Background

In developing the concept for the summer school, we discovered other links to the past in addition to the more obvious aspects of functional design and architecture.

Although we never found an actual quote that sums up Hannes Meyer’s campus design as “built education,” we came across this concept frequently. The idea that architecture can promote learning – i.e. that straightforward design is tantamount to opening the mind – is something that can be experienced throughout the building.

Another link to the past is more ephemeral – the idea of cooperation. In 1928, Hannes Meyer was acting head of the Bauhaus in Dessau. A committed Marxist, Meyer used this position to drastically re-envision the Bauhaus curriculum. Educational instruction was organized around the notion of the collective. Accordingly, the design for the Trade Union School was not his alone – Hans Wittwer, head of the building department, also played an essential role, and a number of other teachers and students were also involved in the design and construction process. The building is a product of the so-called “vertical brigades.”

schule-montage

While “brigade” is not our favorite word and we don’t fully believe in Meyer’s idea of the collective (nor that most literature only credits Meyer with the building’s design, minimizes Hans Wittwer’s role, and never mentions the names of students) the concept of a “vertical” educational system, where the boundaries between novices and experts are blurred, is nevertheless an important factor we hope to achieve with the selection of our teachers.

The next link has to do with the end of the Bauhaus era in Germany. In 1932, the Nazi regime put an official end to the Bauhaus in Dessau. Meyer had been fired in 1930 and left Germany for Russia, but two Bauhaus emigrants are important here: Anni and Josef Albers. Anni Albers was the inventor and designer of the wall-covering material for the auditorium at the Trade Union School and her husband Josef Albers was head of Grundlehre [foundation course] during Meyers’ period at the Bauhaus. Both emigrated to the US and quickly brought the experimental ideas and teaching methods to a new place in Asheville, North Carolina – Black Mountain College. Founded by John A. Rice in 1933, Black Mountain College was conceived as a liberal arts school with an interdisciplinary approach to education. This was unprecedented at the time and it created an environment that spawned a revolution in the arts and sciences. Its vision of college as a community was a radical one.

While a revolution is not likely to take place during the span of our summer school, we intend to tap into this approach of our educational predecessors.

Additional reading material:
Collective – Annual Theme 2015 at the Bauhaus Foundation in Dessau
Anni Albers’ wall-covering material
Website of the Black Mountain College Museum and the Black Mountain Research website