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Form and Landscape
Bauhaus in New England

  • 1 © Mark Römisch
Many are surprised to find that New England, with its colonial building style and puritan spirit, developed into a hub of the Bauhaus diaspora. Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, came to Harvard University in 1937, and other Bauhäusler, including Marcel Breuer, Josef Albers and Herbert Bayer, followed him to New England. Their influence among students and architects spread quickly, yet New England also left its mark on their imported ideas and generated a very unique form of Bauhaus expression.

4 Kugel/Gips House, Wellfleet, MA | Designed by Charlie Zehnder, 1970 | © Mark Römisch The houses designed by Gropius and his compatriots, as foreign as they seem at first glance within this environment, appear to absorb the lush, broad New England landscape whereby interior and exterior can no longer be easily distinguished. Despite its often modest size, the architecture is in no way constricted as the eye passes through the many large windows and is allowed to wander. It is almost as if houses were built here in order to come to rest and take root.

Although their buildings initially shocked New Englanders with their modernist flat roofs and boxy style, the Bauhäusler did in fact honor New England architectural traditions by using brick, fieldstone, and wood, which adhered beautifully to the traditional Bauhaus principles of simplicity, functionality and affordability. Moreover, one hoped to demonstrate that it was possible to build modern structures with abundantly available, inexpensive American products.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus, the Goethe-Institut Boston wanted to visualize this very special connection and mutual attraction between the Bauhaus and New England by means of a photographic exploration of the little-known colonies in Wellfleet, Lincoln, and Lexington. It was not envisioned as a documentary approach, but rather an artistic one: a photo essay. Mark Römisch’s camera carefully approaches from the shadows of nature, quietly penetrating the architecture, and then lingers on details while only hinting at the houses. Completeness was never the goal. And yet, by these very means, Römisch captures the essence of these buildings and their inhabitants.
3 Weidlinger House, Wellfleet, MA | Designed by Paul Weidlinger, 1953 | © Mark Römisch