Rethinking European architecture beyond Europe
13.–16. April 2014, Palermo, Italy
Walter Gropius and China
Eduard Kögel, Berlin, Germany.
Walter Gropius is well known as the director of the Bauhaus in Dessau, as an architect in Berlin and, after his emigration in 1938, as a teacher and architect in the USA. One of the heroes of the Modern Movement in the interwar period in Germany, in 1937 he emigrated from Berlin via London to teach at Harvard University in the USA. Walter Gropius never visited China nor did he write any significant texts about Chinese architecture or urban development. However, from the late 1930s he educated Chinese students at Harvard and in the late 1940s won a commission to design a campus-university in Shanghai. The Chinese students he taught at Harvard include Henry Huang, I.M. Pei, Wang Dahong, Chen Chi-Kwan and Chang Chao-Kang. All of them transferred knowledge from this modern master to China and Taiwan. Henry Huang was the first to receive his master’s degree and returned to his hometown Shanghai in 1941, where he founded a department for architectural education at St. John’s University. As the basis for the curriculum he used the blueprint of Gropius’ Harvard institute and some elements of Bauhaus education he had learned there. I.M. Pei remained in the USA after his graduation, becoming a project partner for Gropius’ campus-university project in Shanghai. The project was stopped due to the civil war between Nationalist and Com- munist forces in China around 1949. The abovementioned university project came to Taiwan in the 1950s, by then under the supervision of the former Gropius-students I.M. Pei, Chen Chi-Kwan and Chang Chao-Kang. My paper will focus on Gropius’ influence on the young Chinese architects he educated and will examine how ideas of architectural modernism emigrated to China and Taiwan. The focus on Gropius and his Chinese students will allow to reveal the transfer of ideas from one of the most influential figures in twentieth century architectural education into the Chinese architectural discourse of the post war years.
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