“Upheaval” is the word of the day as we are currently packing up to move to a new apartment. I can’t believe the end of my first year in Riyadh is drawing near. This must have been the fastest year of my life. I really don’t know if that is a good or bad thing, but I can’t help wishing that the time would slow down for me just a little in the next year. I feel both relieved and grumpy about this move. I feel relieved by the prospect of living in a place with, hopefully, much better maintenance than our current apartment. Over the past year we’ve had a steady rotation of domestic nuisances; mold, leaky ceilings, crappy Internet, a filthy, health hazard of a swimming pool and an outside area that looks increasingly like a junkyard every month. Still, there are things that I like about this place, like the open floor plan, that I will not have in the new apartment. Grumpiness is a necessary byproduct of any move. I’ll embrace it. I will be grumpy until this thing is done. No one or no thing can change that.
The new apartment is not an answer to all of our problems, just a new set of problems. Such is life. We picked up the keys yesterday and noted numerous design conundrums that must be tackled, ignored or made to disappear. For example, the door to the apartment opens directly into a very narrow dining room. There is a chandelier-type light fixture hanging in this space, presumably over the dining room table. Problem is, given were the light fixture has been placed it is not possible to center a table under it without losing access to the front door. Furthermore, the light fixture is hideous. As I begin to ponder these design problems, it seems like a good time to remind myself that rational design is a real, documented occurrence.
Way back in June, during our trip to Germany, my husband and I made a pilgrimage to what can justifiably be called a design Mecca: The Bauhaus Foundation in Dessau. For reasons that are probably foolish and unfounded, I did find it to be a sort of spiritual experience. I felt changed by merely standing on the ground and living, if only for a moment, in the spaces.
The Bauhaus, a German word meaning “house of building,” was a design school founded in 1919 in Weimar, Germany by architect Walter Gropius. The school emerged out of a desire to replace fanciful Victorian design, with a stripped down, reductive style more compatible with the machine age. With a curriculum designed to unite fine arts, applied arts and manufacturing, Gropius enlisted exceptional artists and designers, including painters Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, to teach.
The Bauhaus school first found a home in Weimar. That location now houses a very small museum, which we visited the day before going to Dessau. I wouldn’t say that the tiny Weimar museum is worth making a long trip, but if you happen to be in the area, give it a go. It mostly displays smaller objects like beautiful tea sets by Marianne Brandt and marionette puppets. The Dessau campus, which was active between the two world wars, 1925-32, is really the heart of the school’s movement and many of the products and buildings that define the Bauhaus legacy were created there.
The Bauhaus Foundation does have some small special exhibition spaces, but it is not a museum. Most of the spaces in the building are renovated to replicate the original use and give you idea of what the school was like. I personally felt more impacted by this experience than a heavily mediated and partitioned museum stroll. After all, Bauhaus is all about function and use. I loved sitting in the café in the basement of the main building with all the sunlight flooding into that space. Windows wrap completely around the basement, making it feel like an extension of the sidewalk. Oh, and the design shop is not to be missed! I don’t have any photos from the shop. I think I was too overwhelmed. I wanted every single thing, but settled on an interesting scarf, inspired by the Masters’ Houses and a few knick-knacks.