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ADGB Trade Union School

Bernau, Germany
1 of 9

The complex of the Trade Union School built by the Hannes Meyer and Hans Wittwer from 1928 to 1930 is the Bauhaus' largest building project apart from the Bauhaus in Dessau and one of its most eminent buildings. Hannes Meyer received the commisssion for the project shortly after his nomination as the new director of the Bauhaus at the end of April 1928.

The Trade Union School's purpose was to provide further education to administrators and leaders of the trade union movement on such topics as economics, management, labor law, and industrial hygiene. It needed acommodation, catering and sporting facilities for about 130 people. Similar to Walter Gropius' Bauhaus in Dessau, the whole complex can only be grasped by air. It consists of several linked but structurally separated edifices which form a Z-like shape. A long corridor with a glass facade flanks the dormitories and links class rooms, library and a gymnasium with a glass-block ceilinged dining hall and an auditorium. Next to this structure Meyer and Wittwer erected four offset teacher residences in a row. The project reflected a functionalist view of architecture, yet was extraordinarily sensuous in its use of color and materials, including steel, exposed concrete, glass blocks, and elaborately articulated steel casement windows. The Bauhaus expert Winfried Nerdinger called it a "masterpiece of poetic functionalism". Beside its apparent and unique qualities, the isolated school somewhere in the woods near Berlin has not become known to a wider audience yet.

After its completion, the school operated for only three years until the Nazis confiscated the building for use as an SS training facility. After World War II, the school's new owner, the East German Trade Union Federation (FDGB), expanded the site and used it as a training facility for its members. Under East German rule, the building was off-limits to the public and surrounded by a security fence. The survival of the building was unknown to the West until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when architectural historians discovered that the site was largely intact. It was threatened with demolition and redevelopment, but, in 2001, the Province of Brandenburg (the owner of the site) and the Handwerkskammer Berlin (chamber of crafts) contracted to reopen it as a trade school. Meanwhile, it was beautifully restored to its original state by the architects Winfried Brenne and Franz Jaschke, for which they won the World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize in 2008.

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krazin, April 5th, 2017
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