Walter Gropius

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Walter Gropius
Walter Adolph Georg Gropius
BirthplaceBerlin, German Empire

Gropius, Walter

(väl`tər grō`pēo͝os), 1883–1969, German-American architect, one of the leaders of modern functional architecture. In Germany his Fagus factory buildings (1910–11) at Alfeld, with their glass curtain walls, metal spandrels, and discerning use of purely industrial features, were among the most advanced works in Europe. After World War I, Gropius became (1918) director of the Weimar School of Art, reorganizing it as the BauhausBauhaus
, artists' collective and school of art and architecture in Germany (1919–33). The Bauhaus revolutionized art training by combining the teaching of classic arts with the study of crafts.
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, adapted from the Bauhütte, the medieval stone-mason's guild. It was moved in 1925 to Dessau. The complete set of new buildings for it, which Gropius designed (1926), remains one of his finest achievements. He built the Staattheater at Jena (1923), some experimental houses at Stuttgart (1927), and designed residences, workers' dwellings, and industrial buildings. Driven out by the Nazis, he practiced (1934–37) in London with Maxwell Fry and in 1937 emigrated to America, where he headed the school of architecture at Harvard until 1952. His influence on the dissemination of functional architectural theory and the rise of the International styleInternational style,
in architecture, the phase of the modern movement that emerged in Europe and the United States during the 1920s. The term was first used by Philip Johnson in connection with a 1932 architectural exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.
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 was immense. Practicing his principles of cooperative design, Gropius worked with a group of young architects on the design of the Harvard graduate center. He continued his architectural activity with this group, the Architects Collaborative (TAC), in such works as the U.S. embassy at Athens, the Univ. of Baghdad (1961), and the Grand Central City building, New York City (1963). His writings include The New Architecture and the Bauhaus (tr. 1935) and Scope of World Architecture (1955).


See biography by F. McCarthy (2019); studies by S. Giedion (1954), J. M. Fitch (1960), and M. Franciscono (1971).

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Gropius, Walter

German and American architect. His design for the Bauhaus, Dessau, Germany, in 1925, was the first example of the new International-style architecture to be built. He left Germany in 1928. He designed the Graduate Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, in 1949, while professor of architecture at Harvard.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gropius, Walter


Born May 18, 1883, in Berlin; died July 5, 1969, in Boston, Mass., USA. German architect and architectural theorist. One of the founders of functionalism and a man who consistently worked out the principles of rationalism in architecture.

Gropius studied at higher technical schools in Berlin and Munich (1903–07) and was influenced by P. Behrens, whose assistant he was from 1907 to 1910. Gropius sought to delineate the design and function of buildings in their external appearance, which led to innovation in architectural forms. For example, ribbons of glass girding the building of the Fagus shoe-last factory in Alfeld (Lower Saxony, 1911, in collaboration with A. Meyer) emphasize the lightness of the curtain walls. In the administration building at the German Werkbund Exhibition in Cologne (1914) the contrasting of brick walls with light metal structures and glass elements is striking. In 1918, Gropius headed the schools of applied and fine arts in Weimar, combining them under the name State Bauhaus in 1919. While at the Bauhaus, he was one of the first to begin mastering the possibilities for creating new forms in contemporary architecture and design that lay in industrial production. Gropius became involved in the social problems of architecture, but he failed to go beyond the limits of reformist illusions. In series production of articles designed by the architect-designer and in industrial housing Gropius saw a means of making architecture and the material and everyday aspects of man’s surroundings democratic. After clashing with the conservative Weimar authorities, Gropius moved the Bauhaus to Dessau, where he built a new building for it (1925–26); this building served as a manifesto of the principles of rationalistic architecture advocated by him. Here, the problem of organizing functional processes dictates the asymmetrical placing of the masses of the building. In the late 1920’s, Gropius established close ties with the masters of Soviet constructivism. In 1928, Gropius moved to Berlin and devoted himself to the problem of so-called low-cost dwellings. He worked out a method of “linear construction” in which standardized units are laid out in parallel rows (the settlement of Dammerstock near Karlsruhe, 1927–28), and he also created several prototypes of low-cost apartments widely used in Western Europe. After the Nazis came to power, Gropius emigrated to Great Britain in 1934. Together with the architect M. Fry, he created a series of buildings (such as the Impington Village College, 1936–39), which helped to spread functionalism in the country’s architecture. Gropius moved to the USA in 1937, and from 1937 to 1952 was a professor (chairman after 1938) of the department of architecture at Harvard University in Cambridge. He built the New Kensington industrial settlement near Pittsburgh (1941, with M. L. Breuer), with lightly constructed homes which were placed so that they would harmonize with the area’s topography. In 1946, Gropius organized a creative group of eight young architects (the Architects’ Collaborative) and planned architectural complexes of buildings for Harvard University in Cambridge (1949–50) and the university in Baghdad (construction started in 1961). Relying on the experience of functionalism and making use of new achievements in construction technology, he built the neoclassical building of the US Embassy in Athens (1957–61) and the Pan American Airlines skyscraper in New York (1963).


Internationale Architektur. Munich, 1925.
Bauhausbauten in Desssau. Munich, 1930.
The New Architecture and the Bauhaus. London [1935].
Wege zu einer optischen Kultur. Frankfurt am Main, 1956.
In Russian translation:
Granitsy arkhitektury. Moscow, 1971.


Giedion, S. Walter Gropius: Mensch und Werk. Stuttgart, 1954.
Argan, G. C. Walter Gropius e la Bauhaus, 2nd ed. [Turin, 1957.]
Fitch, J. M. Walter Gropius. New York, 1960.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Gropius, Walter (Adolph)

(1883–1969) architect, educator; born in Berlin, Germany. He directed the Bauhaus (1919–28) and practiced in Berlin and London. He came to the U.S.A. in 1937 and headed the architecture school at Harvard (1938–52), where he replaced the beaux arts curriculum with modern training. He founded The Architects Collaborative (1945). An internationally influential functionalist theoretician and practitioner, Gropius was adventurous in his use of concrete, glass, and steel in his houses and corporate and public buildings; he investigated standardized, prefabricated housing. He designed the Pan American Building (with Pietro Belluschi, 1962), New York.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.