Weimar, the birthplace of the Bauhaus, will also kick off the centenary festivities in 2019 with the opening of a new Bauhaus museum. On 30 November 2017 the bauhaus museum weimar held a celebratory topping out ceremony.

Thuringia’s Minister for Culture, Benjamin-Immanuel Hoff (The Left party), at the bauhaus museum weimar’s topping out ceremony / Photo: Nicolas Flessa
Thuringia’s Minister for Culture, Benjamin-Immanuel Hoff (The Left party), at the bauhaus museum weimar’s topping out ceremony / Photo: Nicolas Flessa

As could be expected, the temperatures were rather frosty as the new museum’s construction foreman climbed up the mighty scaffolding to the top floor. Next to him, a few metres away, an unusual topping-out wreath hung in front of the Weimar sky: a replica of Peter Kehler’s famous Bauhaus cradle, decorated with ribbons and garlands, swayed softly in the wind as the tradesman read his solemn lines, “Now lower the glass down into your midst in accordance with old customs of the trade, with the wish that this building fulfils its purpose”.

There was a large turnout despite the winter temperatures: on this 30 November 2017, residents of the city of Weimar, as well as guests who travelled from all across Germany, wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to have a first look inside the impressive new building. After Benjamin-Immanuel Hoff (The Left party), the Minister for Culture, Federal and European Affairs and head of the State Chancellery of the Free State of Thuringia, addressed the crowd about the significance of the museum as a place of encounter, openness and discussion, he exchanged his microphone for a hammer.

Together with Weimar’s Lord Mayor Stefan Wolf (SPD); the president of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Hellmut Seemann; the general director of the foundation’s museums, Wolfgang Holler; the director of Weimar’s Office of Palaces, Gardens and Buildings, Johann Philipp Jung; and the lead architect for the project, Heike Hanada, he drove the obligatory steel nails into the wooden plank of a model of the museum (in the absence of real roof timbers). The fact that only one of these nails was driven in perpendicularly can be considered a charming imperfection to what was otherwise a thoroughly successful event.

The shell of the bauhaus museum weimar in late November 2017 / Photo: Nicolas Flessa
The shell of the bauhaus museum weimar in late November 2017 / Photo: Nicolas Flessa

After a champagne reception with a genuine Bauhaus band in the neighbouring Weimarhalle, the guests returned in small groups to the new museum. Taking turns, Hanada, Jung and others led the curious visitors through the shell of the building, which had been winter-proofed with wooden boarding. People were immediately impressed by the sight of the immense spaces, with their clear-cut floor plans and visual axes through multiple levels. The highlight of the tour, however, was undoubtedly the cascading ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ stairway, which associates this postmodern museum building with ancient Egyptian temples such as those at Dendera and Edfu.

In accordance with the concept developed by the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, the cosmic deities of those ancient temples are not simply replaced by a form of hero worship for the heroines and heroes of the early Bauhaus. After all, it was never the intention of the Bauhaus members to use their creations to inspire a cult – despite all their references to medieval masons’ lodges. And thus, the new building is intended to primarily fulfil one purpose: to rigorously examine the famous school’s internationally admired innovative ability, to contextualise it within a historical framework and, with curiosity, to critically scrutinise the impulses it provides people even today.

Just how fragile the traditions of modernism are, even at the birthplace of it’s most important institution, is illustrated by the architectural testimony of the Gauforum, built in 1937 in the immediate vicinity of the new bauhaus museum. This thoroughly modernist – and, at the same time anti-modernist – building complex that was built by the National Socialists still dominates the area between Goetheplatz, the Nordvorstadt district and the neighbourhood surrounding the railway station. The bauhaus museum weimar, which is set to open in the spring of 2019, has already met one of the public’s expectations: the estimated cost of € 22.6 million will not be exceeded.

[NF 2017; Translations: DK]