1956 - Walter Gropius (1883-1969)

Bauhaus, Dessau

Designer: Gropius, Walter (1883-1969)
Copyright: Roland Halbe/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1999)

Gropius was born in Berlin, the son of an architect. After studying architecture in Munich, he worked as an assistant to Peter Behrens, and was able to establish his own office from 1910.


His early work included the Fagus Shoe Factory at Alfeld-on-the-Leine (1911) and the Hall of Machinery at the Cologne exhibition of the Deutscher Werkbund (1914).


Gropius saw active service in the First World War, serving as an air observer and on one occasion, being shot down by the French.


After the war, Gropius took over the Grossherzogliche Sächsische Kunstgewerbeschule (School) and the Grossherzogliche Sächsische Hochschule für Bildende Kunst (School), uniting them as the Staatliches Bauhaus at Weimar. Gropius invited his outstanding contemporaries to teach with him at the School. In 1926, the Bauhaus moved to Dessau and occupied buildings designed by Gropius himself.


Gropius remained Director of the Bauhaus until 1928 when he resumed his work in private practice and worked on several housing schemes until intense political tension drove him to England as a refugee in 1934.


Walter Gropius with the RIBA President, Charles Aslin

Copyright: Sam Lambert/Architectural Press Archive/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1956)

Whilst in England, Gropius worked with Max Fry (himself a Royal Gold Medallist), on a number of buildings, the most significant of which was the Village College, Impington, Cambridgeshire (1936).


In 1937, Gropius was invited to the United States as Professor of Architecture at Harvard where he stayed for the rest of his life. Although based in academia, he still designed buildings, working alongside one of his German students in the United States, Marcel Breuer.  


Won the Royal Gold Medal 'for his buildings and his contributions to the theory and teaching of contemporary architecture'.