happy birthday, mr. gropius.
Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus and pioneering master of Modernism, was born on this day (May 18) in 1883. Revered designer, teacher, and champion of a radically simplified architecture, Gropius remains a canonical figure, the golden god of modernity. After leaving Europe for the United States in 1937, Gropius set his sights on the American landscape, introducing Bauhaus principles to a new generation of architects. Perhaps the most complete example of his influential doctrine, the Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts, started a revolution, its stark white form a radical break from tradition.
Located an hour outside of Boston, the Gropius House served as the architect's home during his tenure at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design. After securing funding for the project from a generous local patron, Helen Osborne Storrow, Gropius (with the help and influence of his wife, Ise, daughter Ati, and partner Marcel Breuer) designed a striking white box that reflected both the progressive teachings of the Bauhaus and the local vernacular traditions of New England. Combining regional building practices (wood clapboard, fieldstone foundation, brick fireplace wall) with mass-produced and prefabricated materials (glass block, steel sash windows, I-beams), the Gropius team created an streamlined residential machine that somehow seems both modern and traditional, regional and international, stable and disruptive. Modest in scale and simple in finishings, the house helped chart a new course in American architecture.
A model of efficiency and simplicity, the collaborative design of the Gropius House is a pivotal piece of Modernism. With its flat roof, box-like form, and ribbon windows, the home exemplifies Gropius' bold architectural vision in a preview of architecture to come. In 2000, the Modern icon became a National Historic Landmark and is currently run by Historic New England. Information about visiting the property is available here.
Cheers to Mr. Gropius.
All photographs on today's post are part of the Library of Congress's HABS collection (MA-1228).
A version of this post was published on May 16, 2017.
This architectural historian cannot stop thinking about buildings, food, and that vintage rug she found online.