Bauhaus in Britain

From the Isokon building to the Pioneer Health Centre, a new exhibition at the RIBA in London looks at the impact of the Bauhaus on Britain.

“Beyond Bauhaus – Modernism in Britain 1933-66” begins with the departure, rather than arrival, of three former Bauhaus school of art teachers (Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and László Moholy-Nagy) from the UK. It is 1937, and after just four years in Britian following the closure of the Bauhaus art school (1919-1933), the trio departs to America.

Drawings and photographs pulled from RIBA's archives are viewed through circular, triangular and square openings in a dense forest of colourful totems designed by Chilean architects Pezo von Ellrichshausen. Roaming from orange to purple and green – "more complex colours – as opposed to the classic Bauhaus red, blue and yellow" – the 13 columns are coloured to indicate three loose chapters to the exhibition.

Beyond Bauhaus installation view
Beyond Bauhaus installation view

A selection of memoriabilia of the trio's farewell festivities sets the tone for the show, which starts with an exploration of the collaborations Gropius, Moholy-Nagy, and Breuer made with British architects during their short stint in the UK, and the MARS exhibition that supported modernism in Britain. It progresses to show the output of British modernists in the 1930s, and concludes with at look at how Britian's now much acclaimed post-war architecture has its roots in the ethos and progressive ideas of the Bauhaus.

Among the projects on show to illustrate is the distinctly modern form of the bright white Sea Lane House (1937) in West Sussex designed by Breuer with British architect F.R.S. Yorke, the experimental south London wellbeing complex, the Pioneer Health Centre (1935), by Owen Williams, and the Isokon Flats (1934) in north London by Wells Coates – home to Breuer, Gropius and Maholy-Nagy for a short time.

Beyond Bauhaus – Modernism in Britain 1933-66
RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London
Pete Collard, Valeria Carullo
Opening dates:
1 October 2019 - 1 February 2020

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