Bauhaus Dessau Disappointment

During the brief break between school terms, we headed west in Germany for a very German site, the Brocken. More about that trip, including Quedlinburg, elsewhere.

From enjoying century-old design in Quedlinburg, given terrible weather, we decided to head to Dessau to visit the Bauhaus sites there.

I thought it would be a nice contrast in design centuries and anything Bauhaus should always be a great destination for the interplay of design, the arts, social theory, but also higher education pedagogy that Bauhaus offers.

But what a disappointment.

For all the associated fascinating stories and history, very little of that was told. The two main sites (Meisterhäuser and the school itself) don’t offer much signage to find them, or to navigate inside. It felt like we basically head to explain the significance of the Bauhaus to this kids ourselves.

The decision to rebuild the Meisterhäuser in their exterior shells, but partly with different interiors would have made a lot of sense if those interiors had been used for documentation of the design or the people that lived there. That documentation is very limited and not very accessible. The focus on Kurt Weill in one of the houses is interesting, as he is certainly a person and artist that is interesting to talk about, but the connection to the house is tenuous only (as far as I could tell, Dessau being his place of birth).

In the main school, it was very difficult to figure out where the exhibit might be and the exhibit itself was disappointing.

But what a great building!

What innovation in teaching programs! When I looked closely at some of the exhibits including syllabi for when the school moved from Weimar to Dessau, the syllabi explicitly identify learning outcomes, something that was cutting edge ten years ago or so at UBC, I think.

What institutional history between budget cuts in Thuringia that prompted the move from Weimar to Dessau to the rapid demise even before the national election victories of the National Socialists in 1933.

What weaving together of democratization of design and beauty and the arts and architecture!

It’s really to bad that the buildings and exhibit have not been made more accessible, more enjoyable or don’t offer opportunities for learning.


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