Walter Gropius - Visionary Founder Of The Bauhaus

Episodes

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01Developing A Vision2019030420190305 (R4)"

Eleanor Bron reads Fiona McCarthy's biography of the Bauhaus founder, Walter Gropius.

Gropius was a man of extraordinary charisma. For more than twenty years, from 1910 to 1930, he was at the very centre of European modern art and design. His buildings are still strikingly experimental, his influence on post-war architecture in America and internationally was enormous. As the founder and director of the Bauhaus, he invented a form of creative education that influenced art schools worldwide. But the Bauhaus was more than an art school - it was the birth of a whole new philosophy of art.

The Bauhaus stood for delight, experiment and creative freedom. Gropius gathered talents, including Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, into an art school that became an alternative way of life. Once Hitler came to power in 1933, Gropius' situation became increasingly untenable. The Nazis opposed everything the Bauhaus stood for. Gropius' beliefs and his affiliations left him little choice but to leave Germany. His story is one of exile in a century of buffeting and conflict.

In this entertaining biography, Fiona MacCarthy argues that Walter Gropius's visionary ideas still influence the way we live, work, and think today.

Episode 1:
Walter Gropius begins to develop his vision for a new modern architecture. Through his first major commission, the Fagus shoe factory, he creates a “palace of beauty ? for workers, using glass in an entirely new way so that the building appears to float in space. He also meets Alma Mahler, wife of the famous composer Gustav Mahler. The first evening they meet, they fall madly in love, and their affair, passionate and tortured, will become a defining influence in his life.

Reader: Eleanor Bron
Producer: Elizabeth Burke
Executive Producer: Joanne Rowntree
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

Episode 1:
Walter Gropius begins to develop his vision for a new modern architecture. Through his first major commission, the Fagus shoe factory, he creates a “palace of beauty” for workers, using glass in an entirely new way so that the building appears to float in space. He also meets Alma Mahler, wife of the famous composer Gustav Mahler. The first evening they meet, they fall madly in love, and their affair, passionate and tortured, will become a defining influence in his life.

02Alma Mahler2019030520190306 (R4)Eleanor Bron reads Fiona McCarthy's biography of the Bauhaus founder, Walter Gropius.

Gropius was a man of extraordinary charisma. For more than twenty years, from 1910 to 1930, he was at the very centre of European modern art and design. His buildings are still strikingly experimental, his influence on post-war architecture in America and internationally was enormous. As the founder and director of the Bauhaus, he invented a form of creative education that influenced art schools worldwide. But the Bauhaus was more than an art school - it was the birth of a whole new philosophy of art.

The Bauhaus stood for delight, experiment and creative freedom. Gropius gathered talents, including Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, into an art school that became an alternative way of life. Once Hitler came to power in 1933, Gropius' situation became increasingly untenable. The Nazis opposed everything the Bauhaus stood for. Gropius' beliefs and his affiliations left him little choice but to leave Germany. His story is one of exile in a century of buffeting and conflict.

In this entertaining biography, Fiona MacCarthy argues that Walter Gropius's visionary ideas still influence the way we live, work, and think today.

Episode 2:
Just as Walter Gropius was beginning his professional career, he met Alma Mahler, wife of the famous composer Gustav Mahler and the femme fatale of avant-garde Vienna. Gropius was enormously attractive to women - dancing together the night they met, it seems that within minutes he and Alma were totally in love. But inevitably, Gustav Mahler discovers his wife's unfaithfulness. There is a showdown, and he forces Alma to choose. She chooses her husband, but the lovers cannot give each other up.

Reader: Eleanor Bron
Producer: Elizabeth Burke
Executive Producer: Joanne Rowntree
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

03The First World War2019030620190307 (R4)Eleanor Bron reads Fiona McCarthy's biography of the architect and visionary founder of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius.

In this third episode, Gropius' professional career is interrupted by the outbreak of war. On 1st August 1914, he was immediately called up, and sent straight into action in the mountains of Alsace where the German Army were locked into long battles with the French. His letters from the front reveal his anger at the widespread loss of human life and the sheer incompetence of his superiors. He was decorated as a war hero but his nerves were shattered, and what he called "the screaming jeebies" never really left him.

As he fights at the front, Gropius begins to formulate plans for the school that evolved into the Bauhaus, a school for an ideal future in which art, craft and technology were fused. The Bauhaus stood for delight, experiment and creative freedom.

Meanwhile, his love affair with Alma Mahler continues and, after Gustav Mahler's death, Walter and Alma marry. They have a child, but Alma takes a lover and her second child is clearly not Walter's. As he realises what has happened, Gropius "crumpled as though struck by lightning".

Reader: Eleanor Bron
Producer: Elizabeth Burke
Executive Producer: Joanne Rowntree
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Eleanor Bron reads Fiona McCarthy's biography of the Bauhaus founder, Walter Gropius.

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

04The Bauhaus2019030720190308 (R4)Eleanor Bron reads Fiona McCarthy's biography of the Bauhaus founder, Walter Gropius.

Gropius was a man of extraordinary charisma. For more than twenty years, from 1910 to 1930, he was at the very centre of European modern art and design. His buildings are still strikingly experimental, his influence on post-war architecture in America and internationally was enormous. As the founder and director of the Bauhaus, he invented a form of creative education that influenced art schools worldwide. But the Bauhaus was more than an art school - it was the birth of a whole new philosophy of art.

In episode 4, Gropius begins to create the Bauhaus out of the ruins of the aftermath of the First World War. The Bauhaus stood for delight, experiment and creative freedom. Gropius gathered talents, including Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, into an art school that became an alternative way of life.

Soon, the Bauhaus students had become a cohesive group, united by the feeling that they were fighting for the same ideals in opposition to the largely uncomprehending world around them. They staged spectacular parties, with elaborate costumes and wild dancing. But for many local citizens, these strangely dressed groups of students seemed alarming. At a time of escalating anti-Jewish prejudice, it was suspected that many of them were Jewish.

Local complaints focussed on the parties on the river where men and women could be viewed "without any bathing costumes whatsoever and in places accessible to everyone. This infringement of decency represents a danger to morals, especially for young people." And as the Nazi party became a serious force, attacks on the Bauhaus increased to such an extent that the teachers and students were forced to resign.

Reader: Eleanor Bron
Producer: Elizabeth Burke
Executive Producer: Joanne Rowntree
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres

05 LASTExile2019030820190309 (R4)Eleanor Bron reads Fiona McCarthy's biography of the Bauhaus founder, Walter Gropius.

Gropius was a man of extraordinary charisma. For more than twenty years, from 1910 to 1930, he was at the very centre of European modern art and design. His buildings are still strikingly experimental, his influence on post-war architecture in America and internationally was enormous. As the founder and director of the Bauhaus, he invented a form of creative education that influenced art schools worldwide. But the Bauhaus was more than an art school - it was the birth of a whole new philosophy of art.

In the final episiode, the rise of the Nazi party forces Gropius into exile. Nazi artistic censorship extended to architects as well as artists whose work was considered un-German - that is to say, purist and functional in appearance, as opposed to traditional and countrified, in tune with the Nazi mythology of nationhood. Gropius may not have been Jewish, but his views on architecture were becoming increasingly unacceptable. At the end of 1933, he saw his opportunity to leave Germany, and requested an official permit to work - as he claimed - temporarily in England. The permit was granted.

Walter Gropius and his wife Ise arrived in London on October 18th, 1934. But they were faced with a very different scene from the one they had known in continental Europe. As a British journalist commented at the time, "We do not understand the modern movement and we do not like it." Commissions were not forthcoming and the couple were very short of money. And so, just over two years later, Walter Gropius accepts an offer from Harvard University to become a Professor of Architecture.

Once he reached America, Gropius managed to reinvent himself, not so much as an architect but as a philosopher, an educational sage. Over the next thirty years he became an enormously influential figure. He also designed the Pan Am building, an opulent tower block on Park Avenue, a vast minimalistic structure of glass, bronze and polished granite.

Reader: Eleanor Bron
Producer: Elizabeth Burke
Executive Producer: Joanne Rowntree
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Serialised book readings, featuring works from various genres