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Walter Gropius

German Architect

Walter Gropius Photo
Movements and Styles: Bauhaus, The International Style

Born: May 18, 1883 - Berlin, Germany

Died: July 5, 1969 - Massachusetts, USA

"We cannot go on indefinitely reviving revivals...Neither medievalism nor colonialism can express the life of the 20th-century man. There is no finality in architecture - only continuous change"

Walter Gropius Signature

Summary of Walter Gropius

Not only was Walter Gropius one of the pioneers of modern architecture, he was the founder of the Bauhaus, a revolutionary art school in Germany. The Bauhaus replaced traditional teaching methods with a flexible artistic community, focusing on a collaborative approach to learning and the creation of integrated design projects. Later, the Bauhaus also incorporated mass production techniques into its output, designing objects and buildings for a wide audience. The school taught some of the most famous names in modernism as well as attracting established artists working within the fields. Despite its relatively short-lived existence, the Bauhaus and the design styles associated with it were hugely influential on a global scale, but particularly so in the United States where many of the artists moved before and during the Second World War to escape persecution by the Nazis.

Key Ideas

Gropius believed that all design should be approached through a study of the problems that needed to be addressed and he consequently followed the modernist principle that functionality should dictate form. He applied these beliefs to wider social issues, designing affordable housing in the interwar period and seeking to improve physical conditions for factory workers through his architecture.
As well as pushing boundaries in architectural design, Gropius also experimented with innovative building and assembly techniques using prefabricated units and new materials such as reinforced concrete. Similar ideas were later utilised to create cheap, mass produced housing in the 1940s (known as prefabs).
Gropius is credited with the introduction of modernist architecture to the United States through his design of the Gropius House and his teaching at Harvard University. Gropius's buildings were in stark contrast to previous architectural styles and were characterized by their cubic design, flat roofs and expanses of glass that allowed for a merging of interior and exterior spaces.
Walter Gropius Photo

Walter Gropius was born in Berlin to Walter Adolph Gropius, a government official and Manon Auguste Pauline Scharnweber, the daughter of the Prussian politician Georg Scharnweber. His parents were wealthy and well connected and Gropius spent his summers on the estates of landowning members of the family. Walter Gropius Senior had a keen interest in architecture and Gropius's uncle, Martin Gropius, was also an established architect, his biggest commission being the design for the Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin (1881), consequently Gropius's interest in architecture was encouraged from a young age.

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