Modern Vernacular

Walter Gropius and Chinese Architecture

Blick in den Hof der Schlafsäle
in: John C. Harkness (Hg.): The Walter Gropius Archive. Volume 4: 1945–1969. The Work of The Architects Collaborative.
Garland Publishing, Inc, New York/London 1991, S. 15.

The transfer of architectural knowledge from the West to the colonies and independent developing nations also includes knowledge transfer through students returning from abroad. In China’s case, its first generation of twentieth century architects received their training in the United States and Europe. They then went on to found schools of architecture modelled on the American Beaux-Arts system. A second generation of Chinese students who studied abroad in the 1930s, did not return to their homeland until the end of the World War II, and a third generation, who completed their bachelor’s degrees in China during the war following the aforementioned Beaux-Arts curriculum, relocated to the U.S. to continue their studies in the latter half of the 1940s. Some of this latter group studied under former Bauhaus professors such as Walter Gropius (1883–1969), Marcel Breuer (1902–1981), and Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969). No Chinese students studied at the Bauhaus between 1919 and 1933.

Henry HUANG (1915–75)1 was the first to follow former Bauhaus director Walter Gropius from London to Harvard in 1937. During his 15 years as professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (from 1937 to his retirement in 1952), Gropius taught a number of Chinese students. Alongside Huang, these included WANG Dahong (*1918), CHANG Chao-Kang (1922–92), and Ieoh Ming PEI (*1917).2 CHEN Chi-kuan (1921–2007) did not study under Gropius, but in the early 1950s worked for three years in the firm Gropius co-founded in 1946, The Architects Collaborative (TAC).

I. M. Pei grew up in Suzhou, the classical garden city in Central China. His father was director of the Bank of China and the family owned the Lion Grove Garden (Shī Zǐ Lín), a large private housing complex with a classical garden dating back to the fourteenth century.3 The garden consists of artistically composed rock formations, a man-made pool and several pavilions and bridges, surrounded by a covered walkway. Its construction employed prefabricated wooden components in a modular geometric structure, in sharp contrast to the garden’s preponderance of organic forms. Pei’s childhood experience of space in this environment was formative to his intuitive grasp of spatial poetics in Chinese gardens arrangement.

In 1935, Pei arrived in the United States to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), transferring to the Harvard Graduate School of Design in the winter of 1942. Here, he received the Arthur W. Wheelwright Travelling Fellowship for the academic year 1942–43. In March 1946, Pei completed his studies with a master’s degree and, a few months later, began teaching at Harvard. In 1948 he left the school to join the company of New York real estate magnate William Zeckendorf.

Prefabrication in Housing Construction

In the early 1940s Walter Gropius was working intensively on aspects of town planning and housing construction. From 1941 he worked with his fellow German émigré Konrad Wachsmann (1901–1980) for the General Panel Corporation they founded on the development of prefabrication in residential construction.4 (In this same period Mies van der Rohe was similarly working in Chicago to develop concepts for modular architecture.) In 1943, Gropius set for his master’s class, which included Wang Dahong, I. M. Pei, and Philip Johnson (1906–2005), a task entitled “The Post-war Shelter for the Average Family”,5 encouraging students to think about prefabrication and modular architecture. Virtually all his Chinese students would integrate this aspect into their architectural vocabulary. Consciously or unconsciously, designing using prefabricated modules based on the ideas of Gropius and Mies was adopted by the young Chinese architects, as these notions were already familiar to them from China’s tradition of spatial planning and building with wood.6 In December 1943 the magazine Pencil Points published the projects of Wang and Pei, the latter had developed a modular wooden system and a symmetrical, butterfly-shaped roof for rainwater drainage.7 In 1945, for the second of two competitions sponsored annually by the American Plywood Corporation, he received an honorable mention for a prefabricated house design consisting of a central brick-built unit and several prefabricated mobile annexes that could be employed flexibly, depending on the requirements and financial limitations of the owner. Pei separated the former into “essential elements” such as sleep, living, dining and work, as well as “luxury elements” such as relaxation, hobbies, extra space, etc.8

For a competition published by the journal Progressive Architecture in April 1946 Pei designed a house with several courtyards, titled “A Realistic House for Georgia.”9 The shift—or perhaps the broadening of perspective—from prefabrication to spatial interrelationships is indicated by his quest for achieving harmony between interior and exterior. Possibly, the traditional spatial structure of the courtyard houses of Pei’s childhood led to this new approach to suburban life in the American post-war suburb. His single-story “A Realistic House for Georgia” was based on a grid, with private and public functions organized in a strict order. As in the traditional Chinese courtyard house, most public uses were arranged facing the road, with bedrooms opening directly into the garden located at the rear of the building. The project illustrates the search for a meaningful connection between interior and exterior spaces and the combination of the American suburban villa with the spatial quality of traditional Chinese homes.10 Pei, like his fellow Chinese students, prepared to return to his homeland, and it is likely that he was in the process of considering solutions for post-war architecture in China. The successful competition entries testify to Pei’s talent and his desire to contribute new ideas to architectural discourse.

For a competition published by the journal Progressive Architecture in April 1946 I. M. Pei designed a house with several courtyards, titled “A Realistic House for Georgia”.11 The shift – or perhaps the broadening of perspective – from prefabrication to spatial interrelationships is indicated by his quest for intimacy between interior and exterior. It is possible that the experience of the traditional spatial structure of the courtyard houses of his childhood led to this new approach to suburban life in the American post-war city. All the Chinese students, I. M. Pei among them, were prepared to return to their homeland and it stands to reason that they were also looking for solutions for post-war society in China. I. M. Pei’s one-storey “A Realistic House for Georgia” was based on a grid, with which he organised private and public uses in a strict order. As in a traditional Chinese courtyard house, most of the public uses are arranged to face the road and the bedrooms, which open directly into the garden, are located at the end of the building. The project illustrates the search for a meaningful connection between interior and exterior spaces and the combination of the American suburban villa with the spatial quality of traditional Chinese homes.12 The successful competition entries testify to I. M. Pei’s talent and his desire to contribute new ideas to the architectural discourse.

Spatial Tradition and Critical Interpretation

I. M. Pei’s MA thesis project was a design for an art museum in Shanghai. Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer served as supervisors. Later Gropius would write of the project: “It clearly illustrates that an able designer can very well hold on to basic traditional features—which he has found are still alive—without sacrificing a progressive conception of design.”13 With his master’s project, Pei challenged Gropius to reconsider tradition, or, more precisely, certain values expressed in Chinese architecture. Here, Pei was searching for the fundamental meaning of traditional spatial solutions, and not, as Gropius was later to comment, the “simple imitations of bygone aesthetic forms.” 14 The bare white walls and the small garden courtyard are the two defining elements of the museum’s design. According to Pei, Marcel Breuer declared his master’s project “the most important project ever produced at Harvard.”15 For Gropius and Breuer, the project’s importance clearly lay in reconsidering tradition and in its application to contemporary solutions.

Pei’s design for the museum comprises a simple box, intersected by rectangular courtyards. These reflect in an abstract way the traditional arrangement of historic gardens in Suzhou, evoking his unique childhood experience of the already renowned Lion Grove Garden. The transparency between the square patios with their organic arrangement of stones, vegetation and water basins allows a visual connection between the exhibits in the exhibition space and nature. Cultural history is shown in a traditional Chinese manner and the visitor sees the artifacts in a "natural" environment. The sunken garden courtyard at the museum’s entrance provides a foretaste of the relationship between interior and exterior which is the central design theme. A portion of this courtyard consists of a kind of elongated forecourt featuring a square water basin and a number of sculptures. An open pavilion sits at the entrance to the museum, covering two ramps leading to the upper and lower exhibition spaces respectively. Inside, a central corridor leads to a variety of exhibition spaces as well as cabinets for the presentation of artworks. Every space is illuminated by natural light from the patios, which at the same time reinforces the visual connection between the exhibits and the designed nature. The close relationship between nature and culture Pei achieves in his museum design is characteristic of Chinese tradition, referencing “literary” gardens, where art was presented to visitors in pavilions. Pei explained his ideas for the spatial quality of the museum in terms of the different traditions of showing works of art: “In Oriental museums, you don’t have big sculptures, tapestries or paintings. The scale of the artworks is small; there are objects made of porcelain, jade or ivory. They need a different kind of setting. I wanted to use that to prove to Gropius that you cannot internationalize architecture. … I wanted to prove to Gropius that there’s a limit to the validity of the International Style.”16

The competition entry “Realistic House for Georgia” by I. M. Pei, published in Progressive Architecture.

The layout of the Museum of Shanghai from the master thesis of I. M. Pei at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1946 (colour highlighting by author), in: L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, February 1950, p. 24.

Gropius had firm ideas about architecture and history. However, he was consistent in encouraging his students to find their own way. Pei recalled in an interview that “Gropius was a good teacher because he never allowed himself to be subjective. ... He allowed me to do something on my own to prove that I was right.”17 Firm in the belief Chinese traditional architectonic could be combined with new technology to transform spatial relationships, Pei created the basis for a contemporary Chinese architecture. In the same interview, he mentioned Mies van der Rohe’s influence on his approach: “I was influenced by Mies’s aesthetics, not by Gropius’s.”18 In one of the project’s perspective drawings, Pei embellished his museum’s interior using cut-out photographs of traditional Chinese art, a tactic borrowed from the photo-collages Mies had begun working with in the 1930s.19 Such details demonstrate the extent of Mies’s influence on the young architect. Pei’s own summer house, built in 1952 in Katonah, New York, clearly refers to Mies’s just-completed Farnsworth House, even though its construction, using a timber framework, followed different design principles. The building floats above the landscape, while its interior takes its inspiration from Japanese design principles.20

Gropius and China

Although Gropius never visited China, after the war he received a commission from the United Board of Christian Colleges in China to design a new university campus in Shanghai. Gropius’s experience with building for education institutions predates the Bauhaus Building in Dessau. During his time in Great Britain he had collaborated with Maxwell Fry on schools. But none were on the scale envisioned for the university. His client specified a campus for 3,000 students, around 1,000 of whom were to live on site. Furthermore, although Gropius may have been able to recall discussions with students such as Wang Dahong or Henry Huang, his knowledge of Chinese culture and architecture was derived largely from books. But Pei had demonstrated with his master’s project an ability to convert Chinese traditions into contemporary designs. With the founding in 1946 of The Architects Collaborative (TAC), the university project in Shanghai became one of the company’s first projects. When in the summer of 1946 Pei was appointed to teach at Harvard, Gropius invited him to collaborate on the university project in Shanghai as a TAC associate.

I. M. Pei drawing of spatial and constructive ideas for the student housing complex on campus, in: L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, February 1950, S. 29.

Perspective drawing for the museum shows the transparent interior, where visitors can see the exhibits and the natural elements in the courtyards. For the perspective illustration, Pei takes over the idea of the photo collage by Mies van der Rohe, in: L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, February 1950, p. 24.

It is worth noting that in the winter of 1946–1947, several experts in the field of Chinese garden design gave lectures at Harvard’s department of landscape architecture.21 In December, George N. Kates (1895–1990)22 presented three lectures on the palaces and gardens of Beijing; Grace M. Boynton23 likewise delivered a lecture on the gardens of Beijing and the landscape architect and Harvard alumnus Leonard Bartlett presented his pencil sketches and watercolors of China. The Swedish art historian Osvald Sirén (1879–1966) also delivered a talk on Chinese gardens in April 1947.24 This lecture series was surely noticed, perhaps even initiated, by Harvard’s Chinese students. Gropius was certainly interested in the subject: the master plan for the university campus in Shanghai clearly reflects the traditional features of Chinese gardens, e.g., a central pool, covered connecting paths, and an open composition of rectangular courtyards.

Without going into detail, in April 1948 Gropius mentioned the project briefly to his former collaborator Richard Paulick (1903–1979), who had fled Germany for Shanghai in 1933, and with whom he had carried on a correspondence after the war. At the time Paulick was a professor at St. John’s University in Shanghai, whose architecture department had been founded by Henry Huang.25 In April 1948 Gropius wrote to Paulick: “We are working, in our office, on a university plan for the Shanghai region which a group of American Christian denominations are sponsoring. I am extremely interested in this project and maybe one day it will bring me to Shanghai.”26 St. John’s University was destined to become part of this new institution named Hua Tung University. Paulick’s reply, dated 17 July 1948, fails to mention Gropius’s comment about the university project.27

Floor plan and construction principles of the wooden weekend house that Pei built in Kanotha in 1954 for his family, in: Architecture d'Aujourd’hui, No. 103 (Septembre 1962), p. 160–161.

Plan for a Chinese University

Hua Tung University was slated to be built on the former site of Hongqiao airport in the western suburbs of Shanghai.28 Discussion concerning the amalgamation of six Christian colleges to form a new East China Federated University had taken place as early as 1928.29 The Great Depression and the Japanese attack on Shanghai in 1932—followed by the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45)—hindered this plan’s realization. After the war’s conclusion, following much discussion the three universities Hangchow (Hangzhou), Soochow (Suzhou), and St. John’s launched a joint project for a new campus in Shanghai with the slogan “One university, one campus, one administration and one budget.” 30 In May 1948, a newsletter from St. John’s stated: “The plans for the union of the three Christian universities Hangchow [Hangzhou], Soochow [Suzhou] and St. John’s have been somewhat modified recently so that each university may be able to preserve its own character and yet by federation be of assistance and benefit to the others.”31

Gropius described the plan for the university as follows: “The gap in the artistic development from the traditional master crafts to the present methods of design and building in our period of industrial civilization has not yet been filled.”32 For example, he argued that the large wooden roofs used in traditional architecture were prohibitively expensive: “It is certainly not in keeping with the present conception of technical and economical efficiency to spend much additional money in design for sentimental reasons only.”33 He also stated: “This design, therefore, aims at a combination of economically efficient contemporary building techniques with basic Chinese design elements so apparent through many centuries in their traditional compositions: balancing volumes and space, land and water, buildings and trees. Every living Chinese is familiar with landscaped courts of varying sizes with a juxtaposition of unperforated wall parts and window walls, with terraces and open galleries, and last not least (sic), with an intimate scale for the size of the buildings and their silhouettes as well as of their architectural subdivisions. … Avoiding outright imitation of the old style, it tends to express the ancient philosophy of the Chinese people and their love of nature.”34 Gropius’s arguments were simple, but revolutionary. In his interpretation, the new must be economic in realization, reflecting historic values in an abstract way, without decoration. That tradition vis-a-vis the transformation of spatial qualities plays a role here is clearly traceable back to Pei’s influence. In concrete terms, this influence is visible in the complex for 2,100 male and 900 female students being designed in four parts set around an artificial lake, with the university’s academic campus to the south and three residential complexes for students and staff to the north. Each of the three residential quarters had its own chapel: one for Methodists, one for Presbyterians, and one for Episcopalians. The architects later described the design and the scale of the complex as follows: “… with the Chinese propensity for walking, the site plan is composed of low buildings wrapped around an artificial lake.”35

The sketches reveal the architectural approach, with the covered walkway utilized as a basic structural element creating a framework for the space, interconnected and filled by two and three-story buildings, with small courtyards integrated. The pavilions in the sketches are reminiscent of Mies’s previous work: buildings reduced to a skeleton-like construction, with some roofs slightly sloped and others flat. In Pei’s sketches in particular, the character of the individual buildings recalls Mies’ design for the campus of Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology,36 while the way the buildings are grouped in the landscape clearly refers to traditional Chinese courtyard construction, albeit in abstract form. The aforementioned statement by Pei, where he expressed his preference for Mies’s aesthetics over that of Gropius is evident here. Later, Pei was to minimize his involvement with the project, saying: “My job was to make the drawings, but I wasn’t seriously involved in a creative capacity.”37 However, the superlative spatial organization of the landscape and the skeletal construction of the buildings tell a different story.

Zoning diagram for Huatung University in Shanghai by TAC, in: L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, February 1950, p. 26.

In 1948, Pei left Cambridge for New York to work for William Zeckendorf. In addition to his work with the magnate, he evidently continued to work as a freelancer on the Hua Tung project. In a letter to Gropius dated October 1948, he writes: “Several weeks ago, I paid Dr. [Robert J.] McMullen of the Chinese Xi’an Colleges a visit. Our Hua Tung-Project was still being exhibited and the plastic cover of the model looks very good indeed. … Dr. McMullen told me that he expects to have a board meeting on Hua Tung soon. I promised him to be present at the meeting to explain the project.”38 Gropius replied the next day that TAC was still working on additional sketches for a meeting with McMullen39 in December at Princeton.40 The project came to an end in 1948 or early 1949, when it became obvious that the civil war between the communists and the Kuomintang would be won by the former. In the early 1950s, the Chinese government forced western religious mission agencies to halt their activities and leave the country. Western architecture critics, acknowledging the important character of the plans for Hua Tung University, expressed their regret that the campus would not be built: “The site plan is magnificently worked out in terms of shape and space relations. There is a lightness and airiness about the whole that has a Chinese flavor, and this is achieved without resorting to ancient material or form.”41

The buildings for the academic group are connected by covered walkways, in: Harkness, New York/London 1991, p. 11.

Pei’s role in the design of Hua Tung University can no longer be reconstructed with any clarity. Evidently, his aforementioned insistence on having contributed little to the project is inaccurate. The records show that only the perspective drawings were clearly labelled by name.42 Pei contributed three perspective drawings (nos. 4816.17, 4816.21, and 4816.25), four were drafted by Norman Fletcher, a project manager at TAC, while B. Thomson contributed a single drawing. The three drawings attributed to Pei show the students’ accommodation, thus one might assume that, in addition to general consultation, he worked on this portion of the plan.43 The first drawing (no. 4816.17) sketches out a bird’s eye view of the dormitories for men and women in the landscape, with the women’s accommodations in a group of buildings separated from the rest of the campus by a wall.44 Three site plans (4816.18–20) show the integration of the women’s accommodations in the landscape. Two more plans and views (4816.22–23) show the dormitory complex for women, featuring enclosed courtyards, while another plan for a “large faculty residence,” a freestanding single-story villa, is also structured around a courtyard. As with his previous competition entries for residential buildings, the public functions are orientated towards the entrance area, while the private bedrooms are located to the rear, behind the walled courtyard. Two perspective drawings (4816.21+25) show the walkways between the communal residential buildings. The only irritant in Pei's drawings is the slightly unusual way in which the figures used to denote scale are dressed, some in Western suits with others wearing traditional Chinese shoes, hats, and robes. Does this reflect his ambivalent relationship to traditional forms, which later triggered vigorous debate over his designs for the Xiangshan Hotel in Peking and the Suzhou Museum in his home town?45

Module and Variation

The plans for Hua Tung University in Shanghai would not have evolved as they did without Pei’s involvement. With his master’s project, Pei had developed an idea of how modern design might be integrated in the regional context of his homeland. Gropius was evidently fascinated by his ability to reduce the tropes of traditional Chinese architecture to a few modular elements which, in contrast to the landscape, create a harmonious picture that transcended kitsch. The spatial qualities of the historic complex and its Mies-inspired aesthetics were a radical alternative to the prevailing Beaux-Arts idea of Pei’s colleagues in China. The Bauhaus and its pedagogical concept, however, played a secondary role, and it is doubtful whether the Bauhaus played any role at all. Both the plans and architectural approach were instead characterized by a concern with creating an integrated relationship between architectonic forms and nature. With his master’s thesis project at Harvard, as well as his contribution to the Hua Tung University project in Shanghai, Pei sought to create a contemporary vocabulary to renew the architecture of his homeland—a cause that would occupy him into old age. With the modular layout of the student accommodation facilities he designed for the latter, he draws on the historic principles of Chinese wooden architecture to realize a design in which modern technical means are integrated with traditional forms.

The project in Shanghai gave Gropius a first look at the historic principles of Asian architecture: Previously, his plans for the Harvard Graduate Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, built in 1949 with TAC, connected buildings using covered walkways, modifying perception of the outdoor spaces and other themes potentially derived from the work on Hua Tung University are identifiable here. The strongest impulse discernable in this design is, however, its engagement with traditional elements of Asian architecture (in 1954 he traveled to Japan and was also impressed by traditional Japanese architecture)46, in which Gropius saw affinities with his own conceptualization of variable, prefabricated building design, that could, using modular elements, build up spaces and thus architecture itself. The design for Hua Tung University also became a reference object for his later work on Baghdad University—used in that context to illustrate his ability to adapt to local cultures. “… the Hua Tung University which I think is good evidence for our capability to adapt to the conditions of foreign countries. My own line is particularly to go really after the actual conditions in a region and derive the design expression from the acquired knowledge.”47

Looking through into the courtyard of the dormitories, in: Harkness, New York/London 1991, p. 15.

Plan for female and male dorms by I. M. Pei, in: Jacoby: Architectural Drawings, Gert Hatje, Stuttgart 1965.

Postscript: A University in Taiwan

Pei’s involvement in the Hua Tung University project certainly paid dividends. Not only was he able to win over Gropius, but in 1955 he was commissioned to design a university in Taiwan. That same year, the United States United Board of Christian Education, which had been forced to leave the People’s Republic of China in 1951, founded Tunghai University in Taichung, Taiwan. Pei was commissioned to design the campus, but due to his formal obligations to Zeckendorf, he asked Chen Chi-Kwan and Chang Chao-Kang for assistance. Chang had studied at St. John's University in Shanghai in the 1940s under former Gropius pupil Henry Huang, and former Gropius employee Richard Paulick. He then continued his studies in the United States, initially at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago under Buckminster Fuller and later at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. In 1950 he completed his master’s degree under Gropius at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, before going on to work for TAC.48 Chen Chi-Kwan studied at the Central University in the wartime capital Chongqing in Sichuan Province from 1940 to 1944. After the war he briefly worked in Nanjing before departing for the United States in 1948 to continue his studies at the University of Illinois in Urbana. He moved to Boston in 1951 to work in the TAC office. In 1952, Gropius recommended him to MIT as a lecturer.49

When the Tunghai University project began in 1954, Chen and Chang left the United States to work on site in Taiwan. Against the backdrop of the aforementioned project for Hua Tung University in Shanghai, it is abundantly clear that the design approach for Tunghai is based on the same principles. The adaptation of modernity to local traditions, which Pei derived from the Hua Tung project, found an important expression here.

The campus of Tunghai University in Taiwan in a drawing by Chen Chi-kuan. At the front, the Luce Chapel and behind it the various faculties, each organized around a courtyard and connected by covered walkways, in: Helmut Jacoby: Architectural Drawings, Gert Hatje, Stuttgart 1965.

Translation from German by Rebecca Philipps Williams.

  • 1 Being that the Chinese speakers sometimes write their surname first and forename second while others use the Western system, I use capital letters the first time a Chinese surname appears in the text. In 1941 Henry HUANG opened a school of architecture at St John’s University in Shanghai. His lessons were based on the Harvard curriculum and some elements of the Bauhaus. Among other instructors, he employed German émigré Richard Paulick, who had previously worked with Walter Gropius in Berlin. I will not address the teaching of architecture in China in this essay. For references, please see Eduard Kögel: Zwei Poelzigschüler in der Emigration. Rudolf Hamburger und Richard Paulick zwischen Shanghai und Ost-Berlin (1930–1955), dissertation, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, e-paper 2007 ( retrieved 18 February 2018).
  • 2 Other Chinese students at Harvard included Eileen LOO, who studied landscape architecture and married I.M. Pei in 1942. After the Second World War, Harvard’s Chinese students included LI Ying who had previously studied at St. John's University in Shanghai, and Andrew KWO Tun Tsung, a graduate of Tongji University in Chongqing.
  • 3 Today, the Lion Grove Garden is open to the public.
  • 4 See Walter Gropius, Konrad Wachsmann: “House in Industry” in Arts & Architecture 11, 1947, 28­–38. He worked with Wachsmann on the “Packaged House System”. See Anthony Alofsin: The Struggle for Modernism, Architecture, Landscape Architecture and City Planning at Harvard, W.W. Norton & Company Inc., New York, 2002, 181. Also Barry Bergdoll, Peter Christensen, Ron Broadhurst (eds.): Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling, Packaged House/General Panel System–Walter Gropius and Konrad Wachsmann, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2008, p. 80–85.
  • 5 For I. M. Pei and Johnson see Alofsin: 2002, p. 184–186.
  • 6 The research into traditional architecture and its modular systems began in 1931 with Liang Sicheng, Lin Hiuying and Liu Dunzhen at the Society for Research in Chinese Architecture.
  • 7 Alofsin, 2002, p. 185. Alofsin shows Wang’s perspective drawing to illustrate the project of I. M. Pei. See also Christian Bjone: First House, The Grid, the Figure and the Void, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester 2002, p. 150–161, and for the project in Pencil Points: ‘Variety of Houses from Identical Prefabricated Units of General Panel Corp., Designed by Harvard Students’, in New Pencil Points, December 1943, p. 81.
  • 8 “5 Designs, I.M. Pei”, in Arts & Architecture, April 1945.
  • 9 “A Realistic House for Georgia,” in Progressive Architecture, April 1946, p. 74.
  • 10 Bjone, 2002, 152.
  • 11 "A Realistic House for Georgia", in: Progressive Architecture, April 1946, 74.
  • 12 Bjone, 2002, 152.
  • 13 Walter Gropius: ‘Chinese Art Museum in Shanghai’ in L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, February 1950, p. 24–25.
  • 14 Ibid, p. 25.
  • 15 Gero von Boehm: I.M. Pei. Light is the Key, Prestel Verlag, München, London, New York, 2000, p. 43.
  • 16 Ulf Meyer: “I.M. Pei, architect,” (interview) in Kai Vöckler, Dirk Luckow (eds.): Peking, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt, New York, 2000, p. 484.
  • 17 Ibid.
  • 18 Ibid.
  • 19 See Andres Lepik: “Mies und die Fotomontage 1910–1938,” in Terence Riley, Barry Bergdoll (eds.): Mies in Berlin. Die Berliner Jahre 1907–1938, exhibition catalogue, New York, Berlin, Barcelona 2001, p. 324–329.
  • 20 Bjone, 2002, p. 154. Farnsworth House is a one-room house with a functional core element, while I. M. Pei’s summer house has two separate bedrooms. Farnsworth House is a steel structure with an external balcony. The glass box of the house is elevated off the ground. In I. M. Pei’s summer house, the timber joists of the construction go through the interior and are used to elevate the glass box.
  • 21 There were no lectures on Chinese subjects at Harvard before or after this period.
  • 22 Kates was in Beijing between 1933 and 1941. In 1948 he published the book Chinese Household Furniture.
  • 23 Boynton, for many years a missionary and faculty member of Yenching University, published the novel The River Garden of Pure Response in 1952, which takes place in a Chinese garden. She had previously translated texts about the art of Chinese gardens. See “Notes on the Origin of the Chinese Private Gardens,” translated and condensed by Grace M. Boynton in China Journal 23, July 1935, p. 17–22.
  • 24 Sirén had photographed the Lion Grove Garden in the early 1920s (see Fig. 1). Two years after his lecture he published his opus on Chinese gardens. Osvald Sirén: Gardens of China, The Ronald Press Company, New York 1949.
  • 25 It remains unclear from the available archival material whether or not Henry Huang was in contact with Gropius during this time.
  • 26 Letter from Gropius to Paulick dated 7 April 1948, estate of Richard Paulick, personal archive.
  • 27 Letter from Paulick to Gropius dated 17 July 1948, estate of Richard Paulick, personal archive.
  • 28 In 1925, the 13 American mission universities in China were jointly organized under the name Committee for Christian Colleges in China. In 1932 this conglomeration was renamed the Associated Board for Christian Colleges in China, and renamed again in 1945 as the United Board for Christian Colleges in China. See Archie R. Croach et al.: Christianity in China, M.E. Sharpe, Amok, New York, London 1989, p. 52.
  • 29 The six Christian universities included Nanking University, Ginling University (both in Nanjing), Soochow University (in Suzhou), Hangchow University (in Hangzhou), Shanghai University and St. John’s University (both in Shanghai). See Mary Lamberton: St. John’s University in Shanghai, 1879–1951, United Board for Christian Colleges in China, New York 1955, p. 149.
  • 30 Minutes of the meeting of the St. John’s University Committee, United Board for Christian Colleges in China, 10 September 1948 in the Archives of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia, Box 239, RG011-239-3937 (online retrieved on 28 February 2018).
  • 31 Lamperton, 1955, p. 232.
  • 32 Walter Gropius: ‘Université de Hua-Tung’ in L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, February 1950, p. 28.
  • 33 Ibid.
  • 34 Ibid., p. 29.
  • 35 John C. Harkness (ed.): The Walter Gropius Archive. Volume 4: 1945–1969. The Work of The Architects Collaborative. Garland Publishing Inc., New York, London 1991, p. 1.
  • 36 The IIT was formed in 1940 from the fusion of the Armor Institute of Technology (where Mies taught) and the Lewis Institute.
  • 37 Meyer, 2000, p. 488
  • 38 Letter from I. M. Pei to Walter Gropius dated 27 October 1948, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.
  • 39 McMullen was Executive Secretary in New York of the United Board of Christian Colleges in China.
  • 40 Letter from Walter Gropius to I. M. Pei dated 28 October 1948, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.
  • 41 Winston Weisman: "Group practice" in: The Architectural Review, September 1953, p. 150.
  • 42 Harkness, 1991, p. 11–15.
  • 43 One additional plan drawing is labelled with his name. See Helmut Jacoby: Architectural Drawings, Gerd Hatje, Stuttgart 1965.
  • 44 An idea that was subsequently implemented at Tunghai University.
  • 45 Pei was commissioned to build Xiangshan Hotel in Peking in the mid-1970s and the Suzhou Museum in his hometown Suzhou opened in 2006. Both buildings provoked debates about cultural identity and appropriation in architecture.
  • 46 See e.g., Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Walter Gropius, Kenzo Tange: Katsura: Tradition and Creation in Japanese Architecture, Yale University Press, New Haven 1960.
  • 47 From a letter from Walter Gropius to Ellen and Nazwar Jawdat dated 9 September 1954 cited in Regina Göckede: Spätkoloniale Moderne: Le Corbusier, Ernst May, Frank Lloyd Wright, The Architects Collaborative und die Globalisierung der Architekturmoderne, Birkhäuser, Basel 2016, p. 392.
  • 48 Chao-Kang Chang, Werner Blaser: China. Tao in Architecture, Birkhäuser, Basel 1987, dust cover. I. M. Pei was formally employed by Zeckendorf’s company Webb & Knapp until he founded his own company, I. M. Pei and Associates, in 1951. The university project in Taiwan was his first independent project.
  • 49 His name as team member at TAC is written incorrectly (Chi Quan CHEN) for the 1953 project for the Northeast Elementary School in Waltham, Massachusetts. See John C. Harkness: The Walter Gropius Archive. Volume 4: 1945–1969. The Work of the Architects Collaborative, Garland Publishing Inc., New York, London 1991, p. 108.
●Latest Articles
The Spread of the Bauhaus in China

As early as the end of the 19th century up to the beginning of the 20th century, which is to say before the founding of the Bauhaus and after China’s forced opening through war to the outside world, China had already been witness to various experiments in modernization. Such experiments contributed to the laying down of a foundational mindset necessary for the acceptance of the Bauhaus in China’s traditional culture. → more

Richard Paulick and the Remaking of a Greater Shanghai 1933–1949

The article focusses on Richard Paulick’s sixteen-year exile in Shanghai. It is an examination of the interaction between a Bauhaus socialist and a Far East port city in its rush to modernize at the midpoint of the twentieth century. → more

Bauhausmoderne und Chinesische Tradition — Franz Ehrlichs Entwurf für ein Haus des Handels in Peking (1954–1956)

In den frühen 1950er-Jahren bestanden gute diplomatische, politische und ökonomische Beziehungen zwischen der Volksrepublik China und der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik. Beide, sich als sozialistisch verstehende Staaten, waren 1949 gegründet worden. In diesem Aufsatz geht es um die besondere Beziehung zur chinesischen Architektur, Kunst und Gestaltung, die Franz Ehrlich entwickelte. → more

Bauhaus and the Origin of Design Education in India

This article is an example of “writing by being,” because the author had the privilege of being part of the pilot “batch” of Indian design teachers. These students, many from an engineering background, were to be India’s future design educators, and their first exposure to design education took place at the newly-founded National Institute of Design, India’s first design institute, established in 1961 and inspired to a large measure by Bauhaus ideology. → more

Moving Away from Bauhaus and Ulm — The Development of an Environmental Focus in the Foundation Programme at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad

The National Institute of Design (NID) came into existence at the intersection of postcolonial aspirations to design a new nation and the new citizen and Cold War cultural diplomacy. It was located in Ahmedabad, a medieval western Indian city on the banks of the river Sabarmati, famous for its textile mills and as the place where Gandhi began his anti-British campaigns. Initially it was housed, perhaps quite appropriately, in a museum building designed by Le Corbusier where discussions began on the appropriate educational philosophy and pedagogy: Who would produce new lotas for the new nation? Who would teach them and how? → more

Contemporary Reflections on NID History — Teaching through the Design Archive

I often stage chance encounters for students with archival materials at the NID: a rare photograph of the building in construction, an odd handwritten scribble on a drawing by M.P. Ranjan, a stunning collection of sound recordings by David Tudor and John Cage. The amazement and wonder created by this staging becomes the starting point for the pedagogical value of archives. → more

On Behalf of Progressive Design — Two Modern Campuses in Transcultural Dialogue

“The Indian state has only existed for 13 years. And world history would be unthinkable without its unorthodox influence. India has delivered more new content in the last decade than any other country.” HfG Ulm founder Otl Aicher’s report on his trip to India in 1960 and the slides he took during his journey across the country are impressive observations of a country in upheaval. From today’s perspective, this material reads like an overture to the future collaboration between two design schools: the HfG Ulm and the NID in Ahmedabad.   → more

Design for Need — Der Milchkiosk von Sudhakar Nadkarni

Während der Designstudent Sudhakar Nadkarni 1965 an der HfG Ulm an seiner Diplomarbeit zur Gestaltung eines Milchkiosks für seine Heimatstadt Bombay arbeitete, reiste der deutsche Architekt und Designer Hans Gugelot an das 1961 gegründete NID in Ahmedabad. An beiden Schulen war man überzeugt, dass nur ein rational begründetes Design, das sich mit den grundlegenden Systemen der Gesellschaft, der Infrastruktur, der Gesundheits- und Nahrungsmittelversorgung befasst, die unmittelbaren Bedürfnisse der Menschen ernst nehmen kann. Der Milchkiosk-Entwurf ist ein herausragendes Dokument einer Gestaltungshaltung, die Design als ein Mittel zur Verbesserung des Alltags begreift. → more

●Photo Essay
Abraham & Thakore — NID Fashion

Like most designer start-ups, A&T started as a very small design studio. We began by designing and manufacturing modest batches of textile and fashion items, manufactured mostly on handlooms and tiny printing and embroidery sheds in India’s still pervasive small-scale industrial sector. And indeed, 25 years on, our supply chain is still reliant on and supportive of many of these small enterprises. → more

Habib Rahman — A Bauhaus Legacy in India

Habib Rahman, born 1915 in Calcutta, studied architecture at MIT under Lawrence Anderson, William Wurster and Walter Gropius, who taught next door at Harvard University. Gropius got Rahman his first job after graduation in his firm where Rahman worked until he returned to India in 1946. Ram Rahman’s account of his father’s legacy and his contribution to modernist Indian architecture. → more

Architects’ Congress

The passenger ship Patris II transported the participants of the 4th International Congresses of Modern Architecture (CIAM) from Marseilles to Athens and back. Bauhaus teacher Moholy-Nagy, travelling as a “friend of the new building movement” produced this half-hour soundless film as a travel journal. → more

Der CIAM-Protest — Von Moskau zur Patris II (1932)

Entgegen allen internationalen Erwartungen – schließlich waren Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Erich Mendelsohn und andere eingeladen – befand sich am 29. Februar 1932 kein moderner Architekt unter den Hauptpreisträgern der ersten Wettbewerbsrunde für den Palast der Sowjets in Moskau. → more

A Migratory Life—from Dessau to Moscow to Mexico — Hannes Meyer and Lena Bergner and the Arts

In this article Marion von Osten focusses on the curatorial research involved in two of the project’s four chapters: Moving Away and Learning From. She rethinks the importance of the migratory life of the Swiss architect Hannes Meyer and Bauhaus weaver Lena Bergner, starting with Meyer’s two-year directorship of the Bauhaus Dessau, the couple’s time working in the USSR (1931–1936), and, finally, their decade-long period as exiles in Mexico, which lasted from 1939 to 1949, the year they returned to Switzerland. → more

Die Sozialisierung des Wissens und das Streben nach Deutungsmacht — Lena Bergners Transfer der Isotype nach Mexiko

Lena Bergner wird normalerweise als am Bauhaus ausgebildete Textilgestalterin charakterisiert. In ihrem zehnjährigen Exil in Mexiko widmete sie sich allerdings der grafischen Gestaltung, fast ausschließlich für antifaschistische Projekte. Eine Ausnahme sind ihre weitestgehend unbekannten Leistungen im Bereich der visuellen Kommunikation für das mexikanische Schulbaukomitee. Hier verwendete sie Otto Neuraths „Wiener Methode der Bildstatistik“ (Isotype). Dieser Text erörtert den Transfer der Isotype von Europa nach Mexiko am Beispiel von Bergner und ihren möglichen Berührungspunkten mit Neuraths bildpädagogischen Methode und untersucht, wie sich die Isotype von propagandistischen visuellen Kommunikationsformen abgrenzt. → more

Praised, Sentenced, Forgotten, Rediscovered — 62 Members of the Bauhaus in the Land of the Soviets

In this 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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!” → more

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

●Artist Work
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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