with the highest political protection: the responsible cultural officer in Saxony was Alfred Schnittke, a member of the Moscow CIAM group, while in Berlin Gerhard Strauss held his protective hands over the attempt to reorganize the two Dresden training centers within the State Art Commission. Although there has been no further architectural training there, Stam wished to unite the Academy of Fine Arts and the Hochschule für Werkkunst under the primacy of architecture, with a focus on promoting industrial and everyday culture.

In view of the situation in traditionalist-oriented Dresden, with its strong artistic personalities from the ASSO circle (Association of Proletarian Revolutionary Artists), naming Stam as successor to Hans Grundig, who was seriously ill with tuberculosis, was a risky act. Doing so made later conflicts regarding the concept of art inevitable. But the Staatliche Kommission für Kunstangelegenheiten (State Commission for Art Matters) and the Saxon Ministry of Economics wanted a new Bauhaus12 and a close link between design and production, which Stam ensured by submitting an impressive concept where this linkage was foregrounded, “according to the Czech model.”13 Neues Deutschland had already reported positively on Hubert Hoffmann’s Anhalt initiative in a 6 February 1948 article, which ran under the headline, “The Bauhaus in Dessau is coming back”:

“The art of yesterday’s confession of art and the related study of nature consisted of an embarrassingly differentiated exploration of the phenomenon ... By contrast, the art of viewing and making visible unoptischer impressions and ideas was neglected. The Bauhaus masters bequeathed a ‘second face’ to their students: they awakened in them the sense of digging for the core of things.” 14

As a former teacher at the Bauhaus, a favored candidate to succeed Gropius and a well-known architectural wonder,15 Stam was the first choice to advance the Bauhaus reorganization in university politics. After Hermann Henselmann had proved himself unsuitable in Weimar—being that he could not secure the support of the communist Bauhäuslers, nor win Walter Gropius’s16 approval for his attempt to found a new Bauhaus based on too many politically compromised employees—Stam moved to the center of communist cadre politics, supported by his Dresden circles of friends. A name for the new school that included “bauschule” and could not be challenged by Gropius was quickly and prudently found, as were suitable premises—outside of Dresden in the former Dalcroze School, later the Hellerau Festspielhaus: “for the time being,” wrote Hubert Hoffmann, “this school building can be regarded as ideal for the new academy of arts in dresden—a proper school building with the possibility of a boarding school, working according to nature and practical work in and with the german workshops, which are located close to the tessenow school.”17 Hellerau, the settlement with the furniture factory where Lotte Beese was employed as a secretary before her Bauhaus days and where Ida Falkenberg had learned the carpentry trade, now became a standard-bearing school.18

Mart Stam’s “bauschule” in Dresden

Stam’s activities were embedded within the communist leadership’s overall reorganization of art and architectural education. He met regularly at conferences with other university heads to coordinate and exchange experiences. The minutes of these meetings show that Stam was not only concerned with the usual programmatic cleaning up of the schools but also with methodological questions of creativity, training, and personality development. While uncompromisingly distancing himself from teachers who had accepted NSDAP commissions, in 1949 he showed no hesitation in appointing Marianne Brandt, who herself drew his attention to her prior membership in the Reich Chamber of Culture. A flawless background of revolutionary activity or resistance participation on the part of professorial appointments appeared of less importance to Stam than didactic experience and a common avant-garde conception of art, design, and architecture. On 4 October 1949, he wrote to John Heartfield, whom he wanted to appoint to the graphic arts department: “About a year ago, we also wanted to abandon our field of work in the west (Holland) in order to devote ourselves here to the great tasks of democratic reconstruction. we are fully in the process of reshaping the education of up-and-coming artists and believe that they too can make a major contribution to this.”19

Stam’s cast list indicates the direction he wished the school to follow: Fritz Koelle (sculpture), Heinz Lohmar (drawing and painting), Lex Metz, Hajo Rose (color, form, font), Guido Reiff (literary history), Helmuth Prange (stage design), Erich Nicola, Günther Strupp, Otto Winkele (stone, wood, sculpture), Marianne Brandt (metal, ceramics, wood), Hans Christoph (advertising), Stephan Hirzel (industrial science), and Rudi Högner (textile). He also tried to import the Berlin artists Arno Mohr, Horst Strempel, René Graetz, and Rudolf Bergander as a group from Weißensee. For the school’s social science faculty, Stam won the philosopher Hermann Ley, the writer Ludwig Renn (art history), Rudolf Neubert (anthropology and sexual sciences) as well as Will Grohmann (art criticism). The attempt to establish an offshoot of the Frankfurt School in Dresden and to conduct social science research within the environment of the school is of particular interest. The “New Dresden” was obviously supposed to be a bit of a “New Frankfurt School” and, even more, a “Prague School” of functionalism.20

Stam did not only begin to break open encrusted academy structures, he also aimed to develop a completely new functionality for art, reconceived not only as a way of life but as an industrial/material culture developed within the context of the planned economy. He contrasted the cult of the individual artist and panel painting for bourgeois interiors with the painter collectives then working on large murals for public space. In an effort to gradually replace the old teaching staff with new blood, he developed an activist, life-reform university pedagogy with a markedly physical component, taking up the Dalcroze concept—the learning and experiencing of music through rhythmic movement (named after its founder, the Swiss composer and educator Émile Jacques-Dalcroze)—by interrupting lessons with cyclic rhythmic exercises. While he actively supported the university jazz band through personal donations, he made himself deeply unpopular with the bibulous Bohème by enforcing strict abstinence at parties. This asceticism, his extremely noble furnishings for the Second German Art Exhibition (designed in collaboration with Hans Kinder), and his contacts among Dresden anthroposophists—who at the time operated the most progressive school in the city—soon qualified him as a “Salon Communist” in the eyes of his vigilant competition. He made himself particularly vulnerable—and ridiculous among his male contemporaries—by dint of the feminism adopted by his politically committed mother and his devotion to and dependence on his wife Olga Stam-Heller.

The Dresden painters in particular saw Stam’s concept as a frontal attack on the academy principle and the master studio structure. For their part, they took up the fight “to prove to the fuckers what a rake is.”21 The dispute intensified and became personal when Stam rejected the artistic position of graphic artist Lea Grundig, recently returned from exile in Palestine. This was understandable for aesthetic reasons, but this beautiful Jewish woman had Dresden’s Bohemians at her feet. Her rejection was perceived as further proof of Stam’s strangeness and coldheartedness.

“It is the eternal struggle between the so-called intellectuals, the cold beauty spirits, Winkelarchitekten (angle architects) and the creative forces, the artistic people. ... As much as possible we must try to preserve the essence of the Academy; i.e., do everything we can to ensure the next generation is secured who will take as their mission the preservation of art—the art of artistic creation—for the future, where it has a great social task to fulfil. Stam, in my opinion—Bill (Lachnit), Theo (Richter) and Josef (Hegenbarth) are of the same opinion—is not the man who is fertilizing and pointing forward, not in this field ... The old guard lives, despite all that. On us the world directs its divine eyes. In reality we alone have the real proof ... that socialism does not remain a utopia ...”22

In this pointed conflict, at first only the old guard actually expressed itself. It was a revival of a twenty-year-old conflict among left-wing artists over the role and function of art within class struggle. True to the writings of Georg Lukács, the mimetic principle of representation, reflection, and figurative representation was positioned politically against all forms of modern abstraction, expressionism, constructivism, materialist aesthetics, and Dadaism. Above all, the “exploration of unoptical impressions,” which Hubert Hoffmann had emphasized as part of the lasting legacy of the Bauhaus, naturally failed under the “divine eyes of the world.” In Czechoslovakia, this harsh art/political confrontation—culminating in Karel Teige’s “Liquidation of Art”23—had been termed by 1930 a “generational debate.” There, unique in the communist movement, the poetism of the younger artists and architects ultimately enabled the avant-garde line to prevail over the older generation of proletarian-revolutionary writers.

Stam in Berlin-Weißensee between the fronts of the Cold War

The debate about which art was the way for socialism to come to reality—or, rather, the question of whether the cold Winkelarchitekten from the constructivist ABC group24 would take part in it—was revived at a moment when the West desired abstraction as an expression of freedom for itself and, via the two superpowers of the Cold War, was engaged in a battle of weaponized aesthetic totalities.25 One skirmish in this battle was Stam’s appointment as director of the Kunsthochschule in Berlin-Weißensee, effective 1 May 1950, after being expelled from his prior post in view of the difficulties he had encountered in Dresden. Here, he could expect a greater level of accommodation from the painting collectives around Horst Strempel and the Berlin Planning Collective. Selmanagić, in fact, was planning the transformation of Berlin’s center into a “folk education city,” with a series of new university buildings and a separate complex for Stam and his university. However, while concrete construction tasks awaited Stam, a fundamental change of direction was taking place behind the scenes at the same time. In Moscow, his reconstruction plans for Dresden and Selmanagić’s projects for Berlin were being inspected. A report requested by the SED Party Control Commission also indicates that Stam himself was being reviewed. While his professional and pedagogical work were judged positively, his political qualities were found wanting: “In contrast to these very positive successes of Comrade Stam stands his position towards the party, which is individualistic ... The terms ‘party discipline’ and ‘party affiliation’ are not so strong in Comrade Stam that he would implement decisions with which he disagrees ...”26

This was a political verdict, not yet a judegment on his artistic worth. At first it only indicated that Stam could not follow the progressive Stalinization of the SED. When an assessment of his successor in Dresden was requested a year later, there was now normative talk regarding Stam’s technical deficiencies, indicating that the ideological premises of SED art policy had in the meantime changed:

“The consequence, that he showed when following the wrong path, once taken, allows for the conclusion that, guided by a superior technical knowledge coming, however, from his bourgeois origin, he regards the new paths taken today (of “socialist realism”—Author’s note) as technically inadequate, and actually regards it as a mission to preserve culture according to his perspective, a short circuit that again makes his ideological ambiguities obvious. Support for the statement that Prof. Stam can decide for the new way of art development after serious discussion do not exist, because his current statement is so anchored in his nature that a departure from this point of view is not possible without giving himself up. His special technical side, seen from the scholastic point of view, is so specifically reformist Bauhaus-like that it can no longer be regarded as acceptable by us today. With this specifically intellectual and modernist attitude, he brought himself into contradiction with our democratic reconstruction and, of course, he came into conflict with the part of the teaching profession that worked its way towards carrying out our current tasks from other artistic perspectives.”27

Although Stam had been active as rector in Berlin-Weißensee for more than a year, with far greater success than in Dresden and broad support from his colleagues (while at the same time heading the Institute for Industrial Design), this party assessment signaled the likelihood of his being sent back to where cosmopolitan modernism had been demonstratively appropriated as an expression of freedom in the Cold War—to the West. The question of “instrument or monument,”28 or the architectural concept or art, were by this time no longer an intramural dispute among left-wing artists but now were being carried out globally, part of a confrontation between Eastern and Western “blocks.” Along this essential question of the functionality of art, the Cold War broke out between the systems.

In spite of this personally fatal outcome for Stam, the institute he founded—later known as the Office for Industrial Design—whose mission he defined, would persist until the GDR’s end:

“The Institute will largely collect documents and material; it will compile sample collections and systematically entrust research tasks to specialists in a wide variety of fields. Gradually, the Institute will be able to help more and more businesses, advising them on how to improve their existing and most viable products. The Institute will provide companies with new models and new samples on a case-by-case basis, always in close contact with the production department.”29

Here, too, one can see a continuation of the Bauhaus, which in the Meyer era had turned into the economic Bauhaus. By pursuing his diverse tasks in the industry-related advisory boards for product design at the Ministry of Light Industry and in the various commissions for the selection of models to be included at the Leipzig Sample Fair, Stam continued a trend that began with Meyer, who worked for the sustainable economic institutionalization of industry. As a committed and critical expert, Stam not only worked for individual industrial sectors, he also joined committees charged with guideline competence associated with the Central Office for Research and Technology of the State Planning Commission, as well as the German Office for Metrology and Product Testing. Stam’s programming process went far beyond the elementary socialization of design at the Bauhaus, with its focus on “people’s needs,” and, as the ABC Group also strived to achieve, he developed a non-profit social, cultural and economic policy that focused on the production of goods by workers, envisioning them at the same time as responsible consumers.

Stam wanted to infuse the entire process of economic reproduction with a design sensibility. With his design theory, and without fully suspecting it, the artist, acting here as a producer, disputed the competence of the political cadres of the SED, oriented as they were on Marx’s concept of work. When the cabinetmaker Walter Ulbricht then cut short his program, it was far more than a purely personal conflict or a superficial matter of taste; it was, rather, an epistemological problem originating in the realm of terminology. The advanced design concept of the late Bauhaus—Meyer’s “hohe Schule der Gestaltung”—which worked towards comprehensive socialization and encompassed the common economy, reached the limits of the political apparatus’s receptivity but not the economy itself. However much he was supported by technologists, engineers, accountants, and company collectives, Stam could not assert himself against a backward Marxist doctrine. Thus, approaches for a total, mass-effective, and resource-saving product design implemented in a planned economy were finally driven underground, a matter for people who nevertheless continued until their cause finally prevailed with regards to the economy’s course, even without direct agitation. It seemed, as Bertolt Brecht contemporaneously admitted, to be a question of the maturity of a legal process that had yet to gather momentum.

For Stam, however, there would be no opportunity to wait for the socialist economy’s maturation. As an overly exposed agitator, in 1951 he and his University found themselves at the center of the so-called “formalism debate.” Although it had long since moved away from the universalism of Constructivist modernism and generated an extremely binding quality of expression in relation to time and people, the School, located in a converted factory, continued to present itself as a stronghold of the cosmopolitan Bauhaus idea during this period of party control over everything from painting to architecture. According to Stam’s understanding, this departure from purely iconic evidence of modernity via abstraction to an adaptation process based on the reception habits of post-fascist Germans was “realistic.”30 However, despite ostensibly proving its flexibility, the faculty in Weißensee did not avoid being subjected to art-theoretical brainwashing. On 2 May 1951, representatives of the Economic, Propaganda and Cultural Department of the Central Committee of the SED were on hand at a specially scheduled conference on questions of architecture. Rejecting the new architectural doctrine of “national traditions,” both professors and students of Weißensee refused to embellish buildings with artistically designed ornaments, even glorifying American architecture, which they saw embodied in the buildings of Richard Neutra and Mies van der Rohe.

This was the crucial point of the whole discussion, because in the meantime the art debate had become a weapon in the world system conflict, and Stam and the Weißensee school were caught inadvertently between the opposing fronts of the Cold War.31 Beginning in 1950, the CIA had begun financing a broad intellectual and, above all, journalistic network centered around the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF),32 including—as far as is known—Walter Gropius with his Bauhaus copyright, and Marshall Plan and Ford Foundation funds (the latter having been specifically founded for purposes of anticommunist subversivion). The Americans did not fear Stalinist cultural production but were alarmed by the possibility of the cultural vanguard and communism uniting, as was obviously happening in the strongholds of European thought—Paris, London, and Berlin. As a result of this global confrontation, Germany was in principle colonized by the two superpowers in a cultural-political and contradictory way.33 Almost at the same time as the 1950 “Journey to Moscow” was being organized in the GDR—with only Edmund Collein and Waldemar Alder of the Bauhäuslers participating—an architectural study trip to the United States was being organized in West Germany. Before being allowed to enter the country, participants had first to complete several weeks of political training on Ellis Island. The CIA then financed the group’s excursion through America’s cities, which included consultations at American universities. The clever West German architects returned to Europe with patents for car-friendly infrastructure. Henry Ford was also responsible for the CIA exporting similarly car-friendly urban planning templates to the Third World. Cities such as Baghdad and Accra were modernized by introducing structuralist American grids and highways. The architect and city planner C.A. Doxiades worked vehemently on behalf of the “Company” to Americanize the world.34 The role of the Ford Foundation in the background must have been a sharp thorn in the side of the Soviets’ urban interests, especially the development of the automobile-oriented city. A sign of his political unreliability: comrade Stam had even suggested a forward-looking drive-in solution for his cultural centre in Böhlen.

As a particularly exposed foreigner—an expert who had long been fixated on automotive forms of transport and vehicle-friendly space, and a verified salon-communist freethinker— Mart Stam became a target for attack in the debate over which political camp the modernist project should systematically belong to. It would take a very long time before form+zweck, the magazine Stam initiated, would in 1983 place Karl Marx on the iconic Stamschen Freischwinger chair, thus reclaiming functionalism as the aesthetic leitmotif for communism. And only then would the West, in its paradigmatic turn to postmodernism, finally drop Gropius and the Bauhaus.35

Selman Selmanagić Holds Course

When Selman Selmanagić was called to Weißensee in 1950 by Mart Stam to become the head of architectural training, the spiritus rector of the Berlin Collective Plan had just completed work on the Berlin Stadium for World Youth. In its synthesis of architecture, art, design, and landscape design, the Stadium constituted an example of complex environmental design realized according to Bauhaus standards—not just through the stones used but also atmospherically, as it bore a slight resemblance to his buildings in Jerusalem. The pictures of the young sportsmen also remind us—a very typical visual motif for the time—of youthful Israeli faces from the kibbutz. The “Buildings of Youth”, one of the reformist institutional structures that originally inspired the postwar Bauhäusler planning network, clearly refer to agricultural-socialist traditions of land reform. Selmanagić had worked in Jerusalem with Erich Kaufmann, the leading architect of the Aliyah, not by chance but out of a lively interest. By 1937 he had distanced himself from Zionism, having come to regard it as a fascist ideology. The same critical turn against Stalinism had cost Karel Teige his prominent position in Czechoslovakia, and his expulsion from the Levá fronta36 in 1938. With the great sifting out in 1950 of critical and liberal positions in Moscow, the Collective Plan of Berlin, having been further developed into a green general reconstruction plan for the region, fell victim to this fundamental revision, with allegations raised that it was grossly hostile to the city and, moreover, “pure Abercrombie.”37 Similary, Walter Ulbricht had described the new stadium, which had been dedicated at the Second Party Congress of 1947—as well as the first houses on Stalinallee—as foreign to the city and, an allusion to Selmanagić’s countries of exile, “African”38 in appearance.

form + zweck magazine, issue 5/1983, published by: Amt für industrielle Formgestaltung Title design: Lothar Schelhorn, Simone Hain archive.

When Selmanagić became a university lecturer at Stam’s side in 1950, measured against his immense range of activities at the Berlin magistrate’s office this appointment led to a career slump: a steadfast Bauhäusler, he would remain banished to the university for life. Prohibited from pursuing an architectural career due to these Bauhaus connections, one can still measure the thoroughness with which he based his teaching as perfectly as possible on his experience there. Alongside Kibbutznik Arieh Sharon, the Bosnian Muslim can probably be regarded as the second model pupil of the Meyer era, even though his time there overlapped with Meyer for only one year and, as a student of Ludwig Hilberseimer, he encountered Meyer only in the carpentry workshop rather than in the architecture program itself. While Sharon carefully documented Meyer’s teachings in his archived course notes, Selmanagić profited above all from the Bauhaus’s roster of guest teachers, above all Karel Teige. From Teige he adopted his poetic conception of the arts as a modus vivendi; a communicative tonality, a sensual world orchestrated jointly by all artistic genres. Teige seems to have promoted his view of a “world that smells”39 at the Bauhaus, above all through Joseph Delteil’s hypotheses justifying a lust for life as resulting from chemical processes. Selmanagić often referred to Teige’s olfactory fascination, as did Umbo, who after Gropius’s retirement regularly took part in Bauhaus life. And it was not only Umbo’s culinary interests and his frivolous (from a career perspective) way of giving himself away that points to the model of art conveyed by Teige (and also lived by him): he considered art, as Teige did, simply as an elementary expression of life; as food for oneself which is not to be presented in galleries as a fetish object. Many Bauhäuslers of that period—whom, art historically speaking, one seldoms hears much about—mixed concrete, grew hops, or photographed wedding parties, and were firm in their resolve that such prosaic activities were essential to their artistic process. Teige brought something to the Bauhaus that Delteil perceived as proto-situationist: the real “Neolithic” bohemian, going back to the roots. A great number of Bauhäuslers became authentically happy there in the wrong life or in the wrong present. They didn’t have to sell their art. Nor did Teige sell his collages, which only surfaced long after his death.

For Selmanagić, the model pupil of Teige, the path to hedonistic internalization was only conditionally acceptable. He was an architect and as such was addressed by Teige’s oversized idea of a plan for the new earth in a way that immediately turned his religious desires into this world. Teige’s flesh-and-blood art concept has a counterpart anchored in the intelligent areas of the brain. “Building and Poem”40 are two sides of creative human activity conditioned by each other. And building meant, following Teige, to give structure to the world.

“Plans for a New Globe”

Selmanagić, who completed his Bauhaus diploma (No. 100) with Mies van der Rohe in 1932 and subsequently prepared the Berlin report for the 4th CIAM Congress for Walter Gropius in collaboration with Wils Ebert, adopted an ethic of planning from Meyer, from Teige, and also, very probably, from Mies that prohibited him from becoming self-sufficient. In a 1965 letter to Walter Gropius he summarized this condition as follows:

“By chance, after 1950, I had to make do almost exclusively with the teaching profession, so that I could necessarily penetrate many pedagogical and architectural problems with leisure and from many sides. I didn’t know anything about pedagogy at the beginning, nor did I know how to teach architecture, because I hadn’t paid any attention to how my teachers had developed me into an architect ... I naively assumed that I could tell every student, just like an employee, how to do architecture, because I know how to do it, both individually and collectively. And with great astonishment and disappointment and despair, I realized that it was not possible. It was only then that I thought to myself: How did the Bauhaus masters train me? I was shocked by the new, completely unknown situation in which I was placed and by the responsibility, on the one hand, for the development of the students and, on the other hand, for architecture. To be honest: I was at a loss. Every day I spent at least eight hours at school, and I couldn’t sleep at night. So, like the world’s first teacher of architecture, the curriculum came into being step by step. Only then did I gradually begin to understand the Bauhaus idea with increasing admiration. A new light came on for me. A teaching of ‘total architecture’ ... When I first wrote down our study plan, I was surprised by the large number of subjects, even though I had arranged all the lessons individually myself.”41

Portrait Selman Selmanagić drawing during the Bauhaus period.
Estate Selmanagić in family possession.

Karel Teige in the cafeteria at the Bauhaus Dessau, front right Selmanagić, probably January 1930. Estate Selmanagić in family possession, photo: unknown.

Through extremely intensive instruction, about 30 students of architecture at the Berlin-Weißensee School of Art and Design were trained in artistic and scientific methods by five architects, according to a uniform basic teaching of one year for all disciplines, supported by additional lecturers in specialist technical subjects. A two-year aspirant’s degree could thus be used to deepen the knowledge of a special task beyond the normal course of study. Particular emphasis was placed on the artistic analysis of many kinds of architectural objects—in their developmental phase and with respect to constitutive mutual dependencies, conditioned by function, representation, material, technology, construction, economy, and so on. Each task was planned by the students themselves according to three basic questions: who to build for? what to build? how to build? (with the cooperation of the responsible institutions of the GDR being assumed). This threefold question is of interest; obviously in its own right, and as a corrected variant of Mies van der Rohe’s guiding principle, which sought to clarify the relationship between the “what” and the “how.” Selmanagić added “for whom,” demanding that students first examine the life of people in society before translating human activity into spatially static and dynamic functional areas. Moreover, collaborative work—the interdisciplinary “interlocking” of the arts (a word also used by Hannes Meyer)—and collective exchange were also highly valued.

If one takes a closer look at how Selmanagić planned a new city like Schwedt together with his students, it becomes clear that the students were not learning any “profession” specialized in particular aesthetic questions. Rather, they were training a behavior, practicing a demand— regardless of how their practice was structured. Following Mart Stam, Hans Schmidt, and Hannes Meyer, it was intended that graduates become social trustees for all upcoming design questions—just as a typographer should understand as much as an actor. The scale of cooperation and co-determination thus ranged from shoes to waste management. Moreover, Selmanagić, the author of the Weißensee study program, was of the opinion that his students should dedicate four weeks a year to working on an agricultural holding. And so, the circle closes with a reminiscence of the Bosnian fields and the kibbutzim of Palestine. According to Selmanagić, in the foreseeable future people would be freed by machines from heavy work, and this, to their great joy, would enable them to deal with plants and animals, tend their gardens, and engage in the manual production of objects and interior spaces. While teaching at the Bauhaus, Karel Teige had also explained the meaning of modern design in this way: as a kind of falling back into one’s creaturely being; the abolition of alienation from nature; an existential becoming one with the planet. “A world that laughs. A world that smells.”42 The temporally relieved person, thought Selmanagić, will not always only want to play, but would settle, plant, breed black roses, be idle in an Oriental way. These totalities, visualized in sleepless Weißensee nights as the embodiment of the Bauhaus idea—“as with the world’s first architecture teacher” and their perspective on returning home—appear to me more exciting with each passing day. “All artists interlock” was the mantra of the restless seeker. But art alone will not suffice.

Selmanagić with clay model of an armchair, Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee, 1950s. Credit Jürgen Neugebauer, photo: Dietmar Kuntzsch.

Preliminary planning for the new town of Schwedt, 1961; continuation of the functional planologies of the Bauhaus for the socialist city with the adoption of hierarchical spatial structures according to the “16 principles” to form a landscape-integrating, urban ecologically “green” overall concept. Plan authors Selman Selmanagić and Johann Greiner, with the garden planning participation of Reinhold Lingner’s collective for individual sub-areas of garden architecture. Estate Selmanagić in family possession.

●Footnotes
  • 1 The “Selmanagićs series,” produced since the 1970s using interviews by Siegfried Zoels and others, contains many hours of biographical memories. A complete critical edition of the author is in preparation.
  • 2 Catherine Pence: “Showcasing Cold War Germany in Cairo: 1954 and 1957 Industrial Exhibitions and the Competition for Arab Partners,” Journal of Contemporary History Vol. 47, No. 1 (January 2012), pp. 69–95.
  • 3 Selman Selmanagić attached great importance to the presentation and comprehensive discussion of the Collective’s planning objectives. Regarding these, Selmanagić made the following evaluation: Scharoun himself had virtually nothing to do with the planning. In addition to his mainly political commitments, he had been concerned solely with the Friedrichshain residential cell. Of the seven planners involved, five belonged to the KPD. In addition to Selmanagić, these were: Reinhold Lingner, Luise Seitz, Herbert Weinberger, and Peter Friedrich. Wils Ebert, as “Juso,” shared his colleagues’ political preference for a planned economy and nationalization of industry. These six persons undertook this planning not as an official duty but as a self-determined political task. In Hannes Meyer’s way of thinking, it served the “ideological demonstration” of a planned economy and ecologically grounded agricultural principles. Discursive chains also lead to the Marxist Workers’ School (MASCH) on Schicklerstraße in Berlin, where Bauhaus students such as Ladislav Foltyn assisted lecturing architects Hugo Häring, Arthur Korn, and Mies van der Rohe—representatives of different architectural concepts. The MASCH was an extracurricular venue for the most important architectural debates of the Dessau and Berlin Bauhaus years.
  • 4 This was also a collective work. Joost Schmidt was responsible for the graphics of the exhibition panels.
  • 5 The best way to understand the “therapeutic turn” at the Bauhaus, carried out collectively under the sign of science, is through the memoirs of Karlfried Graf Dürckheim. The future Zen teacher and initiatic therapist confessed in his book that it was his experience as a teacher at the Bauhaus that first drew his attention to his special abilities and that his complete success with an absolutely materialistic discipleship turned his life around. This future high-ranking Nazi diplomat does not mention that Hannes Meyer called him and consulted with him many times. Karlfried Graf Dürckheim: Erlebnis und Wanderung. Grundfragen der Selbstfindung, Scherz Verlag, Berne 1978.
  • 6 “Aktivist der ersten Stunde” (Activist of the First Hour) was an official honorary title in the GDR, awarded to people who in 1945 had worked miracles in the ruins. With regard to the Bauhäuslers, its significance is quite obvious.
  • 7 About Karel Teige’s role as formal successor to Ernst Kallais, see Simone Hain: “Karel Teige: Typographie, Propaganda, Poesie, Architektur,” in: Philipp Oswalt (ed.): Hannes Meyers neue Bauhauslehre, Bauwelt Fundamente, Bd. 164, Birkhäuser, Basel, Berlin 2019, pp. 349–364.
  • 8 Richard Neutra’s writings, especially his Bauen und die Sinneswelt, were published in the GDR in the 1960s in large editions by Hermann Exner, a pupil of Adolf Behne. They were for a long time the most important reading of the Bauhaus teachers. From 1959 (at the latest) onwards, Selmanagić and Neutra, who also visited the former’s Weißensee school, were in close contact.
  • 9 In 1953, First Secretary of the SED and former cabinetmaker Walter Ulbricht transferred the leadership of the industry to the VEB Zeulenroda.
  • 10 The proposals of the Basel architect and urban planner Hans Bernoulli, who had previously developed a model of land reform based on keeping land in the hands of municipal administrations instead of privatizing it, sought after World War Two to put the reconstruction of the destroyed cities on a solid, just foundation (see Hans Bernoulli: Die Stadt und ihre Boden, Verlag für Architektur, Zurich 1946), were coined by him in a bill entitled “Lex Bernoulli.” The city authorities of Warsaw, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Hamburg, Hanover, Düsseldorf, Brunswick, Cologne, Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Freiburg i.Br., Pforzheim, Ulm, Tübingen, and Munich all invited Bernoulli to work as a consultant. Cf. A. Bodmer in the Festschrift Bernoulli, 1951, pp. 98f.
  • 11 Hubert Hoffmann: “Das Bauhaus in Dessau kommt wieder,” in: Neues Deutschland, 6 February 1948.
  • 12 Even at the height of the doctrinal campaign of “National Traditions,” the Bauhaus and its architects were spoken of favorably and with great esteem at the building trade fairs in Leipzig. The attitude expressed towards the Bauhaus in the GDR differed from department to department and region to region. While Konrad Püschel had his Bauhaus diploma revoked outright in Weimar, Edmund Collein served for many years as vice president of the German Bauakademie and was a candidate for the SED Central Committee in Berlin.
  • 13 It was not, however, until the first Bauhaus colloquium in Weimar in 1976 that a quarter century of complete silence about Mart Stam was broken. See Gerhard Strauss: “Mart Stam und sein früher Versuch, Traditionen des Bauhauses in der DDR schöpferisch aufzunehmen,” in: Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Hochschule für Architektur und Bauwesen Weimar, issue 5/6, 23, 1976, p. 540f.
  • 14 Neues Deutschland, 6 February 1948.
  • 15 Compare this to the remarkable characterization of Stam by Hubert Hoffmann: “Erinnerungen eines Architekturstudenten,” in Philipp Oswald (ed.): Die neue Bauhauslehre, p. 124.
  • 16 The communist Bauhäuslers, especially Max Gebhardt and Waldemar Alder, fought Hermann Henselmann due to his having appointed former SS members to the Weimar staff. From Dessau, Gropius was informed by an outraged Hubert Hoffmann of Henselmann’s Weimar arrogance in using the title “bauhaus” without a license. Mart Stam would also have to deal with Henselmann in university politics. None of the architects of this generation, including Kurt Liebknecht, ever sought personal contact with Henselmann. He was always experienced as a threat and a despicable figure.
  • 17 Personal note of Hubert Hoffmann from 1986. His correspondence with Gropius documents the parallel efforts at institution-building in Weimar and Dessau. Estate of Hubert Hoffmann, Graz University of Technology.
  • 18 Since Mart Stam, as his wife Olga reported, had declined an invitation to head the newly founded London School of Industrial Design in 1944, it is quite possible that the resistance group around Falkenberg and Stam was already focused at that time on Germany, and Dresden in particular.
  • 19 Mart Stam: Letter to John Heartfield, 4 October 1949, Archive Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden, Handakte Mart Stam.
  • 20 The author and Spanish Republican fighter Ludwig Renn, who served as director of the institute under Stam, had been closely associated with Hannes Meyer during his Mexican exile. Stam, on the other hand, would underline his strong preference for Czech functionalism in a programmatic text from his time in Berlin, stating that his design program is based on the “Czech model.”
  • 21 Eugen Hoffmann: letter to Hans Grundig, 10 December 1948. Cited in: Hochschule für Bildende Künste (ed.): Eugen Hoffmann, Lebensbild – Dokumente – Zeugnisse, Dresden 1985, n.p.
  • 22 Ibid.
  • 23 In Karel Teige’s original version of his manifesto from 1922, the term often quoted among Constructivists was “Liquidation des Jiří Wolker-Kultes” (Liquidation of the Jiří Wolker cult), referring to the idolatory function of art (Wolker was a Czech poet, journalist and playwright who founded the KSČ, the Communist Party of Czechloslovakia). The destructive process that Walter Benjamin was to characterize with the “smashing of the (old) aura” was immediately associated with a new definition of art in the sense of “pop.” The counterparts to Wolker’s “Stoker with the Sad Eyes” were Charlie Chaplin, Clowns, and Columbines. As proletarian art, Teige only counted Dada, Hollywood (Chaplin), and Varieté—i.e. through joint performative play. Compare: Karel Teige: “Der Konstruktivismus und die Liquidation der ‘Kunst’” (1925) with Karel Teige: “Nové proletářské umění,” in: Revoluční sborník Devětsil, Praha 1922.
  • 24 Mart Stam had founded the ABC Group with Hans Schmidt in Basel. Besides Paul Artaria, Emil Roth, and Hannes Meyer, El Lissitzky also participated. With support from the art historians Georg Schmidt and Karel Teige, the most politically radical wing of the Constructivist avant-garde was grouped around them. The young Kurt Junghanns, an architect based in Dresden, had already sought contact with the group in the beginning of the 1930s, and was also a close friend of Hans and Lea Grundig, artists and founding members of the arts organization Assoziation revolutionärer bildender Künstler. It can be assumed that this group was the actual foundation of “functionalism” as an original communist aesthetic, as claimed later in the GDR by Lothar Kühne. See Simone Hain: “ABC und DDR. Drei Versuche. Avantgarde mit Sozialismus in Deutschland zu verbinden,” in: Eckhart Gillen and Beatrice Vierneisel (eds.): Kunstdokumentation SBZ / DDR. 1945-1990, DuMont Buchverlag, Cologne 1996, pp. 430–443.
  • 25 Simone Hain: “Mart Stam in den Auseinandersetzungen um die ästhetische Kultur des Sozialismus,” in: S.D. Sauerbier (ed.): Zwei Aufbrüche. Symposium der Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee, Lukas Verlag für Kunst- und Geistesgeschichte, Berlin 1997, pp. 100–113; Simone Hain: “Verhinderte Wiedergeburt. Das Bauhaus und der Stalinismus. 1945-1952,” in: Philipp Oswalt (ed.): Bauhaus Streit. 1919–2009. Kontroversen und Kontrahenten, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2009, pp. 110–133.
  • 26 Stiftung Archiv der Parteien und Massenorganisationen der DDR im Bundesarchiv (SAPMO-Brch), DY 30/Iv 2/906/180 Akte Überprüfung, Bl 1.
  • 27 Professor D. Dähn: “Evaluation of Professor Stam, 17 May 1951,” Archiv Hochschule für Bildende Künste (HfbK) Dresden, Akte Kader (Ka 10) 1951–59.
  • 28 Karel Teige published his epoch-making discussion with Le Corbusier in 1929 under this title, initiating the so-called “functionalism dispute,” which Thilo Hilpert has examined in detail.
  • 29 Mart Stam: “Programm Institut für industrielle Gestaltung, Entwurf August 1950,” in: Hildrut Ebert (ed.): Drei Kapitel Weißensee. Dokumente zur Geschichte der Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee 1946 bis 1957, Lukas Verlag für Kunst- und Geistesgeschichte, Berlin 1996.
  • 30 In the hard confrontations that followed the 1950 trip to Moscow, Stam conciliated: “We are all looking for realism.” Hans Scharoun also considered “magical realism” opportune in the same confrontation. From afar Hannes Meyer and Bertold Brecht in more direct proximity expressed similar sentiments; in the construction of socialism, they, too, considered the anti-bourgeois avant-garde design repertoire to be appropriate only to a limited extent.
  • 31 Frances Stonor Saunders: Wer die Zeche zahlt...: Der CIA und die Kultur im Kalten Krieg, Siedler Verlag, Berlin 2001 (originally published as: The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, The New Press, New York and London 1999); Volker Rolf Berghahn: Transatlantische Kulturkriege: Shepard Stone, die Ford-Stiftung und der europäische Antiamerikanismus, Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2004.
  • 32 First launched in 1950 in Berlin, the CCF, a cultural organization controlled by the CIA and financed by United States charitable foundations (some set up specifically for this purpose and others subverted by the CIA), quickly relocated to Paris due to the obvious counter-espionage emanating from the Soviet bloc. Their aim during the Cold War was to influence esteemed European artists and writers to support American ideological positions, alienating them from the communist camp. The official self-conception and credo of the CCF was that it was a collection of left-liberal intellectuals working against totalitarianism.
  • 33 See Greg Castillo: “Building Culture in East and West Berlin: Two Cold War Globalization Projects,” in: Nezar Alsayyad (ed.): Hybrid Urbanism: On Identity and Tradition in the Built Environment, Praeger, London 2000, pp. 181–205.
  • 34 James Petras: The Ford Foundation and the CIA: A documented case of philanthropic collaboration with the Secret Police, 2001. https://ratical.org/ratville/CAH/FordFandCIA.html (accessed 23 September 2019).
  • 35 In the name of defending American culture, in From Bauhaus to Our House (1981), Tom Wolfe sarcastically accused the “silver prince” Gropius and all the other European immigrant “mi(e)screants” of having imported socialist values to the United States like a plague. The first attack of this kind, by the way, was in 1960, directed against Richard Neutra’s Los Angeles, project “Elysian Park,” which was suppressed as “creeping socialism.” Neutra was the first American architect to turn again to the Soviet Union and the GDR, which had enthusiastically received his work. The Russians even celebrated him as a “benefactor of humanity.” In the GDR, Kurt Junghanns first broke the ice by celebrating Mies for his Crown Hall of the MIT as the consummator of twentieth century architecture.
  • 36 Founded in 1929, Levá fronta (The Left Front) was an organization of Czech left-wing intellectuals whose aim was to promote socialist culture and to organize collaborations between the progressive intelligentsia and the working class. Karel Teige was a founding member.
  • 37 A reference to Patrick Abercrombie, London’s traffic planner, who with his 1944 Greater London Plan made the city more car-friendly. The whole process of the Stalinist revision of functionalist reconstruction plans and avant-garde concepts of the early GDR is contained in the following volume of documents: Simone Hain: Reise nach Moskau. Dokumente zur Erklärung von Motiven, Entscheidungsstrukturen und Umsetzungskonflikten für den ersten städtebaulichen Paradigmenwechsel in der DDR und zum Umfeld des „Aufbaugesetzes“ von 1959, edited by the Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung, Dokumentenreihe des IRS No. 1, Berlin 1995.
  • 38 Walter Ulbricht, protocol tape of the Second Party Conference, research material of Simone Hain contained in the scientific collections of the IRS.
  • 39 Karel Teige: Svět který voní (A perfumed world), Odeon, Prague1930 and Svět, který se směje (A world of laughter), Odeon, Prague 1928.
  • 40 Translated title of a anthology of writings by Teige: Karel Teige: Stavba a básen, Prague 1927.
  • 41 Selman Selmanagić: draft of a letter to Walter Gropius, 8 September 1966, Selmanagić family archive.
  • 42 What Selmanagić took with him throughout his life from Karel Teige’s Bauhaus teachings can be read in the so-called “The Second Manifesto of Poetism” (1930), and in more detail in Teige’s essay volumes Eine Welt, die lacht (Teil1) and Eine Welt, die duftet (Teil 2). What is striking in Selmanagić’s reflections on the Bauhaus is how Joseph Delteil’s legacy becomes even clearer than in Teige’s own writings. The “target problem of communism” (one of Hermann Duncker’s most attractive seminar topics) explored together at the Bauhaus was the question of what happens when, according to Marx, “man falls back into himself” when he regains his Neolithic childhood. Like Karel Teige, Duncker had also been a teacher who interpreted Marx's poetic texts with tears in his eyes (according to memories of Stephan Hermlin, who had heard Duncker at the MASCH, as many other Bauhäuslers had).
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In my interview with Astrid Volpert, she reviews her decades of research on Bauhäusler who emigrated to the SU and makes it clear that there were far more than seven of them heading east. Persons traveling from the Bauhaus to Russia were from eleven countries. They belonged to various denominations—there were Protestants and Catholics, Jews and atheists. Of the 15 women and 47 men, only 21 of them were members of communist parties. → more

●Translation
The Moscow Bauhaus Exhibition Catalogue (1931)

When Hannes Meyer had emigrated to the Soviet Union in 1930, one of the first things he did was organizing an exhibition about "his" Bauhaus. As early as in February 1931 Meyer had the exhibition “Bauhaus Dessau. Period of Hannes Meyer’s directorship. 1928-1930” already ready to receive the Moscow public. It was shown at the renown State Museum of New Western Art. This is the first English translation of the exhibition catalogue. → more

●Article
After the Ball — Hannes Meyer Presenting the Bauhaus in Moscow

Hannes Meyer arrived in the USSR just a couple of months after being dismissed from his position as Bauhaus director in October 1930. These months were filled with attempts by Meyer and his supporters to protest this decision through all possible means: media campaigns, open letters, student demonstration and court trials. After arriving in Moscow, Meyer carried on the fight against his unfair dismissal. → more

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From Recognition to Rejection — Hannes Meyer and the Reception of the Bauhaus in the Soviet Union

The history of the Stalinist critique of the Bauhaus and Hannes Meyer has two chapters. The first chapter spans the time from 1929 to the Architects’ Congress in the Soviet Union in 1937; the second consists in the condemnation of the Bauhaus in the GDR that took place on the trip by East German architects to Moscow in spring of 1950. This text tells the story of the first chapter. → more

●Article
Meyer’s Russia, or the Land that Never Was

It is quite hard to know where to start with Hannes Meyer in Moscow. It’s hard because, while there is plenty of documentation on him and his team in the Bauhaus Brigade—as well as other Western designers and architects (of these, Ernst May is at least as significant as Meyer, as is the Dutch designer Mart Stam, and each went on to produce more substantial work than Meyer after their respective Russian episodes)—the legacy of his work there presents certain difficulties in evaluating. → more

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Moving Away to the Other End of the World — Reflections on the Letters Between Tibor Weiner and Hannes Meyer from the DAM Archive

This article examines the correspondence between a teacher (Hannes Meyer) and his former student (Tibor Weiner), who met at the Bauhaus in Dessau, going on to live for a period in the Soviet Union. Each migrated to Latin America shortly before the outbreak of World War Two, and returned to Europe in the late 1940s. The surviving letters between Meyer and Weiner, preserved in the DAM Archive in Frankfurt am Main, are not only a testimony of comradeship but also a window into some key moments in the first half of the twentieth century. → more

●Artists Work
Bauhaus in Russia — Haunted Houses

The following material was produced during the photographic workshop Bauhaus in Russia: Haunted houses, which took place in the framework of the exhibition bauhaus imaginista. Moving Away: The Internationalist Architect at the museum of contemporary art “Garage” in Moscow. Through an open-call we invited participants from several Russian cities to take part in the visual research on both the visible and invisible legacies of the “bauhauslers”. → more

●Artist Work
To Philipp Tolziner

For the exhibition bauhaus imaginista: Moving Away. The Internationalist Architect at Garage Contemporary Museum of Art, the contemporary artist Alice Creischer has been invited to respond to the personal archive of Bauhaus architect Philipp Tolziner. She produced reading of material relating to the architect’s socialist backgrounds and his work in the Soviet Union.  → more

●Artist Work
Sketch One: Lotte and Hermina — Script-Reading and Screening by Wendelien van Oldenborgh

The script that the artist Wendelin van Oldenborgh created for bauhaus imaginista: Moving Away. The Internationalist Architect as a public moment is an insight into the development of her larger film project which will premiere as a contribution to the bauhaus imaginista exhibition at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, March 2019. It features archive material around the personas Lotte Beese and Hannes Meyer, Hermine Huiswoud and Langston Hughes. → more

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Hamhŭng’s Two Orphans (To Konrad Püschel) — East German Internationalism in North-Korea Emerging through a Chronopolitical Lens

Doreen Mende’s work Hamhung’s Two Orphans, which borrows its title from a chapter of the cine-essay Coréennes (1959) by Chris Marker, proposes to trace the transformation of the Bauhaus’s relevance from its prewar internationalist modernity into elements of the GDR’s socialist internationalism when architecture operated as a state-crafting instrument during the global Cold War. → more

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The “School in the Woods” as a Socio-pedagogical Ideal — Functional Analyses and Photographs by Peterhans

The building theory classes at the Bauhaus focused on imparting a functional understanding of architecture. Building had become a science. As a result, the ADGB Trade Union School was designed logically from the inside out. Walter Peterhans’ photographs of the school images illustrate both the architect’s intentions for the building and the environmental studies conducted by Bauhaus students. → more

●Exhibition Film Stills
Scenes from the Most Beautiful Campus in Africa — A Film about the Ife Campus

Zvi Efrat, 2019, Film stills from the Exhibition video projection, 25 min, color, sound,

English, Courtesy of the artist. → more

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The Legacy of Arieh Sharon’s Postcolonial Modernist Architecture at the Obafemi Awolowo University Campus in Ile-Ife Nigeria

The significance of Arieh Sharon’s postcolonial modernist architecture at Obafemi Awolowo University Campus at Ile-Ife is multi-dimensional. Built between 1960 and 1978, at first glance the campus core consists of an ensemble of modernist buildings. In this article Bayo Amole examines some of the physical and conceptual characteristics of the campus master plan and core area design in order to illustrate their significance as examples of postcolonial modernist architecture—identifying the most important aspects of their legacy, which has continued to guide the design of the campus as it has developed over the course of more than a half century. → more

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Bauhaus Modernism and the Nigerian Connection — The Socio-Political Context of Arieh Sharon and the University Of Ife Design

It should be considered “against the run of play” for a Bauhaus-trained Israeli architect such as Arieh Sharon to have been named designer of the post-independence University of Ife. This paper examines how developments in the socio-political context of Nigeria and international politics—including history and policies in the education sector—“constructed” Sharon’s involvement in the University of Ife design and the spread of Bauhaus modernism to tropical architecture. → more

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Nigerian Campus Design — A Juxtaposition of Traditional and Contemporary Architecture

The early to mid-twentieth century saw the International Style and modernism rapidly influence major Nigerian cities and towns, first as a result of colonialism and then independence. Discussing the architecture of two first-generation Nigerian Universities, the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University, this article builds upon the established discourse concerning how architects assimilated the International Style into the tropical climate and sociocultural context of Nigeria. → more

●Article
Colonial Architecture in Ile-Ife

The architectural heritage credited to the colonial intervention of the British in Nigeria is a blend of features imported by Europeans accustomed to a temperate climate, mixed with adaptations derived from the principles of modern architecture and concessions to the region’s tropical climate. As such, colonial buildings of this era can be regarded as a hybrid architectural style. → more

●Article
The New Culture School for Arts and Design — Launched in 1995

The New Culture School for Arts and Design in Ibadan, Nigeria has involved the development and construction of a space for creative people working in many different media in order to advance their professional proficiency in the fine arts, theater, music, film, photography, design, writing and more. → more

●Article
Nation Building through Campus Architecture — Israeli Architects Arieh Sharon and Eldar Sharon’s Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Campus in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, 1962–1976

The campus of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Nigeria, the first phase of which was built between 1962 and 1972, is a fascinating example of modernist architecture in Africa. As a case study of Africa’s assimilation of the modern style, its design is intriguing also due to the fact that it was built by Israeli architect Arieh Sharon (1900–1984), aided by his son, Eldar Sharon (1933–1994). → more

●Article
Beyond Cement and Iron — Contextualizing Israeli Architecture in Africa

My focus on construction and planning is not incidental. These fields played a crucial role in space-shaping processes during the first decades of the Israeli state, as well as in the construction of the territorial identity of its new citizens. Simultaneously, during the 1960s, the modernist construction projects undertaken in African countries post-independence were also evidence of a desire amongst newly independent African nations for postcolonial national unity. → more

●Article
Tropical Architecture / Building Skin

Like the modernist architecture that preceded it, tropical architecture was co-defined with modern bodies and the bodies of the tropics: initially those of colonizers but soon colonized bodies as well. The technologies of tropical architecture, based on a modernist rationalism adapted to tropical climatic conditions, were, in turn, offered as a developmental asset to colonized subjects, especially young people. → more

●Article
A Hot Topic — Tropical Architecture and Its Aftermath

Both the tropical architecture discourse in general and British notions of modernism in particular were embedded in larger discussions on climatic and culturally sensitive approaches to building developed within the International Congresses of Modern Architecture (Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne—CIAM) from the 1950s onward—notions rooted in the hygienic and medical discourses of colonial occupation. → more

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The Extension Buildings of the ADGB Trade Union School in Bernau — Documents of the Formalism Debate in the GDR

The former ADGB Trade Union School is regarded today as an icon of modern architecture. Designed at the Bauhaus under the direction of Hannes Meyer and Hans Wittwer together with the students of architecture, the building ensemble still stands as a paragon of collective work, reform pedagogical ideas and analytic architecture. Less attention has been paid to the extensions to the school, planned 1949–51 by Georg Waterstradt. These buildings stand as a valuable testimony to the vigor of GDR architecture. The “formalism debate” led to a rejection of Bauhaus architecture, and thus, the set of political-architectural principles exemplified by the Trade Union School. → more

●Article
Communistic Functionalist — The Anglophone Reception of Hannes Meyer

Philip Johnson described Hannes Meyer as a “communistic functionalist” whose most notable achievement was to have preceded Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as director of the Bauhaus. The position he assigned to Meyer was reinforced in the Bauhaus Exhibition of 1938 at MoMA. The particular view of the Bauhaus presented at MoMA in 1938 corresponds to the place of Meyer in the historiography of modern architecture in the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. The view that Meyer’s work allegedly lacked aesthetic interest, rendering it irrelevant to an Anglophone audience. → more

●Article
Selman Selmanagić at the Crossroads of Different Cultures — From Childhood Years in Bosnia to Bauhaus Education and Travels

Selman Selmanagić’s childhood years in Bosnia, on the eve of the First World War, as well as his education in Sarajevo, Ljubljana and at Bauhaus Dessau between the two world wars, together with his work in Palestine and Berlin, shaped his worldview and experience with different cultures and traditions. Throughout his career, he perpetually strove to find contemporary answers for the challenges of the time he was living in. → more

●Article
The “Hungarian Bauhaus” — Sándor Bortnyik’s Bauhaus-Inspired Budapest School Műhely 1928–1938

One of the many Hungarians associated with the Bauhaus, painter and graphic designer Sándor Bortnyik (1893-1976) opened his art and design school, Műhely, in Budapest in 1928 to bring the Bauhaus’s sprit and some of its teaching methods into Hungary. Even if Bortnyik’s school did not have the scope of the Bauhaus, it was an efficient experiment in an independent form of institutionalized education in the field of modern graphic design and typography. → more

●Article
Biology and Educational Models in the Pacific Southern Cone

The Chilean encounter with second-order cybernetics in the early 1970s was an essential part of the modernization project the state had been promoting since the 1920s, a project which also encompasses the 1945 reform of the architecture school. But if one reviews the history of this project with greater care, one can identify the reform of the new art school of 1928, which was the product of a social movement that began after the First World War, and that was able to implement in the main school of art of the country, a “first year of trial” similar to the methodology of the Bauhaus preliminary course, influenced by the trends of the “Active” or “New” school of the time. → more

●Article
For the Faculty of Architecture at METU — Bauhaus was a Promise

“ARCH 101 Basic Design” is the title of the introductory course offered to the first-year students in the METU Faculty of Architecture (Middle East Technical University, Ankara). Since the establishment of the school, this course has been conducted with a very strong Bauhaus impact. → more

●Article
From Social Democratic Experiment to Postwar Avant-Gardism — Asger Jorn and the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus

The project bauhaus imaginista would be negligent if it did not address the artist group referenced by its title, the Mouvement Internationale pour un Bauhaus Imaginiste (International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, or IMIB), founded in 1953 by Danish artist Asger Jorn together with a handful of French and Italian colleagues. Many of the theoretical and artistic positions advocated by the IMIB were developed dialectically in response both to the historical Bauhaus and the reconstitution of a Bauhaus-inspired pedagogical program at the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) in Ulm. → more

●Translation
Letter from Asger Jorn to Max Bill — February 12, 1954

Asger Jorn read of Max Bill’s plans for the new Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm (HfG), a school modeled after the Bauhaus, in the British Architects’ Yearbook 1953, where Bill had placed a promotional article to attract prospective students and teachers. Excited by the possibility of participating in a new democratic pedagogical experiment and in pursuing his interest in fusing art and architecture, he wrote to Bill, inquiring about the role of art at Ulm and expressing his desire to secure a teaching position.

This is a translation of one of the letters Jorn send to Bill. → more

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