“So I actually ran The Architects’ Collaborative (TAC) for nine years in Cambridge” one participant suddenly told me in the midst of a Tailored Cross-Cultural Bauhaus Tour. Now this detail is one of the amazing moments I often have during my work. It felt like a mental handshake with Walter Gropius.
The couple on the Tailored Cross-Cultural Bauhaus Tour of Tel-Aviv are both architects from the United States. Learning that one of them worked in The Architects’ Collaborative that Gropius founded with the same partner who was Gropius’s partner at the time, for me was extremely exciting. After researching the life, work and legacy of Gropius meeting a client who had worked with Gropius’s founding partner, is as close as I have ever gotten to Walter Gropius. We walked, talked and discussed the ways in which architecture portrays narratives, cultural logics and temporary fashions. As I expanded the Cross-Cultural discussion with my visitors, I understood once again how relevant the basics of Bauhaus are for today’s reality. Hearing during the tailored tour from the architects about what The Architects’ Collaborative has done along many years worldwide, felt as if I were hosting a silhouette of Gropius in Tel-Aviv.
Tel-Aviv has the largest number of Bauhaus and “Bauhaussish” style buildings in the entire world that number over 4000 bauhaus buildings. I find further interest in this. Looking from a detective Cross-Cultural perspective the relationship between Bauhuas and the city of Tel-Aviv reveals deep cultural meanings. These meanings tap on identity issues, urban planing, the attitude to the Other, perceptions of esthetics and more. It even reveals what one traumatized individual from a military service can do with his pain.
What I find intriguing in Gropius’s biography and invention of Bauhaus, is his ability to reclaim responsibility for common people’s wellbeing, dream for a better world and make his dream come true with architecture. It makes me wonder – how many leaders, innovators and trend influencers today actually dream dreams in favor of all human beings?
Gropius probably would have not imagined that by walking down the streets of Tel-Aviv and Jaffa today, many people, just like Gropius himself, generally suffer from traumas and particularity from their military service. As oppose to most people who are post traumatic, Gropius had managed to convert the energy of his pain into a call for change and call to action. Gropius transformed his pain into beauty.
Gropius formed the Bauhaus concept while lying in a hospital bed after suffering a physical and a severe mental trauma from his fighting in the First World War. Gropius then dismissed the heavy ornamentation and fanciness that was common in European and colonial architecture in the 19th and 20th centuries. Gropius stripped architecture to its basics by redefining anew attitudes towards materials, colors and more than all what the the goals of architecture actually are. Gropius perpetuated socialism and human wellbeing in the very cement of any Bauhaus building. Some of the basics of Bauhuas that are visible in the Bauhaus buildings in Tel-Aviv and Jaffa, are the equality between all apartments in a building, large windows and balconies for allowing light and air to come in and a common area accessible to all tenants such as the roof.
When I think of the goals of housing, wellbeing and joy, I find Gropius extremely relevant to now a days too. Who would not want equal standards within one building, lots of light and air flowing in through large windows and a space for meeting one’s neighbours and urban community?
As a Cross-Culturalist I believe every culture reshuffles human values and sets its unique hierarchy and order of these human values. In local Tel-Aviv and Jaffa cultures, esthetics I am afraid, is not located at the top of the list. Therefore almost any visitor I meet asks during the Tel-Aviv and Jaffa Tours: How come so many of these beautiful Bauhuas buildings are in such poor condition?
Back to Gropius. Gropius aimed to improve peoples’ lives and bring people together in a present building for a better collective future. Gropius aimed to harness the same knowledge used for manufacturing weapons and war munitions for allowing people, from all socioeconomic levels to live a better life.
In today’s reality of capitalism, hyper-individualism and separation not only are Bauhuas facades neglected but so are socialism, connectivity and the values of Gropius’s Bauhaus culture.
In my work at Encounters I lead people to meet other people, narratives and cultures. Often times, I too learn a lot from my visitors and at the end of the Cross-Cultural Tel-Aviv and Jaffa Tour I too am enriched by this experience.
At the end of that Cross-Cultural Tailored Bauhuas Tour I definitely felt like I had shook Gropius’s hand and hope that my visitors too, cherish their Cross-Cultural experience.