Daily Features

Sleep Where the Great Modernists Slept

The Bauhaus-Dessau has opened its former student dormitory for overnight stays.

By Angela Riechers, Superscript November 7, 2013

Forget “George Washington slept here.” How would you like to stay overnight at the Bauhaus, birthplace of Modernism—maybe in a flat once occupied by the likes of design legends Josef Albers or Marcel Breuer? As of October 28, 1920s-style flats at the Studio Building in Dessau are available to rent for an overnight stay. The authentically restored rooms are austere and spare, with shared baths, but for a gentle tariff ranging from 35 to 60 euros, travelers can absorb the spirit of history’s most influential design school.

Light floods the interior of one of the sparsely furnished rooms. © Bauhaus-Dessau

The Bauhaus defined modernity in physical form, creating a language of art and design that was abstract and energetic, free from history’s prior ornamentation and decorative impulses. The school embraced the design of everything from architecture to ceramics to typography to furniture to textiles. Between 1925 and 1930, principals Walter Gropius and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy also designed and published 14 Bauhaus books (Bauhausbücher). As Hitler rose to power, many of the great Bauhaus instructors fled Germany for America, where some continued to exert their influence, teaching and publishing until the end of the 20th century.

Enjoy a small terrace off of your room at the Bauhaus Dessau. © Bauhaus Dessau

The multitalented Moholy-Nagy was an innovator across multiple disciplines, but his primary focus was photography. His book, The New Vision, from Material to Architecture (1932), asserts his Modernist belief that photography generated a brand new way of seeing, distinct from what can be perceived by the human eye. Moholy-Nagy designed colleague Paul Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook (1925), the second of the Bauhaus books, based on Klee’s exhaustive lecture notes on visual form. The book features bold sans-serif captions, plenty of white space, and arrows, points and heavy bold lines arranged into compositions. At first glance it looks more like a musical score than a book.

Cover of Andreas Feininger's New York in the Forties and a view of Cass Gilbert's iconic Brooklyn Army Terminal from the book. © Dover

The Book

Andreas Feininger wrote more than 50 photography textbooks, including the bestselling The Complete Photographer (1966). By the age of 16, he had ditched high school to take on an apprenticeship at the Bauhaus where his distinct photographic style evolved, highlighting the geometric and sculptural qualities of architecture as well as subjects taken from science and nature. His New York in the Forties (1978) depicts a city defined by angular light and shadow, enveloped in great clouds of steam, bursting with energy and life. Many of the images were taken during his nearly 20 year tenure as a Life photographer.

Cover of Maholy-Nagy's book, The New Vision. © Modernism 101

The Book

World Geographic Atlas Herbert Bayer

Herbert Bayer was a strong advocate of the Bauhaus philosophy of cross-disciplinary, functional design. His massive World Geo-Graphic Atlas (1953) essentially reinvented a centuries-old way of presenting information for the modern world. Gloriously printed in ten colors, his maps show the expected (location and topography) as well as the surprising (everything from ocean currents to economics to astronomy). By making layers of dense, complex information easily accessible, Beyer introduced a new method of presenting data that set the stage for our current infographic mania.

A spread from Herbert Bayer's World Geo-Graphic Atlas including the diagram, Succession of Life and Geological Time Table, at upper right.
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