Then as now

Bauhaus and the aesthetic of linoleum

In the early decades of the 20th century, the aesthetic of artistically-designed linoleum became a significant part of contemporary architecture. In particular, the major architects of the 1920s – such as Bruno Taut, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius – used linoleum as a design medium for interiors.

In early 1900, Henry van de Velde summoned Walter Gropius to Weimar and commissioned him to bring the Bauhaus art school to the building of his School of Arts and Crafts. In the course of its history, stretching over more than 90 years, the building suffered severe damage due to heavy use and was significantly changed during the GDR era. Intermediate floors were put in place, corridors were subdivided by doors and the studio windows were changed to box-type windows using a second window layer, to name just a few of the modifications.

In 1996, following inclusion of the Bauhaus building on the UNESCO World Heritage List, a renovation project that was well thought out in terms of design was planned and the Cologne-based architects’ office Thomas van den Valentyn and Harms und Partner office in Hanover were commissioned to carry out this assignment.

The low-key renovation concept included removing the changes from the 1950s and restoring the building design envisaged by Walter Gropius. The studio windows constituted a particular focus of the renovation work: for these, the architects used extremely thin insulating glass, developed for automotive construction.

“A thing is defined by its essence. In order to design it so that it functions well – a receptacle, a chair, a house – its essence must first be explored; it should serve its purpose perfectly, that is, fulfil its function practically and be durable, inexpensive and ‘beautiful’." (Quotation; Walter Gropius)

Bauhaus University Weimar

Since the early days of the 20th century, the main building of the architecture faculty at Bauhaus University Weimar has been home to many art colleges. With the union of the Weimar Saxon Grand Ducal Art School and the Weimar School of Arts and Crafts, the foundation for the Bauhaus was laid.

Pioneer of the modern age

In 1919, the two schools were merged by Walter Gropius to create the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar. A new type of art school, a pioneer of the modern age, came into being. Today, its name is still used for the university. In 1923, Gropius summed up his idea in the radical formula “Art and technology – a new unity”. His “concept striving for collaboration with industry” was met with rejection, not least because he “was firmly decided, from the very beginning, to pave the way for a new art focused on architecture, against all opposition”.

Light, bright rooms

The machine-drawn glass is slightly rippled, meaning that the façade retains its original liveliness. White and off-white walls support the bright and airy spatial impression in corridors, studios and seminar rooms, while intense red and blue tones in the auxiliary staircase form a sharp contrast to the later modern design which is predominantly white.

Building information

Client: State of Thuringia, Thuringia Ministry of Finance, Erfurt State Construction Authority
Architects: Henry van de Velde;
Renovation: Van den Valentyn Architektur, Cologne; H&P Bauingenieure, Hanover
Location: Weimar Completion: 1911/1999
Photos: Werner Huthmacher, Berlin

Linoleum has many points of contact with art and design – the favourite type, especially among the Bauhaus architects, is and will remain the single-coloured "Uni Walton"