HELLERAU – Origin of the Bauhaus

Georg Ruhnau

The Bauhaus, founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919 and to this day the most influential art school in the world, celebrates its centenary in 2019. In his lecture, the Essen architect Georg Ruhnau introduces Hellerau, today known mainly as a garden city, as the origin of the Bauhaus.

The master carpenter Karl Schmidt founded the new Hellerau district on a hill near Dresden in 1909: globally successful furniture workshops with 500 employees, an industrial technical school with training workshops, a garden city based on the English model and finally the new Festspielhaus were the pulsating and innovative centre of the European avant-garde, the “workshop of a new humanity”, from 1909 until the outbreak of the First World War. In its founding years, the Deutscher Werkbund also had its centre there. Not only Walter Gropius, later also a member of the Werkbund, admitted that the Bauhaus was a realized Werkbund idea.

In his lecture, Ruhnau revives the fascination of Hellerau and the unique unity of work, art, and life lived there for five years. In particular, the merits and person of Karl Schmidt as a visionary entrepreneur and networker will be honoured. It will be shown why Hellerau, as the first place of a living Werkbund idea, is the origin of the Bauhaus.