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What was the Bauhaus legacy in Britain?

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Valeria Carullo

Dessau’s Torten Estate featured in an influential lecture and exhibition concentrating on the housing crisis, given by Walter Gropius just before left the UK for America

Torten Estate
Dessau, Germany, 1930s

As the Bauhaus centenary year comes to a close, the legacy left by Bauhaus émigrés in this country is still an object of debate, and undoubtedly difficult to define. A significant moment in the narrative that traces the movement’s influence on British modernism was the lecture delivered by Walter Gropius at the Design and Industries Association in London in May 1934, on the occasion of an exhibition of his work held at the RIBA that month and shortly before his immigration to Britain. A translation of his text, by MARS founder and contributor to the ­Architectural Review P Morton Shand, was read out by ­ Gropius – according to Maxwell Fry, barely understanding the English text. Nonetheless, the lecture was reported to have had a great impact on its audience, as did the exhibition. That featured numerous drawings and large format photographs of his work, including the Torten Estate in Dessau seen in this image. Both lecture and exhibition emphasised the need to find a solution for the pressing housing problems that were common to most European countries at the time.