The utopia of a chance passed over
Founded 100 years ago in Weimar, Bauhaus wrote a global history in architecture, design and painting. Lesser known than the school of design itself are its references to Darmstadt‘s Mathildenhöhe, the birthplace of the international Art Nouveau movement and the early setting for the activities undertaken by many Bauhaus legends.
Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, worked here in the architectural office of Peter Behrens, as did Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, which made the Darmstadt architectural office of particular importance. The famous Bauhaus Archive, planned by Walter Gropius in 1964 and erected on Berlin‘s Landwehr Canal in 1979, was originally designed for Darmstadt’s Rosenhöhe and refers through the shape of its roof to the five-finger tower of Mathildenhöhe.
The city of Darmstadt had rejected its placement there when Gropius had offered to reopen the Bauhaus in the city of Darmstadt after the Weimar facilities were closed, as it was unable to finance the building in its original design. Just as it had done in 1920.
All these connections gave a group of six students the opportunity to deal with the history of the faculty – located on the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt – and its connections to the Bauhaus. Subsequently, they designed an award-winning VR installation in which the Bauhaus in Darmstadt can be experienced in VR.
The exhibition “Form and Ambush” in the Designhaus Darmstadt illuminates the connections between the Bauhaus and the Darmstadt Mathildenhöhe that may have gone partially unnoticed.
“Form and Ambush” thus aims to open up a new, astonishing perspective on the Bauhaus and the Mathildenhöhe. It tells a story of human relations and conflicts between the two institutions, intellectual backgrounds, personal connections, historical coincidences and their effective influences. Among other things, it addresses Alma Mahler’s love stories with Joseph Maria Olbrich and Walter Gropius; or how Otto Bartning unsuccessfully tried to invite Gropius to the Darmstadt discussion “Man and Space” in 1951. In the studio from 1901, Prince Ludwig von Hessen raised the foundations of the Bauhaus Archive in 1961. However, the encounters in the light of the Mathildenhöhe did not always go harmoniously.
In 2019, the Bauhaus is located in Darmstadt
The exhibition also poses the question as to what would have happened if the Bauhaus had moved to Darmstadt, as was under discussion at the time, and not to Dessau in 1925. For this purpose, an interactive virtual reality installation allows visitors to immerse themselves in Gropius’ famous Dessau building, which a team of students from the Design Department under the direction of Prof. Philipp Thesen has placed virtually directly behind Olbrich’s exhibition building.
Virtual Reality makes history come alive
This resulted in an interactive VR experience that allows the user to move within the architectural utopia of the Bauhaus construction on the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt. This allows the user to discover charming details about the relationships between the two institutions of Bauhaus and Mathildenhöhe as well as the people who lived there. For example, in the drawer of Walter Gropius’ desk in his study there is a secret letter from Alma Mahler, who – as research into historical events revealed – was having a liaison with Joseph Maria Olbrich from Darmstadt.
Cabinets can be opened and their contents explored; vases and other objects can be grabbed and even broken if you feel like it. A small architectural model of the whole scene you are in is placed in one of the back rooms, allowing the viewer to see the whole thing from a different perspective. In one of the rooms the visitor has the possibility to experiment with a little shipbuilding game by Alma Siedhoff-Buscher (1923) in virtual reality.
In the spirit of the Bauhaus, which strove to revolutionize architecture by integrating further art practices, various disciplines were interwoven into a complete work of art. Contemporary tools of designers serve as a medium for a design-historical reappraisal. This opens up a new way for viewers to playfully learn about history and gain insight into the constantly changing and expanding horizons of the discipline of design.
“Moving through the installation, going up to work benches, touching tools and seeing what is being worked on at that moment is fascinating. The grandiose VR installation lets the utopia of Bauhaus in Darmstadt become virtual reality„
Art Director Club Competition 2020
Category Student works — Digital
C2 Award Los Angeles 2019
Innovative Technologien – VR
” Fascinating, immersive, excellent ! “
- Moritz Mohr (Industrial Design)
- Hans Hohmann (Industrial Design)
- David Blumberg (Industrial Design)
- Sahra Kolossa (Industrial Design)
- Ruixian He (Industrial Design)
- Michael Eiden (Communication-Design)