Walter Gropius (b. 1883–d. 1969), the Berlin architect who founded the Bauhaus in Germany in 1919, was the single most significant figure in modern architectural education. His early architectural works, which drew from what he had learned at the office of Peter Behrens around 1910, remain key works in the history of modern architecture. As an educational institution, the Bauhaus (1919–1933) was arguably the most significant innovation in design education since the Renaissance, as it replaced the then-standard imitation of classical forms in architecture with the now nearly universal idea that design should be based on function and the economical provision of everyday needs. Gropius was also a central figure in the modernization of architectural education after he became Chair of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) in 1938, and he then had a second architectural career as a partner with the Boston-area firm, The Architects’ Collaborative (TAC). Gropius’s contributions to architecture remain contested and controversial. When he founded the Bauhaus after his service as a German officer in World War I, it was during the brief turn toward Expressionism in Germany. In its first few years, the school was arts and handicraft oriented, rather than focusing on design for industry. During the German economic crisis of 1923, new approaches, some related to the teaching at the Soviet state design school in Moscow, Vkhutemas, appeared at the Bauhaus, and it is this era for which Gropius’s pedagogical innovations are best known. Gropius stepped down as director of the Bauhaus in 1928, which was then was closed by the Nazi regime in 1933. Gropius himself initially sought to continue working in Germany, and he maintained a few official links with the Nazi government even after his reluctant departure for England in 1934. In his new role as Chair of Architecture at the Harvard University GSD (1938–1952), Gropius was also involved with the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina (1939), and helped the former Bauhaus teacher László Moholy-Nagy establish the Chicago Institute of Design (1938–1946). Many of the students who studied with Gropius at the Harvard GSD spoke highly of his teaching, and many, including I. M. Pei and Paul Rudolph, went on to become major postwar American architects. Yet Gropius’s own postwar design work with TAC was often regarded as mediocre at best, notably the former Pan Am (now MetLife) building at 200 Park Avenue in New York, which became a focus of criticism in the early 1960s, although the TAC, Baghdad University (1957) campus is a more highly esteemed work.
Gropius’s architectural work and pedagogical ideas received considerable critical and historical attention throughout his career. Giedion 1931 (in French) was the first Gropius monograph, which was expanded and published in English, French, German, and Italian as Giedion 1954. It remains the clearest concise account of Gropius’s intentions as an architect, designer, and educator. Argan 1962 is a compact overview of Gropius’s work and intentions, including the early years of TAC. Herbert 1959 concisely presents Gropius’s key ideas in design and pedagogy. Gropius 1972 is a well-illustrated, compact catalogue of an international Gropius exhibition, with Ise Gropius’s comments on each project. Franciscono 1971 was the first archivally based account of the early years of the Bauhaus and Gropius’s role in it. Busignani 1973 covers Gropius’s prewar career in Europe in detail. Fitch 1960 is a laudatory account of Gropius’s career that situates him as a “master of architecture” in the same series of well-illustrated monographs on other key figures of American and world architecture. Koyama 1954 was the first Gropius monograph in Japanese. Berdini 1994 is a compact, chronologically organized reference book of information on Gropius’s major projects. Krohn 2019, with many color photographs, gives a good sense of the current state of some of Gropius’s major works.
Argan, Giulio Carlo Argan. Gropius und das Bauhaus. Hamburg, Germany: Rowolht, 1962.
A brief, detailed account of Gropius’s work and career to 1950, with a bibliography and a chronology of his major works. Originally published in Italian in 1951, and also issued in a French translation.
Berdini, Paulo, ed. Walter Gropius. Barcelona: Gili, 1994.
A compact illustrated reference book for Gropius’s major projects, first published in Italian in Bologna in 1983, translated here into Spanish and English.
Busignani, Alberto. Gropius. London: Hamlyn, 1973.
The relatively brief text discusses Gropius’s experience of working in the Berlin office of Peter Behrens in 1908–1910, and describes his major works prior to his immigration to the United States in 1937. The illustrations include color photographs, including several TAC works not discussed in the text. These include the TAC, Gropiusstadt (Berlin Britz-Ruckow-Rudow) high-rise housing district and Gropius’s apartment building at the Berlin Interbau exhibition in the Hansviertel district (1956).
Fitch, James Marston. Walter Gropius. New York: Braziller, 1960.
A laudatory account of Gropius’s work as an educator, architect, and “social critic,” with photographs and some plans and other drawings of his most well-known projects. It also includes brief chronologies of his major works and career, and a brief selected bibliography of his writings.
Franciscono, Marcel. Walter Gropius and the Creation of the Bauhaus in Weimar: The Ideals and Artistic Theories of Its Founding Years. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1971.
Discusses Gropius’s ideas in founding and leading the Bauhaus in the context of post–World War I Germany, based on the author’s research at the Bauhaus-Archiv, then in Darmstadt and now in Berlin, and in German periodicals of the Bauhaus era. Various chapters also address the relationship of the Bauhaus to the Arbeitsrat für Kunst and to Bruno Taut. The early Expressionist Bauhaus pedagogy of Johannes Itten is examined in detail.
Giedion, Sigfried. Walter Gropius. Paris: Crès, 1931.
The first book-length monograph (in French) on Gropius’s work by the Swiss historian and critic, who was also the Secretary-General of CIAM (International Congresses of Modern Architecture) from 1929 to 1956. It has thirty-two high-quality photographic plates of Gropius’s work before 1930, and was part “Les Artistes Nouveaux” series published by G. Cres Editions in the early 1930s, which only included Gropius, Adolf Loos, and the team of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret.
Giedion, Sigfried. Walter Gropius: Work and Teamwork. New York: Reinhold, 1954.
A concise, well-illustrated overview of Gropius’s major works. It includes a chapter, “The Development of the Slab Apartment Block,” that explains Gropius’s influential 1920s ideas on this topic.
Gropius, Ise. Walter Gropius: Buildings, Plans, Projects 1906–1969. Washington, DC: International Exhibitions Foundation, 1972.
A well-illustrated, compact catalogue of an international Gropius exhibition, with Ise Gropius’s comments on each project included, and a laudatory introduction by James Marston Fitch.
Herbert, Gilbert. The Synthetic Vision of Walter Gropius. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1959.
An overview of Gropius’s key ideas, organized thematically under the headings “Art and Life,” “The Organic Nature of Design,” and “Unity in Education.” Originally published in the South African Architectural Record 40:12 (1955): 22–44.
Koyama, Masakazu. Walter Gropius, Kokusai Kenchiku-Kyokai. Tokyo: Shuppansha, 1954.
The first book-length Gropius monograph in Japanese.
Krohn, Carsten. Walter Gropius: Buildings and Projects. Basel, Switzerland: Birkhäuser, 2019.
A selection of Gropius’s major works, well illustrated with recent color photographs and some architectural plans. It also includes a brief illustrated introduction that discusses Gropius’s education and career. Projects featured include various houses, not all of them well-known, and some of the most significant works of TAC (The Architects’ Collaborative) where Gropius was a partner from 1946 to 1969.
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