Walter Gropius (1883-1969)

Founder of the Bauhaus and internationally acclaimed representative of modern architecture

Updated: October 13, 2011

Walter Gropius

Walter Gropius was the founder of the Bauhaus and an internationally acclaimed representative of modern architecture, who had a strong influence on architectural developments on both sides of the Atlantic.

Gropius studied architecture in Berlin and Munich from 1903 until 1907 but never actually graduated. After leaving university and working as a draftsman for a short period of time, Gropius set up his first architectural office in collaboration with Adolph Meyer. Together they designed the “Faguswerk,” a shoe factory located in a small town in northern Germany, which is an important piece of early modern architecture.

After he had served in the German military during World War I, Gropius founded the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1919 by refashioning an old arts and crafts school in accordance with his own artistic and educational ideas. The Bauhaus influenced architects, designers and city planners around the globe. Gropius was the director of the school until 1928.

In 1934, Gropius left Germany due to the Nazi attacks on the Bauhaus and its members. He went to England were he collaborated with the well-known modernist architect Maxwell Fry on a number of projects. However, Gropius was not able to settle into the English environment well and changed his country of residence again in 1937. In that year he immigrated to the United States, were Joseph Hudnut, Dean of the Architectural School at Harvard University, had offered him an academic position.

Gropius taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) for 14 years from 1938 until his retirement in 1952. Parallel to his teaching obligations Gropius joined an internationally successful architectural office, The Architects’ Collaborative (TAC), within which he remained active until shortly before his death. In Cambridge, MA, he also reunited with his former Bauhaus colleague Marcel Breuer with whom Gropius had a professional partnership until 1941.  Another emigre architect who teamed up with Gropius in the United States was Konrad Wachsman, who had left Germany in 1941.  Wachsmann and Gropius cooperated on the Packaged House System and unsuccessfully tried to sell the design through the General Panel corporation.

Selected Publications

Gropius, Walter. Rebuilding our communities. Chicago: P. Theobald, 1945.

Gropius, Walter. Scope of total architecture. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1955.

Wagner, Martin and Walter Gropius. "Cities' Renaissance." The Kenyon Review 5, no. 1, 1943: 12-33.

Selected Bibliography

Diefendorf, Jeffry M. "From Germany to America: Walter Gropius and Martin Wagner on Skyscrapers and the Planning of Healthy Cities." GHI Bulletin Supplement 2, 2005: 29-50 .

Isaacs, Reginald. Gropius. An illustrated biography of the creator of the Bauhaus. Boston: Little Brown, 1991.

Pearlman, Jill E. Inventing American Modernism: Joseph Hudnut, Walter Gropius, and the Bauhaus Legacy at Harvard. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007.

Archival Collections

Walter Gropius Papers, Bauhaus Archiv Museum für Gestaltung, Berlin, Germany.

Walter Gropius Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

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