Gropius, Walter

Gropius, Walter

Gropius, Walter, 1883-1969, German-American architect, one of the leaders of modern functional architecture. In Germany his Fagus factory buildings (1910-11) at Alfeld, with their glass walls, metal spandrels, and discerning use of purely industrial features, were among the most advanced works in Europe. After World War I, Gropius became (1918) director of the Weimar School of Art, reorganizing it as the Bauhaus. It was moved in 1925 to Dessau. The complete set of new buildings for it, which Gropius designed (1926), remains one of his finest achievements. He built the Staattheater at Jena (1923), some experimental houses at Stuttgart (1927), and designed residences, workers' dwellings, and industrial buildings. Driven out by the Nazis, he practiced (1934-37) in London with Maxwell Fry and in 1937 emigrated to America, where he headed the school of architecture at Harvard until 1952. His influence on the dissemination of functional architectural theory and the rise of the International style was immense. Practicing his principles of cooperative design, Gropius worked with a group of young architects on the design of the Harvard graduate center. He continued his architectural activity with this group, the Architects Collaborative (TAC), in such works as the U.S. embassy at Athens, the Univ. of Baghdad (1961), and the Grand Central City building, New York City (1963). His writings include The New Architecture and the Bauhaus (tr. 1935) and Scope of World Architecture (1955).

See studies by S. Giedion (1954), J. M. Fitch (1960), and M. Franciscono (1971).

Walter Gropius, photograph by Erich Hartmann.

(born May 18, 1883, Berlin, Ger.—died July 5, 1969, Boston, Mass., U.S.) German-U.S. architect and educator. The son of an architect, he studied in Munich and Berlin and in 1907 joined the office of Peter Behrens. In 1919 he became director of the Staatliches Bauhaus Weimar. He designed a new school building and housing for the Bauhaus when it moved to Dessau (1925); with its dynamic International Style composition, asymmetrical plan, smooth white walls set with horizontal windows, and flat roof, the building became a monument of the Modernist movement. In 1934 Gropius fled Germany for Britain, and in 1937 he arrived in the U.S, taking a position at Harvard University. At the Bauhaus and as chair (1938–52) of Harvard's architecture department, he established a new prototype of design education, which ended the 200-year supremacy of the French École des Beaux-Arts. Among his most important ideas was his belief that all design—whether of a chair, a building, or a city—should be approached in essentially the same way: through a systematic study of the particular needs and problems involved, taking into account modern construction materials and techniques without reference to previous forms or styles.

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