The Bauhaus Archive building
Walter Gropius had always insisted that the institution "Bauhaus Archive" should be totally independent. He refused to imagine this archive as a department within an existing museum. From his own experience with the historical Bauhaus, he also knew that many plans would only have a chance of realisation within a self-reliant institution. Stimulated by the euphoria around the commissioning of Mies van der Rohe for the construction of the New National Gallery 1962 in Berlin, Hans Maria Wingler, founding director of the Bauhaus Archive, asked Gropius if he would like to design a building for the Bauhaus Archive.
Gropius who had always been fully conscious of the high publicity value of buildings could not refuse. Provided by Wingler with a plan of a building site on the Rosenhöhe in Darmstadt, he designed a complex presenting a slightly deferred H-formation adapted to the plot's slope. Gropius proposed to light the exhibition space through shed roofs. Wingler accepted the plan unconditionally, but was politically unable to carry the project through. He had chosen the summit of the highest rise in Darmstadt for the building site. The city's officials deemed this too prominent a position for a newly-founded institute still in the process of defining its profile. On one of his frequent visits to Berlin, however, Gropius succeeded in awakening building Senator Rolf Schwedler's interest in the Bauhaus Archive.
At the suggestion of the Senate, the Bauhaus Archive moved to Berlin in 1971 with the guaranteed permission to realise the building planned by Gropius. Of the three alternative building plots available for the project, Gropius chose the plot situated next to the Landwehrkanal which, in contrast to Darmstadt, was entirely flat. The necessary changes to the plan were carried out by his former colleague Alex Cvijanovic, in conjunction with the Berlin architect Hans Bandel. This process of adaptation turned out to be difficult and took up a lot of time. Drastic changes ensued as a result of political decisions and financial cutbacks. In 1976, the cornerstone was finally laid for a building that in general plan and silhouette was to be very close to the design of 1964. Important aspects, however, had radically changed. Thanks to the simple structure, the construction advanced rapidly and the keys were handed over to the institution in January 1979.
At the festive opening in December 1979, the collection, open to public view for the very first time, was positively reviewed by the press. Max Bill, however, spoke of it as a "screwed-up old man's design". Today, the ever-growing numbers of visitors to the museum evince a more favourable public opinion: the distinctive silhouette of the building has become a characteristic city sight, whereas the unpretentious inside of the museum gains a lot of praise. Apparently, the qualities of the building come more and more to light with advancing age. A sign for this tendency could be the building's registration in the list of classified monuments in 1997. The international success of the Bauhaus Archive in the city of its last activities goes back to a lively presentation of the history of this institution through a well-founded collection and an attractive events program. In addition, the new urban location since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 provides for new impulse.