As if you needed another reason to visit Berlin. Throughout 2019, Germany is celebrating 100 years of the Bauhaus, and Berlin is putting itself centre stage.
It is astonishing to think that this school of architecture, art and design – which continues to exert an influence on designers and architects around the world – was in existence for barely 14 years. It was closed by Hitler in 1933 who accused its teachers of spreading communist views and anti-Nazi propaganda. But in the Berlin of 2019 you can immerse yourself in the Bauhaus. There’s a comprehensive and somewhat overwhelming website listing all the anniversary events.
On arriving in Berlin, I was surprised to find the Bauhaus Archiv Museum closed for renovations and not due to re-open until the celebrations are well and truly over in around 2022. However, the closure has been turned to an advantage and the museum has popped up in a handsome seven-storey building on Ernst-Reuter-Platz, constructed in 1955-56 by Paul Schwebes.
After taking part in workshops in the pop-up Bauhaus-Archive-Museum and admiring the Bauhaus inspired products, I stepped into the Manufactum Department store – the permanent occupant of the building. Set up 30 years ago by a member of the German Green Party, this ethical shop has a full understanding of sustainability and is a cross between the Conran Shop and the food hall in Harvey Nichols. It’s a cool, stylish joy that includes a café and bakery serving quality organic food.
Rather than try to detail the plethora of Bauhaus centenary events, I’m highlighting a couple I saw and liked. From Arts & Crafts to Bauhaus at the Bröhan Museum (until May 5, 2019), I saw how the Bauhaus interdisciplinary philosophy was built firmly on the values of Modernism that went back to the 1800s, and William Morris whose Arts & Crafts movement emphasised the importance of craft in the creation of a new Utopian society.
The show includes pieces from Arts and Crafts, from the Glasgow School, from the German Werkbund and from De Stijl movement. Promotional films from the Bauhaus show the practicality and functionality of Bauhaus-designed furniture and artefacts. The films remind us that this was still a largely male domain and the women, even though contributing significantly to the work and philosophy of the Bauhaus, are mainly remembered for their decorative qualities and as lovers and wives of the men.
Next we went to the Museum der Dinge (The Museum of Things) to see its small but delightfully formed exhibition, 111/99 QUESTIONING THE MODERNIST DESIGN VOCABULARY (until December 31). This exhibition opened at the end of last year. The 99 of the title refers to the Bauhaus’s age and the 111 to the Deutschen Werkbund (founded 1907) whose philosophy fed directly into the Bauhaus teachings. This temporary exhibition concentrates on the typographic forms and expressive language of modernism in these movements. The Museum der Dinge also has a fascinating collection of everyday things arranged by category. Heaven for the Instagrammer.
There are countless exhibitions and events to enjoy. A good time to visit may be Bauhaus Week Berlin 2019 running from August 31 (the Long Night of the Museum) until September 8 (the Day of the Open Monument) when the celebrations will take to the streets giving you a chance to experience everything through performance and dance.
I travelled around Berlin with a Berlin Welcome Card which, as well as offering free transport on buses, trams, S-Bahns and U-Bahns, afforded discounts in many of the quirkier museums.