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.

Immigrant identity card, Hannes Meyer, Mexico, 16.11.1938, Inv.-No. 164-001-001 (82/1-380), © Hannes Meyer-Archiv, Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt am Main.

One can find documents related to the Swiss architect Hannes Meyer (1889–1954) in several archives, namely the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) in Zürich, the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles and the Bauhaus archives in Weimar, Dessau and Berlin. However, the bulk of his private papers are housed in the archives of the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt am Main (DAM), which hold most of Meyer’s personal letters, photographs, photocopies, scrapbooks, as well as published and unpublished articles. Examining this archive allows the diligent researcher to better understand Meyer’s complex personality, the scope of his interests, the evolution of his politics and his architectural career before, during, and after the Bauhaus—in Switzerland, Germany, the Soviet Union and Mexico. Among the many correspondences Meyer maintained that are now preserved in this archive is a batch of letters between Meyer and the Bauhaus-trained architect of Hungarian origin, Tibor Weiner (1906–1965).

Take for instance an undated letter Weiner wrote to Meyer in the beginning of 1938 which the younger architect ends by stating: “Then you also asked me what are my thoughts on Central Europe? I want to get to the other end of the world as soon as possible, if not on the moon.”1 Written shortly after Weiner’s arrival in Paris, this early letter is part of a correspondence—at times continuous, in other periods intermittent—spanning more than two decades. At the time it was written, Meyer and Weiner had known each other for eight years, having first met at the Bauhaus in Dessau and then spent much of the 1930s in the Soviet Union (living most of the time in the same apartment at Arbat Square in Moscow). Now they were, respectively, in France and Switzerland. The two men had much in common. Aside from being formerly teacher and student, fellow travelers and, eventually, Communist Party members (although in different moments and in different places), Meyer and Weiner both came from landlocked Central European countries and shared a common past, as noted above, at the Bauhaus in Dessau and the Soviet Union. They both eventually migrated to Latin American countries during the Second World War, Weiner in Chile and Meyer in Mexico. Later, they both returned to their native countries—with Meyer returning to Switzerland and Weiner to the other side of the Iron Curtain in Hungary—a few years after the war’s conclusion. The correspondence between the two can be characterized as an exchange of letters between a protagonist—Meyer—who due to his historical importance had his effects inscribed in several different archives, and a supporting character—Weiner—whose life story is more elusive and whose scant surviving papers are scattered between family members and at the archive of the Hungarian Museum of Architecture in Budapest. This correspondence is valuable for the insight it provides into aspects of Meyer’s life and work but it also provides a key to understanding the life and career of Weiner, who was certainly influenced by his former teacher, but went on to build a career entirely of his own making.

Tibor Weiner in Paris, ca. 1938, Tibor Weiner Family Archive, © Heirs to Tibor Weiner.

A lot has been written about Meyer at the Bauhaus. At the moment of his hiring by Walter Gropius, Meyer’s professional credentials consisted of the design of a housing estate in Basel for the Swiss Co-op, his Constructivist-inspired entries to the 1926 Petersschule competition in Basel and to the Palace of the League of Nations competition in Geneva the following year (both undertaken in association with Hans Wittwer). Outside of these designs, he was known for having penned “Die Neue Welt” (“The New World”), an ingenious text from 1926 where he suggested an updated role for architecture, critically unpacking “the latest” in everything from political/conceptual categories like cosmopolitanism, to collectivization and cooperation, mechanization and science. In April 1927 Meyer started teaching at the Bauhaus and was appointed director the following year. Two years into his tenure Meyer was fired on political grounds, after which he arranged a job in the Soviet Union, taking with him a group of seven Bauhaus architecture graduates—the so-called “Red Bauhaus Brigade.” While some of these students died in the Soviet Union, victims of Stalinist repression, the careers of some others extended well beyond the period they spent together there and took widely divergent paths. Weiner is an example of the latter.

Tibor Weiner’s time at the Bauhaus was brief. He entered the school as a postgraduate student, having received his architectural diploma in Hungary, and became one of the members of the Red Bauhaus Brigade who joined Meyer in the Soviet Union. Judging from their exchange of letters, the two men established a lasting friendship, one that while revealing an underlying hierarchy—who was the teacher and who the student is never in doubt—is also a testament to comradeship and complicity despite the two men’s 17-year difference in age. Weiner wrote the first surviving letter in their collected correspondence at the tail end of 1937 or the beginning of 1938, when he was in Paris and Meyer in Geneva (he had left the Soviet Union in 1936 and Weiner followed a year later). The two main topics of their first letters were the work situation in Paris and possible countries to which Weiner could emigrate. Weiner mentioned that finding a job in Paris was particularly difficult and that he had not only applied for architecture jobs but was also seeking employment within advertising agencies. He mentions Sweden or Holland (where he notes that his Dutch Bauhaus classmate Johan Niegemann had work prospects) as possible countries to which he imagined emigrating, as well as his having evaluated South Africa, England, Australia and Ceylon (the Swiss architect Hans Schmidt, who he had worked for in Orsk, had spoken to him of opportunities there). He had also considered Chile, Argentina and Mexico as possible emigration destinations.2 We know for a fact that throughout 1938 Weiner, who was Jewish, attempted to obtain immigration papers for Australia via the Australian Jewish Welfare Society as well as the Australian Department of Interior in Canberra.3 Weiner claimed that he was trying to arrange meetings with companies that were open to hiring “unsere Leute” (“our people”), most likely referring to left-wing sympathizers, explaining that he was also contacting colonization and emigration societies who offered assistance in securing jobs abroad.4 In fact, Weiner had begun trying to leave Europe from the moment he arrived in Paris. This speaks to the precariousness of his situation in France, where work papers were becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.

In Weiner’s early letters to Meyer the young Hungarian not only discussed his own prospects but also shared information useful to Meyer, who was in Switzerland and facing a similar crossroad. Weiner mentioned that America was the most promising destination, that there was a Bauhaus scene in Chicago, and that he had encountered a brochure about the Hungarian László Moholy-Nagy’s academic endeavors there. Weiner also mentioned that his former Bauhaus classmate, the German industrial designer Hin Bredendieck, was teaching in Chicago. Though apparently unenthused by the prospect, he wrote that emigrating to the United States appeared to be his best option, particularly because most of his other possibilities were in “wild” parts of the world. He also mentions having contacted the Austrians Wilhelm Schütte and Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky (who had been in the Soviet Union and had also been living in Paris for several months),5 the French architect André Lurçat (also back in Paris after living in the Soviet Union), and the American Paul Nelson (who had moved to France in the 1920s).6 Halfway through the first of the early letters he writes: “Something must happen, because the prospect of going home (to Hungary) becomes ever more threatening, and is not tempting at all with our new neighbors (an allusion to Nazi Germany).”7 The second letter ends with Weiner stating his previously mentioned intention to go to the other end of the world as soon as possible, if not the moon: Weiner saw the writing on the wall, but in fact had to wait until mid-1939 to secure a visa to leave France.

Hannes Meyer, Letter to Tibor Weiner, 26.10.1938, Hannes Meyer Estate, Inv. Nr. 164-103-034, Deutsches Architekturmuseum Archiv Frankfurt/Main, (DAM).

The first dated letter from the Meyer-Weiner correspondence was written by Meyer in March 1938. In it Meyer advised Weiner to go to the United States, where Moholy-Nagy and company had paved the way for former Bauhaus students. Meyer also expressed his opinion that working in the United States and studying American building techniques would favor Weiner’s professional development.8

In the meantime, in July 1938 Weiner began working in the studio of architect Pierre Forestier (1902–1989), then chief architect for the National Federation for Pulmonary Diseases as well as regional architect of the postal authority in several French département. Weiner worked with Forestier on the development of a sanatorium at Bullion Longchene and several preliminary studies for projects of a similar nature, as well as several of smaller private projects. Also in 1938, Weiner and Forestier collaborated with Schütte-Lihotzky on a competition design for a girls’ school and kindergarten in Paris.

From a letter Meyer wrote years later, it would appear that he met Weiner in 1938 and again in 1939 in Geneva and Paris prior to both departing Europe: these would be the last occasions the two would meet each other in person. In mid-July 1939, Weiner and his new wife Judith Vadja, a fellow Hungarian, left France for Chile— the first country to offer the couple immigration papers. Chile’s receptivity to Weiner’s visa petition was most likely connected to the earthquake that had struck the southern part of the country earlier in the year, creating a demand for construction professionals. They arrived in mid-August and not soon after a letter arrived from Meyer (who had migrated with his family to Mexico some months earlier), dated August 21, 1939. By October Weiner was reporting to Meyer on his first encounters with Chilean idiosyncrasy:

“In everything you say or criticize about Chilean architecture, everything is ‘claro’ (of course) and simple and self-evident, and, after all, this happens in a splendid landscape, in the shadow of the Cordillera, so you also believe it. But afterwards ... everything is ‘mañana’ (tomorrow), ‘pero’ (but), etc., and nothing happens.”9

Adopting a more serious tone, the letter continues with a thorough explanation of the division of labor in architecture in Chile, the role of the state in building infrastructure and the status of private commissions and private capital under what Weiner described as a socialist government.10

On October 26, 1939 Meyer wrote to Weiner:

“we are, Lena and I, glad for you, that everything was done shortly before the end of the game. The bitter times lie behind you in F. (France), now you will be overcoming the initial difficulties. You are also right: your situation in Chile is similar to ours here and the characteristics of the local professional life are the same for us here (in Mexico).”11

Meyer’s letters always included information on the whereabouts of other Bauhäuslers; for instance, Meyer mentions having given advice to the sister of the German architect Philipp Tolziner, a member of the Red Bauhaus Brigade then imprisoned in the Usollag labor camp in Solikamsk, on how to attempt contacting her brother.12 In the same letter, Meyer refers a to another acquaintance of theirs, Wolfgang Duncker, who had also been imprisoned in the Soviet Union, mentioning that he had learned Duncker’s wife was allowed to visit, which he thinks proves that contact is possible.13 Towards the end of this October 26 letter, Meyer asked Weiner for Bauhaus material of his own or from others, including whatever catalogues and pamphlets he had taken with him into exile, as he was preparing one or two books—one of them on polytechnic education on his time teaching at the Bauhaus and his experience at the Vasi School of Architecture in Moscow. Meyer wrote that he had already collected some 80 images but that his private papers were still in Geneva. The topic of a Bauhaus publication was a recurrent theme in Meyer’s letters over the years, and he became increasingly preoccupied with writing about “his” Bauhaus, a topic which he was well aware had been left out of Bauhaus-related exhibitions that had taken place in the United States.14

In a letter Weiner wrote to Meyer in January 1940, he described his first job in Chile as an architectural draftsman at the Ministry of Development.15 Weiner eventually found employment with Chilean architect Ricardo Müller Hess—who held important posts at the National Office of Public Works, and at the Ministry of Education—and together the pair won a series of competitions. In his last letter to Meyer from Chile, dated 8 February 1948, one can surmise there had been a pause in Weiner’s responses to Meyer: he summarized his time in Chile, dividing into two periods—a first span dominated by time spent designing buildings with Müller and a second period which began with Müller’s death in 1943, after which he worked as an independent architect and contractor. Ultimately, Weiner’s recollection of his Chilean architectural work was negative, due to the fact that while working with Müller he did most of the work but received only a percentage of the total earnings, and after the latter’s death would encounter a series of new difficulties. Throughout he had a hard time making ends meet.16

Tibor Weiner, Letter to Hannes Meyer, 07.10.1939, page 1/3, Hannes Meyer Estate, Inv. No. 164-103-034, © Hannes Meyer-Archiv, Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt am Main.

Meyer told Weiner in a letter dated from March 1940 that he has become director of the Instituto de Urbanismo in Mexico City, where, despite the austerity of the facilities (only three cabinets and nine drawing tables), nine eager students were enrolled. He described how his adjunct faculty consisted solely of Mexican architect José Luis Cuevas, and that on occasion special teachers for “communications,” “economy” and “human geography” were brought in. In this letter Meyer described his schedule in detail: three hours of teaching every weekday morning, and on Saturdays he and his students would go on expeditions (this teaching job would last only two years). Meyer told Weiner that he had been busy with competitions, mentioning a proposal for the Cultural Center of the Spanish Community in Mexico City, and also including details about the work of his wife Lena Bergner, a weaver with whom Weiner was familiar from the Bauhaus and his time sharing an apartment with the couple in Moscow, including that the pair had worked towards establishing a textile business with the Otomí Indians in the mountains some 150 kilometers north of Mexico City. This letter also offered a political analysis of the world and Mexico in particular:

“Think that in a few months here, too, the situation will be more dangerous. Now that the Jews in Palestine are sacrificed by Chamberlain. In addition, preparations for contestation riots here (sic). (This seems to anticipate an uprising against the presidency of Lazaro Cárdenas.) The Cardenas government interspersed with corrupt elements. Attitude of the army is not beyond all doubt.”17

In 1946, towards the end of his time in Chile, Weiner also began to teach architecture. We learn from a 1948 letter written just before Weiner left Chile that teaching had saved him from an unbearable work rhythm and constant worries over financial difficulties during what would be the last two years of his time in South America. Weiner had become involved with the reform movement of the school of architecture at the University of Chile, which was student-led and aspired to modernize Chilean architectural education and introduce a greater degree of social consciousness to the curriculum.18 Concerning the class Weiner taught in Chile, from this same letter we learn that it was an introduction to architecture, with both a theoretical and a practical component introducing students to architecture through a sequence of exercises that studied human scale and analyses of variables that condition people in buildings (functions, circulation, visual relationships, ventilation, etc.).19

In March 1948, Weiner and his family (by then he and his wife had had two daughters) left Chile due to growing hostility displayed there to leftists, particularly members of the Communist Party (after they left, the Party was proscribed and its members persecuted).20 At the end of Weiner’s letter one finds a handwritten note from his wife Judith confirming that the last years in Chile have been stressful and correcting her husband by clarifying that the couple’s daughters are not six and four— as he had written—but seven and four years old. She also asked Meyer how many children he and Lena Bergner now had, stating that she hopes to meet Meyer and his family.21 (In fact, the last letter Meyer had sent Weiner finished with a summary of his own family, which now included a daughter and a son).22

Tibor Weiner, Letter to Hannes Meyer, 07.10.1939, page 2/3, Hannes Meyer Estate, Inv. No. 164-103-034, © Hannes Meyer-Archiv, Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt am Main.

After a rough start in Hungary, Weiner ended up seeing more of his designs realized than Meyer. This is dutifully mentioned in Meyer’s last surviving letter to Weiner, dated June 11, 1951: “We have heard of the great work that you, as an architect, accomplish to the best of your home country … It would be useful if you could send us some construction magazines or art magazines, especially if they include your projects."23 Meyer is referring to the master plan designed by Weiner for the Hungarian postwar industrial city of Dunaújváros, originally called Sztálinváros. The letter includes a long summary of all the official positions Meyer held in Mexico and his various collaborations with Lena and reads like a tribute to a country they had left two years before after an intense decade of work that, however, did not include any realized building projects. It also brings to the fore Meyer and his wife’s difficulty finding work since returning to Switzerland, and their anxiety over their apparent inability to reintegrate themselves in Switzerland. (Based on other documents, it is possible to establish that their prospects in Mexico had been equally bad before they left). In this letter Meyer also insisted on the importance of publishing a posthumous “Bauhaus-Album,” and goes as far as describing it as a “dream” he and Lena possess.24

The exchange of letters between Hannes Meyer and Tibor Weiner reveal many aspects of the period in which they were written, as well as about the two correspondent’s respective personas. Moreover, their exchange is rich in clues regarding important figures of the period, many of whom are mentioned in this text. One can equally read these letters as emblematic of the perspective of those displaced by the gathering conflict in Europe, as well as the social structure of Mexico and Chile in the 1940s. Especially during their years in exile in Latin America, with the war unfolding in Europe and following its conclusion, current events are a main preoccupation for both men. Reading these letters, it is evident they were glad to be far from the conflict, but ambivalent about the thought they might never return.

Tibor Weiner, Letter to Hannes Meyer, 07.10.1939, page 3/3, Hannes Meyer Estate, Inv. No. 164-103-034, © Hannes Meyer-Archiv, Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt am Main.

A memoir by another Bauhaus student, the Hungarian photographer Etel Fodor, is worth mentioning in this regard, and its title, Not an Unusual Life for the Time and the Place, is applicable to the situation of many other Bauhaus students and teachers—and many of their likeminded contemporaries besides. Like many of the Bauhäuslers of the Meyer period, Fodor spent some time in the Soviet Union, and like Meyer and Weiner ended up far from Europe—South Africa in her case.25 Meyer and Weiner’s life journeys were not unusual for their time and place, and it is possible to think about the peripatetic lives of several of their contemporaries in similar terms. For example, the movement between Russia, Switzerland, Holland and East Germany of the Dutch Bauhaus teacher Mart Stam. Or, the movement between Russia, Switzerland, Iran and Chile of the Swiss Red Bauhaus Brigade member René Mensch. Meyer and Weiner are part of an itinerant dimension of Bauhaus and left-leaning architectural culture, one that is different than the Bauhaus set that goes to America, and different than the set that settles in Palestine, because they jump from one country to another before, during and after World War Two, a time when a combination of political aspiration and the upheaval of war dispersed people across the globe.

  • 1 “Dann fragtest du auch noch über Mitteleuropa.—Was ich dazu meine?—Ich möchte ja so schnell wie möglich an die andere Ende der Welt (sic),—wenn schon nicht auf die Mond (sic)”. Tibor Weiner (Paris) to Hannes Meyer (Geneva), undated letter 2/3 (labeled 1937 but most likely from early 1938). Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (2), Deutsches Architekturmuseum Archiv (DAM), Frankfurt am Main.
  • 2 Tibor Weiner (Paris) to Hannes Meyer (Geneva), undated letter 1/3 (labeled 1937 but most likely from early 1938). Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (1),  DAM Archiv.
  • 3 A language school card found among his papers suggests that Weiner was taking English lessons in Paris in anticipation of his departure to Australia or in order to prepare for the possibility of emigrating to the United States.
  • 4 Tibor Weiner (Paris) to Hannes Meyer (Geneva), undated letter 1/3. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (1), DAM Archiv.
  • 5 Weiner tells Meyer in this letter that the Schüttes had already decided they would join German architect Bruno Taut in Turkey. Towards the end of 1938, Weiner applied for a teaching job at the Construction School in Ankara, most likely following the recommendation of Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky who by then was already in Turkey. Tibor Weiner (Paris) to Hannes Meyer (Geneva), undated letter 2/3. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (2), DAM Archiv.
  • 6 From the first letter Meyer wrote to Weiner after his arrival in Chile, we can gather that during Weiner’s last months in Paris (when Meyer was already in Mexico), Weiner mediated between Meyer and Lurçat regarding material slated for publication in the Mexican magazine Arquitectura y Decoración. See Hannes Meyer (Geneva) to Tibor Weiner (Paris), March 6, 1938. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (4), DAM Archiv.
  • 7 “Und es muss etwas geschehen,—sonst ist die aussicht nachhause zu fahren immer drohender, was jetzt mit den neuen nachbaren schon überhaupt kein reiz besitzt (sic).” Tibor Weiner (Paris) to Hannes Meyer (Geneva), undated letter 1/3. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr. Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (1), DAM Archiv.
  • 8 Hannes Meyer (Geneva) to Tibor Weiner (Paris), March 6, 1938. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (4), DAM Archiv.
  • 9 “Du behältst in allem recht was du über chilenischen Architektur sagst oder kritisierst, alles ist “claro” und einfach und selbstverständlich, und nachdem dass alles in einem herrlichen landschaft geschieht, im schatten von den kordilleren, glaubst du auch.---Aber nachher .… ist alles mañana, pero, etc. also nicht aus butter (sic).” Tibor Weiner (Santiago) to Hannes Meyer (Mexico City), October 7, 1939. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (6), DAM Archiv.
  • 10 The president of Chile at the time was Pedro Aguirre Cerda (elected late in 1938), a member of the Partido Radical, a center-left party which would go on to triumph in several successive presidential elections.
  • 11 “Wir sind, lena und ich, froh für euch, dass doch alles noch kurz vor torschluss dir geglückt ist. die sauerei liegt hinter dir in F. (Frankreich), nun wirst du am überwinden der anfangsschwierigkeiten sein. du hast auch recht: deine situation in Chile ist aehnlich der unsrigen hier und die charakteristiken des dortigen fachlichen lebens gelten auch für uns hier (sic).” Hannes Meyer (Mexico City) to Tibor Weiner (Santiago), October 26, 1939. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (7) DAM Archiv.
  • 12 Philipp Tolziner survived the Gulag and became a specialist in the restoration of historic buildings in the Urals, only to return to Moscow after he was rehabilitated to work once again on the design of collective housing types.
  • 13 Meyer is referring to the German film critic and journalist Wolfgang Duncker (in the original letter it is misspelled as Dunker). Duncker was the son of the trades union activist and founder of the German Communist Party Hermann Duncker (after the war he was Professor and eventually Dean of the faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Rostock). Wolfgang, also a member of the Communist Party, was married to the Basel-born Erika Weiss. They had emigrated to the Soviet Union in 1933, he had taken Soviet nationality, and was arrested in 1938 under accusations of espionage. He died in 1942 in the Vorkutlag labor camp, located at the Pechora River Basin, in the Komi Republic. His widow and two children stayed in the Soviet Union, she worked at a tank factory, and in 1945 they were able to leave the country.
  • 14 Namely the Bauhaus: 1919–1928 exhibition that took place between December 7, 1938 and January 30, 1939, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. (An accompanying catalog of the same name was edited by Herbert Bayer, Walter Gropius and Ise Gropius and published the same year.) Meyer began working on a Bauhaus book towards the end of the 1940s, which would occupy him until his death in 1954. He describes it to Weiner for the first time in a letter dated January 7, 1947 as Bauhaus album that was demanded from him by Mexican and Italian friends. Hannes Meyer (Mexico) to Tibor Weiner (Chile), January 7, 1947. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (10), DAM Archiv.
  • 15 Tibor Weiner (Santiago) to Hannes Meyer (Mexico City), January 1, 1940. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (8) DAM Archiv.
  • 16 Tibor Weiner (Chile) to Hannes Meyer (Mexico), February 8, 1948. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (11), DAM Archiv.
  • 17 “denke, dass in einigen monaten hier auch die lage brenzliger sein wird. jetzt wo die juden in palästina von chamberlain geopfert werden. dazu aufstandsvorbereitungen der reaktion hier. die cardenasregierung durchsetzt mit korrupten elementen. haltung der armee nicht über alle zweifel erhaben (sic).” Hannes Meyer (Mexico) to Tibor Weiner (Chile), March 12, 1940. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (9), DAM Archiv.
  • 18 Tibor Weiner (Chile) to Hannes Meyer (Mexico), February 8, 1948. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (11) DAM Archiv.
  • 19 February 8, 1948. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (11) DAM Archiv.
  • 20 It is not clear if the Weiners belonged to the Chilean Communist Party, although he refers to the Communist newspaper where his wife worked as “our” newspaper. It is known, however, that Tibor Weiner would later join the Hungarian Communist Party. Tibor Weiner (Chile) to Hannes Meyer (Mexico), February 8, 1948. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (11), DAM Archiv.
  • 21 Tibor Weiner (Chile) to Hannes Meyer (Mexico), February 8, 1948. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (11), DAM Archiv.
  • 22 Hannes Meyer (Mexico) to Tibor Weiner (Chile), January 7, 1947. Hannes Meyer Papers, February 8, 1948. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (10), DAM Archiv.
  • 23 “Wir haben von der grossen Arbeit gehört, die Du als Architekt vollbringst zum besten Deiner Heimat, und von der herrlichen organisatorischen Tätigkeit, welche Deine Frau leistet. Es wäre für uns nützlich, wenn Du uns einige Bauzeitschriften oder Kunstzeitschriften senden konntest, besonders wenn darin Deine Projekte enthalten sind.” Hannes Meyer (Lugano) to Tibor Weiner (Budapest), June 11, 1951. Hannes Meyer Papers, Inv.-Nr.: 164-103-034 (12), DAM Archiv.
  • 24 See footnote 15.
  • 25 Etel Mittag-Fodor: Not an Unusual Life for the Time and the Place, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Berlin 2014.
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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

●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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