In 1925, the city of Dessau commissioned Walter Gropius with the construction of three semidetached houses for the Bauhaus masters and a detached house for its director. The plot lies in a small pine-tree wood where Ebertallee stands today – one of the axes of the Dessau Wörlitz Garden Realm between the Seven Pillars of the Georgium and Amaliensitz. In 1926, Gropius and the Bauhaus masters László Moholy-Nagy and Lyonel Feininger, Georg Muche and Oskar Schlemmer as well as Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee were able to move in with their families.
With this ensemble of buildings, Gropius aimed, using industrially prefabricated and simple “building block” construction elements, to put the principles of efficient construction into practice – both in relation to the architecture and the building process itself. The standardisation of construction elements was, however, in view of the technical resources available at the time, only partially realised.
The houses acquired their form through interleaved cubic corpora of different heights. Vertical rows of windows on the side façades provide lighting for the stairways, while the view of the semidetached houses from the street is characterised by the large glass windows of the studios. The façade of the Director’s House was the only one to feature asymmetrically arranged windows. The sides facing away from the street have generous terraces and balconies. The houses are painted in light tones and the window frames, the undersides of balconies and down pipes in stronger colours.
The semidetached houses are essentially all the same: Each half of the house shares the same floor plan, albeit mirrored and rotated by 90°. Only on the second floor do the halves of the houses differ – the western section always features two additional rooms.
All the houses were equipped with modern furniture, and fitted cupboards were integrated between the kitchen service area and the dining room and between the bedroom and the studio. While Gropius and Moholy-Nagy fitted their houses exclusively with furniture by Marcel Breuer, the other masters brought their own furniture with them. The artists also developed their own ideas with respect to the arrangement of colour, which, with Klee and Kandinsky, for example, was closely related to their own artistic work.
In 1932, the Trinkhalle (refreshment kiosk) was built at the easternmost point of the estate. This small building was the only design by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to be realised in Dessau. It was demolished in 1970, and a pavement inlay today marks the site where the building once stood.
Following the closure of the Bauhaus in 1932, the houses were otherwise let. During the war, the Director’s House was almost completely destroyed; only the basement block remained. Both the garage and the Moholy-Nagy House were completely demolished. In 1956, a detached house with a gable roof was built on the foundations of the Director’s House. Apparently, the building’s owner was denied permission to reconstruct the original, although the reasons for this remain unclear. Comprehensive renovation work on the preserved Masters’ Houses started in 1992. The Kandinsky/Klee House is particularly fascinating because of its interior colour design.
The Masters' Houses and the Bauhaus building are included on the UNESCO World Heritage List because of their unique cultural heritage there had been a world wide interest in the buildings designed by Walter Gropius.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.