Walter (Adolf Georg ) Gropius

* May 18th, 1883 Berlin; † July 5th, 1969 Boston
German and American architect.

The history of the origin of modular building.


The talented Mr. Bauhaus

Regarded as a functionalist by his critics, exultantly supported by his students. The founder of the Bauhaus school never became as famous as his companions Mies van der Rohe or Le Corbusier. It's no wonder. His talents were hidden.

Walter Gropius was a great-nephew of the architect Martin Gropius. His parents were the secret government building officer Walter Gropius and Manon Gropius, the daughter of Georg Scharnweber. In 1910, he met Alma Mahler, the wife of the composer Gustav Mahler, and began an extramarital affair with her. In 1915 - four years after Gustav Mahler's death - they got married. After her early death, their daughter Alma Manon (1916-1935) became the subject of a musical memorial with Alban Berg's violin concerto Dem Andenken eines Engels and of a literary memorial by Franz Werfel. They divorced in 1920. In 1923, Gropius married journalist Ilse Frank (1897-1983). They had no children.

In 1903, Gropius began an architecture degree at the Technical University of Munich, which he continued at the Technical University of Charlottenburg after 1906, but he cut his studies short in 1908. In the same year, he joined the office of Peter Behrens, in which other architects who later became famous also worked, among others Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. After a two-year employment with Behrens, Gropius established himself as an independent industrial designer and architect in 1910. In the same year, Gropius joined the Deutscher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsmen) through Karl Ernst Osthaus. In 1912, he organized a collection of exemplary designs for factory goods for the German Museum for Art in Trade and Craft, which was founded by Osthaus with the support of the Association. As a designer, he designed interiors, wallpapers, commercial furniture, car bodies, and a diesel locomotive. His first significant architectural work was the Fagus factory in Alfeld an der Leine, which he built together with Adolf Meyer. With its steel and glass architecture, this factory building is considered an influential work of the later so-called "Modern Architecture," which became a common term in the 1920s under the title "New Construction" or "New Objectivity." The Fagus factory was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in June 2011.


For the Exhibition of the German Association of Craftsmen in Cologne in 1914, Gropius and Meyer built a model factory, which would similarly later prove to be a significant contribution to modern architecture. The special features of this construction were round, glazed stair towers, which were commonly used as a creative motif by Erich Mendelsohn in his warehouses later in the 1920s.

After the World War I, Gropius became the founder of the Bauhaus school: In 1919, upon the recommendation of Henry van de Veldes, he was appointed as the successor to the principal of the Grand Ducal Saxon Academy for the Fine Arts in Weimar (Thuringia) and gave the new school the name "State Bauhaus in Weimar." Gropius held the position of principal (first in Weimar until 1926 and afterwards in Dessau). His successors were the Swiss architect Hannes Meyer in 1928 and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1930, who headed the Bauhaus school until its closure in 1933.

Starting in 1926, he occupied himself heavily with large-scale residential building as a solution for the urban planning and social problems, and advocated for the rationalization of the building industry. In 1927, Walter Gropius co-founded, with Erwin Piscator, the project Total Theater, which aimed to eliminate the spatial division between actors and the audience. In 1934, after the National Socialist attacks on the Bauhaus school as the "Church of Marxism," Gropius emigrated to England and in 1937 to Cambridge in the USA, where he worked as a professor of architecture at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.

From 1941 to 1948, Gropius collaborated closely with Konrad Wachsmann. They developed and produced among other things the famous General Panel System.

In 1946, Gropius founded the group The Architects Collaborative, Inc. (TAC) as a union for young architects, which would simultaneously become a manifestation of his belief in the importance of teamwork. One of the team's works is the Graduate Center of Harvard University in Cambridge (1949/1950).

In the last years of his life, Gropius often worked in Berlin again, where he built, among other things, a nine-story residential block in the Hansaviertel in 1957, in the framework of the Interbau housing development. The concave south side and the open ground floor in this building are considered a typical example of "late modernism."

In the early 1960s, Gropius advocated for the preservation of the former Berlin Museum of Decorative Arts, which his great-uncle Martin Gropius had designed. The building was placed under preservation order in 1966. He did not live to see the later reconstruction to its use as the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum.


Konrad Wachsmann


*May 16th, 1901 Frankfurt (Oder), † November 26th, 1980 Los Angeles


Short bioraphy

A pioneer in the use of prefabricated elements who experimented with standardized elements as well as with his personally developed modules.

For more than fifty years, Wachsmann did research in the field of industrialized construction. Educated as a joiner and carpenter at the Kunstgewerbeschule (school of arts and crafts) in Berlin and Dresden (under Tessenow and Poelzig), Wachsmann worked as an architect in the years 1926-29 at what was then largest European timber house factory, Christoph & Unmarck AG in Niesky. As early as 1925, Wachsmann developed a prefabricated timber house system for single-family houses, which was used in the country house of Albert Einstein in 1928 or 1927 at a tennis center in Berlin.



Einsteinhaus /// Source:

After his emigration to the USA in 1941, Gropius associated with Wachsmann. Together, they perfected the prefabrication of metal building elements, which Wachsmann had begun in 1931 in Germany, and in 1941-45 they developed the first so-called "packaged house system", a type of modular construction system. The General Panel Corporation they founded together is, apart from the inventions of the American Bogardus in the 19th century, probably the first fully automated factory for the production of building elements. Wachsmann's intent applied primarily to the technical mechanism in combination with consistent, standardized elements to achieve the largest possible variety of arrangements with the smallest possible variety of parts. His construction system for hall buildings - the "Mobilar Structure Building System" (1946) - for example to use as aircraft hangars or exhibition architectures, was the epochal result of his deliberations. Wachsmann regarded the development of connection pieces of such systems as an especially important task, as they so broadly define the features of a structure.

As a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago (1949-64) and founder of the graduate program in industrialization at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (1965), he devoted himself to the efficiency of construction systems and their mass production until 1973 (emeritus).


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Frank Lloyd Wright


*June 8th, 1867 in Richland Center, Wisconsin; † April 9th, 1959 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Short Biography

American architect, interior designer, author, and art dealer.

Wright was raised in the countryside of Wisconsin and starting in 1885 studied at the University of Wisconsin, but left in 1887 without graduating - he obtained an honorary doctorate from the university in 1955. After that, he joined the architectural office of Joseph Lyman Silsbee in Chicago, but left the company in the same year to work at the office of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. In 1893, he founded his own company at his new residence Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. By 1901, he had developed around 50 projects. His employees included, among others, Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, who would later become his wife. Until around 1910, he principally created so-called prairie houses. The buildings are distinguished by their horizontal line layout. Correspondingly, the windows were arranged in horizontal rows. The roofs were executed as flat or hipped roofs with far-overhanging eaves. The goal was to achieve a high degree of integration of the buildings into the countryside - especially the typical countryside of the Midwest: the endless prairie.

His close contact with the countryside of his home state of Wisconsin was central in his later work The most seamless integration possible of construction in the countryside is one of the motives behind his immense body of work. This design philosophy is applied best in Wright's most famous work, the Villa Fallingwater, built at a small waterfall for Edgar J. Kaufmann. Other famous projects are the Solomon R. Gugenheim Museum in New York, realized in collaboration with Hilla von Rebay, and the administrative building for the Johnson Wax Company.



Villa Fallingwater /// Source:

For Frank Lloyd Wright, it was actually a matter of establishing an independent architecture of the new continent, after centuries of cultural dependence on the old continent. His so-called prairie houses would be an expression of the American spirit of democracy, pioneering spirit, and unity. The most important element was the fireplace as a meeting place of community, around which the building was developed. The entire thing embedded itself harmoniously into the surrounding countryside.

Wright was one of the first architects to use the term "organic architecture." For him it was about an organic context of the architecture with the various elements of art, nature, and areas of human life - not so much in the biological sense.

Under the name Taliesin, Wright founded several "studios" in the middle of the American prairie that would serve as development platforms for the new, independent American architecture. Wright's office was a point of attraction for young architects around the world, who worked with him temporarily and then further developed his style later in their home countries, including on the old continent. One example is Werner Max Moser.

In his book When democracy builds (1945), Frank Lloyd Wright creates a type of utopian master plan for civilization of the 20th century.