Beyond Bauhaus, Modernism in Britain 1933–66
Architecture Gallery, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AD
1 October 2019 – 1 February 2020, FREE ENTRY
- RIBA exhibition takes a fresh look at the development of British modernist architecture through the reciprocal influence of the Bauhaus movement.
- Exhibition design by Chilean art and architecture studio, Pezo von Ellrichshausen
Coinciding with the centenary of the foundation of the Bauhaus school, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) presents a significant exhibition that revisits the impact of three notable Bauhaus émigrés: Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and László Moholy-Nagy. Centred on the brief period of 1934-37, when they came to live and work in Britain, the RIBA exhibition traces this fertile moment in British architectural history through the buildings completed during the decade. It considers the ideas they left behind and identifies the areas of post-war architecture where its legacy has had the most enduring impact.
The three-part exhibition draws largely from RIBA’s world-class collections and has been designed by Chilean art and architecture studio Pezo von Ellrichshausen. It includes original drawings by the featured modernist architects, contemporary photographs of their buildings and other unique archive materials. It also features a display of László Moholy-Nagy’s photographic work and films produced during his time in Britain, working for the architectural press.
Exhibition highlights include:
- Drawings and plans produced by the short-lived partnership of Walter Gropius and Maxwell Fry, including the unbuilt Isokon 3 building
- Never-before exhibited illustrations, sketches and personal photography from the archive of Leslie Martin and Sadie Speight
- Drawings of furniture and interior designs by Marcel Breuer and Wells Coates
- Photographs by ex-Bauhaus student Edith Tudor-Hart
- Archival films from the 1930s including work by László Moholy-Nagy
- Previous unseen personal correspondence and ephemera that tracks the personal lives of the key protagonists
- Exhibition design by Chile-based practice Pezo Von Ellrichshausen
Section one of the exhibition looks at the various ways in which ideas were exchanged and the personal connections and relationships forged between British architects including Maxwell Fry, FRS Yorke, Wells Coates, Mary Crowley and Norah Aiton, and their European counterparts. It covers the period when British architects first encountered Bauhaus employees at the CIAM (International Congresses of Modern Architecture) conference in Athens, to the moment when Gropius, Breuer and Maholy-Nagy left Britain for the United States. It looks at the formation of the Modern Architectural Research Group (MARS) in 1933, to support modernist architects in Britain and the success of the MARS exhibition in 1937.
The 1930s were a pivotal decade in British architecture. Despite relatively few modernist buildings being commissioned, by 1937 the country had become the centre of progressive contemporary architecture in Europe. Alongside the arrival of European émigré modernist architects Bertold Lubetkin (1931) and Erno Goldfinger (1934), three significant Bauhaus professors left Nazi Germany for the UK to find a climate that was more welcoming to their philosophy and ideals. The founder of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, arrived in the UK with the assistance of British architect Maxwell Fry in 1934. He was later followed by fellow Bauhaus tutors Marcel Breuer (architect) and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (artist). Their influence through their networks, built projects and teachings, was profound and fuelled the growth of the modernist movement in Britain.
Section two of the exhibition explores the English school of modernist architecture, developed during the 1930s through the designing and building of private houses. The completed houses, such as ‘High and Over’ by Connell, Ward and Lucas and the ‘Sun House’ by Maxwell Fry, offer a uniquely British interpretation of modernism. It explores how British architects began designing the modern interior, expanding their role in line with the cross-disciplinary approach of the Bauhaus school.
The exhibition examines the role of a group of pioneering women. Little known and rarely shown works by Elizabeth Denby, Sadie Speight, Margaret Blanco-White, Norah Aiton and Betty Scott demonstrate how important female architects engaged with the ideals of the modernist avant-garde and were amongst the pioneers to embrace this new style.
The final section illustrates the broader ambitions of modernist architects and the first tentative steps towards larger scale, more sociologically minded, projects. Covering the mid-1930s to late 1960s, it concludes with a reflection on subsequent projects by architects such as Eric Lyons, Denys Lasdun and Mary Crowley (later Medd) alluding back to their formative pre-war years. These were leading innovators in post-war British architecture, whose formative years were spent as junior architects in the pre-war offices of Gropius, Fry, Goldfinger and Coates. The Bauhaus presence in Britain was profound, championing not merely an architectural style but a philosophy, one based on an understanding of modern materials and technologies, and with a clear sense of social purpose.
The exhibition broadens the narrative to show how the Bauhaus was amongst several influences that created a fast moving and highly experimental environment for young modernist architects to practice in.
The Beyond Bauhaus exhibition is accompanied by a lively four-month programme of events, looking at the wider cross-disciplinary impact of the movement, including talks, film screenings and creative learning workshops.
Notes to Editors:
1. For further information contact Emily Stallard in the RIBA press office: Emily.Stallard@riba.org; 020 7307 3813.
2. Press images can be downloaded here and exhibition images can be downloaded here
3. Beyond Bauhaus – Modernism in Britain 1933–66 is co-curated by Pete Collard, Curator of Exhibitions at RIBA and Valeria Carullo, Curator of Photographs, RIBA.
4. The exhibition is part of a RIBA season of wide-ranging events and workshops, designed for all ages and experience levels. Further information here.
5. About the Bauhaus:
The Bauhaus school was founded in the German city of Weimar in 1919 by the architect Walter Gropius, building on a utopian, post-war spirit of renewal and optimism. The school quickly gained a reputation for avant-garde teaching methods and attracting renowned artists, architects and designers, all hoping to change society through the creation of the complete modern environment.
In 1925, the school moved to a purpose-built campus, designed by Gropius, in the industrial city Dessau. Yet within three years, Gropius had left and was replaced by Hannes Meyer and by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1930, before the school was forced to close in 1933. Now operating from a disused telephone factory in Berlin, the school was regarded by the Nazi party as representing values too far left of the political spectrum. Its founder, tutors and many of its students left Germany to live, work and teach in Britain and the USA.
Despite its short-lived existence, the Bauhaus remains one of the most important schools of art, architecture and design, still highly influential across all the creative disciplines. It shaped the curriculum template by which most contemporary schools of art, design and architecture are run.
6. Bauhaus exhibition designer biography - PEZO VON ELLRICHSHAUSEN
Pezo von Ellrichshausen is an art and architecture studio founded in 2002 by Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen. They live and work in the southern Chilean city of Concepcion. They share the position of Associate Professor of the Practice at AAP Cornell University and have taught at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and the Universidad Catolica in Santiago de Chile. Among other venues, they have lectured at the Tate Modern, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Alvar Aalto Symposium and the Royal Institute of British Architects. Their work has been exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, as part of the Permanent Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago and the MoMA in New York, and at the Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition, where they also were the curators for the Chilean Pavilion in 2008. The work of the studio has been distinguished with the Mies Crown Hall Americas Emerge Prize by the IIT, the Rice Design Alliance Prize, the Iberoamerican Architecture Biennial Award and the Chilean Architecture Biennial Award. It has also been widely published and edited in monographic issues of AV in Madrid, A+U in Tokyo, 2G in Barcelona and in the essay books Spatial Structure (B Architecture publisher) and Naïve Intention (Actar). Mauricio Pezo (1973) completed a Master in Architecture at the Universidad Catolica and a degree in Architecture at the Universidad del Bio-Bio. He has been awarded the Young Architect Prize by the Chilean Architects Association and the Municipal Art Prize by the Concepcion City Hall. Sofia von Ellrichshausen (1976) holds a degree in Architecture from the Universidad de Buenos Aires where she was distinguished with the FADU- UBA Honors Diploma.
7. Beyond Bauhaus – Modernism in Britain 1933–66 forms part of the nationwide Insiders/ Outsiders arts festival taking place from March 2019 to March 2020 to celebrate refugees from Nazi Europe and their contribution to British culture. See https://insidersoutsidersfestival.org for further details.
8. The Architecture Gallery at RIBA is open from 10am – 5pm Monday to Saturday and until 8pm every Tuesday. It is closed on Sundays. Free entrance. RIBA is at 66 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AD. Nearest tubes are Oxford Circus, Regent’s Park and Great Portland Street.
9. The Architecture Gallery opened in February 2014 in the RIBA’s Grade II* listed Art Deco HQ. Through regular, free exhibitions that explore the past, present and future of our built environment the gallery programme will help visitors discover and explore architecture. The gallery offers the opportunity for the RIBA to display its world class collections contained in the British Architectural Library.
10. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment.
11. RIBA Collections Since its foundation in 1834, the RIBA has amassed one of the world’s largest and richest architectural collections, which now comprises over 4 million drawings, books, models and photographs. The RIBA curates this collection for the general public and specialist audiences and makes it available for research through galleries and reading rooms at its headquarters at 66 Portland Place, London, and at the Victoria & Albert Museum (with whom the RIBA has an architectural partnership)
12. The RIBA is a registered charity and it relies on the generosity of individuals, companies, trusts and foundations to preserve its world-class collections, to maintain free public access to its exhibitions and develop a diverse and exciting public events programme. Follow @RIBA on Twitter for regular updates