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Bauhaus Architecture 1919-1933

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Review

Photography by Hans Engels and text by Ulf Meyer. Prestel, 2001. 144pp. £39.95

Photographer Hans Engels' last book featured 20th-century architecture in Havana; this new one was inspired by a visit he made to Walter Gropius'Masters' Houses at Dessau after their restoration (AJ 13.4.00), writes Andrew Mead .

In a brief introductory text, Ulf Meyer says:

'Whether taken as a point of reference or a point of opposition, the Bauhaus has always been perceived as a homogeneous entity, the very thing this controversial school of design was not.' Hence the title of the book should not be taken to imply that there is 'a Bauhaus style' as such. What Engels has done is document buildings by Bauhaus masters, teachers and pupils, and by members of Gropius' architecture office, from the school's foundation in Weimar in 1919 to its dissolution in Berlin in 1933. There is the familiar (Gropius, Mies - see picture) and the less so:

for instance, the series of villas which Bauhaus student Farkas Molnár built on his return to Budapest.

But even the familiar can come as a surprise when seen in recent photographs of such high quality. 'I am especially interested in the traces left by time and history on and in the buildings - traces left by the builders and subsequent occupants, ' says Engels.

His precise images are full of such information and, unlike The Modern House Today (AJ 6.12.01), the captions support them with helpful resumés of the building's history - the alterations, restorations, etc.

Nor is the text uncritical. 'The artistic enhancement of factory buildings propagated by Gropius is almost imperceptible here, ' it remarks of Gropius and Neufert's production hall for August Müller & Co; while on Mies' Haus Esters and Haus Lange it is similarly brusque: 'The design contradicts the architect's basic tenet of the 'honesty' legibility, and unambiguous quality of both construction and materials.'

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