Although Walter Gropius’s famous “School of Building” was started in Weimar in 1919, it wasn’t until the Bauhaus moved to its second home in Dessau, Germany, that it gained a proper architecture department . . . and consequently began to transform the realm of architecture design.
Doesn’t it seem appropriate, then, that Dessau’s new Bauhaus Museum will be a literal transformer? That’s what Austrian architect Chris Precht thought. Precht, the head of Penda, a Vienna-based design firm, imagined a building with two sections in the base that can be rotated to radically change the space in response to weather, time of year, or museum events.
Precht’s design, submitted as part of the the Bauhaus Museum Dessau’s open international competition, looks at first glance like a combination of the original Bauhaus Dessau building and a jam box. It’s long and modern, and, when packed flat, it’s long and thin, almost like a railway car.
But Penda’s design has a hidden secret. On the ground level, two long rotating sections of the building can be spun around. Each section is divided into two halves containing a public space, an event hall, a shop and cafe, and a workshop. Depending on how the segments are rotated, the Bauhaus Museum can be reconfigured as needed.
For example, in Penda’s design, the two sections might be opened up in summer to invite the city park’s through traffic to peek inside at what the museum has to offer. Or if the Bauhaus Museum were holding a public painting class, just the workshop and cafe section could be rotated, allowing people into the building without paying entry fees. By turning one section 90 degrees, outdoor films could be projected on a wall, as audience members sat covered in the resulting alcove. The Bauhaus Museum could even hold concerts by rotating the walls 45 and 135 degrees, acoustically projecting the music of a band or musician performing between them to an audience.
“The Bauhaus era was not about form. It was about the performance of form,” Precht writes. “Not about shape, but about the logic of shape. Not about aesthetics, but how to adapt aesthetics to a daily use.” In that sense, Penda’s transforming design adapts the spirit of the Bauhaus movement to an open community space with class and respect.
Sadly, though, it was not a finalist in the Bauhaus Museum’s open international competition, which ultimately picked Brooklyn’s Young & Ayata as the winning design. Too bad. Gropius would have liked Penda’s version.