Six rooms merge on the edge of a park, each room housing one of the programs that once formed the Bauhaus, each calling for autonomy yet playing a part in a cohesive whole. The delicate balance between autonomy and participation becomes a narrative for one of the most interdisciplinary institutions of the past century: The Bauhaus. Here, the merger of art, craft, design, culture and politics formed a force field that defined modernism worldwide. The gathering these six rooms is the programmatic framework and curatorial concept for the function of The Bauhaus Museum Dessau.
The arrangement of the rooms on the ground fulfils multiple urban requirements. It forms an urban edge for the Kavalierstraße, acts as a gateway to the park for everyday passage from Antoinettenstraße to Ratsgasse, and forms a fragmented series of outdoor gathering and exhibition spaces around its perimeter. The project seeks to fuse everyday activities that take place on the museum grounds with the more focused, curated experiences that occur on the permanent exhibition level above.
Visitors access the building both from the grand entry on Kavalierstraße or the walkway from the adjacent park. The ground floor of the building is dedicated to temporary, dynamic activities and exhibitions, while the upper levels host the permanent exhibitions. The ‘topoi’ – six curatorial themes based on the original Bauhaus School - are housed in each of the six rooms. The rooms are arranged vertically such that the ‘everyday’ exhibition activities are located on the main level, while the permanent collections corresponding to that particular topois are located in the galleries above.
The deep recessed entry on Kavalierstraße and the tall, narrow entry facing the park bring visitors into the entry hall, a grand space that connects to the café, exhibition, education center, ticketing booth, shops, all turning the space into a vibrant cultural hub for the passage of visitors, students, staff and art.
The temporary exhibition space is divided to two zones connected by a barrier free accessible ramp (6% slopes). The first zone is brightly lit, directly accessible from the entry hall, and features a large panoramic window gazing towards the park. The second zone is at the mezzanine level and accommodates the art pieces that are more sensitive to UV light. As such it will be artificially lit. This mezzanine also creates a transitional space linking the entry hall to the permanent exhibition hall above.
Permanent Exhibition Hall
How does one design a space that is both flexible enough to accommodate an unpredictable range of curatorial strategies and is articulated enough to directly engage a particular theme or ‘topoi’?
The more specific rooms on the ground floor merge to form one grand permanent exhibition hall on the second floor. A generous 1800 square metre unobstructed space affords the curators maximum freedom in organizing the permanent collections of the Bauhaus. This uninterrupted expanse is accomplished roof designed like a folded plate that capitalizes on folded edge conditions to create strength. The geometry of the folded roof plates, the differing joist orientations, and the light captured by the clerestory openings creates a unique ambience for each themed ‘topois’ within the exhibition hall.
Logistics and Café
The programmatic elements of the museum that house museum staff, such as the logistics and administration offices, are grouped with more dynamic functions that are typically filled with visitors, such as the café and education center. This avoids creating a ‘back of house’ feel to any part of the building, thus assuring vibrancy of use throughout the museum itself and a seamless integration into the park and streets surrounding the building at all hours of the day.
The art delivery, distribution and storage areas are arranged on the north quadrant of the building and are accessed by an oblique driveway connecting the museum to Friedrichstraße. Logistics rooms are placed both at-grade and at the basement level and are connected to all of the exhibition floors by an art handling elevator. The Café is paired with the truck entrance to soften the service character of the north facade with its large, inviting windows and patio. The extension of the café patio towards the park forms an outdoor exhibition area.
Education and Administration
The education center and event space are grouped together in the south quadrant of the building, next to the group ticket booth and the administration mezzanine. An outdoor exhibition area in front of the workshop can be used by the education centre participants for outdoor activities as well as exhibiting their work. This assures a degree of vibrancy on the south facade where the building footprint turns to embrace the Memorial for the Victims of Fascism.
Logistics and Administration
The logistics and administration office are separated and each grouped with more vibrant functions such as café and education center to avoid creating a back of the house feel on any side of the building thus assuring vibrancy of use and easy integration to the park independent from the hours of operation of the museum.
The proposed building systems are based on a idea deeply entrenched in the Bauhaus’s teaching: that all elements of a design are important and add to the work. Within this framework, even the building systems can be seen as having the ability to embodying the conceptual ideas behind the design. This idea is deeply rooted in Gropius’s approach to architecture and the Bauhaus’s philosophy.
The proposed building envelope consists of a 700mm thick insulated concrete wall. The concrete is to be cast on the warm side of the insulation then rendered with lime plaster on both the interior and the exterior faces. Window areas are reduced to improve heat retention, and the increased thickness of the envelope functions as thermal mass to store heat and cold over long periods of time, thus stabilizing the building’s interior climate. The technical design of the building attempts to move away from the contemporary practice of building multi-layered, highly mechanized facades and instead move towards the new/old paradigm of using massive breathable walls that create pleasant thermal environments without the maintenance associated with hi-tech low energy buildings.
Bauhaus and Memory
How does one architecturally celebrate a school and a movement that has already shaped the existing language of architecture?
The honest tectonic expression of the original Bauhaus building is embodied in this proposal. Its massive plastered concrete walls capture the light, texture and create a district mood. The careful expression of its elements: structure, windows, HVAC systems, railings and furniture, are done in an honest and straightforward way. These two themes; texture of space and the crafted tectonic, become threads that not only connect our new museum to the historic Bauhaus, but also reemphasize important architectural qualities, promoted by the school, that have since been overshadowed by an ideal that the modernist movement has become synonymous with; mass production.
The Bauhaus walls were never just white, they expressed the qualities of the material itself: the texture and feel of the plaster or wood or concrete. The glass used was never just transparent; it expressed the beautifully crafted assembly of the window and the beauty of the light it captured. The Bauhaus works always had a soul beyond the ideals they promoted. This proposal is an attempt to capture that essence.