Day Three In Depth: The Gropius House
One of the purposes of our class trips is to facilitate hands-on experience with different types of objects not kept in the Winterthur collection. As such, the London trip, the southern trip, this New England trip, and the upcoming New York trip all attempt to give students the opportunity to see objects from different geographical regions and time periods. Our fearless leader, Brock Jobe, did this to great effect on the New England trip – a place not previously known to us as an incubator of modern design. With an introduction to Modern design on the first day at Philip Johnson’s spectacular glass house, the third day brought us to Walter Gropius’ magnificent 1937 house located in Lincoln Massachusetts, where were greeted with warmth and kindness by our guide, site manager Wendy Hubbard.
As we made our way through the house, Wendy described Gropius’ founding role in the Bauhaus movement, and what that movement was all about. While the Philip Johnson Glass House was highly selective and minimal with regards to the number of objects in the house, the Gropius house was filled to the brim with bauhaus objects. In keeping with the movement’s attempt to re-conceptualize objects, it seemed every object in the house was designed and created anew. Prototypes from Marcel Breuer’s work are found in nearly every room while Bauhaus pink light floods the house. The house is an incredible learning space.
As is the case when entering someone’s home, we were able to learn quite a bit about Walter Gropius’ personality. The house was brought to life when Wendy described the family, as well as Gropius’ incredible escape from Nazi Germany to find a safe haven in the United States. With an offer to teach at Harvard, Gropius was able to convince the infamous Joseph Goebbles to allow him to leave Nazi Germany on the basis that he would be the university’s first German professor. Every object told a story, and Wendy illuminated many to great effect.
Our class would like to extend a special thank you to Wendy Hubbard for such a terrific and enlightening afternoon.
An example of the unique lighting at the Gropius house: all light bulbs were covered in the metallic base pictured here, so as to prevent harsh light
Natalie Wright, Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, MA University of Delaware (2015)