About Work

A big roof to unify the city, the park and the museum.


Bauhaus Museum
Dessau, Germany

Program: Museum
Client: Bauhaus Dessau Foundation
Size: 4,500 m2
Team: Ashely Kuo, Cass Nakashima, Jesse Taylor, Oana Stanescu, Dong-Ping Wong
Status: Competition
Year: 2015

The New New Unity

In 1923, on the eve of the Bauhaus’ relocation to Dessau, Walter Gropius set the institution’s agenda with a groundbreaking thesis: Kunst und Technik —eine neue Einheit, or Art and Technology—The New Unity. The project of unification attempted to reconcile what were then only apparently conflicting objectives, not only unifying art and technology, but also industry and craft, beauty and efficiency, and design and everyday life.

Our design process began with a consideration of these unifications in addition to our desire to resolve new tensions prompted by the construction of the building itself; namely history and innovation, the local and the global and preservation and exhibition. We asked ourselves the questions: How does one address the paradox of celebrating the history of an institution dedicated to innovation? How does one teach the public through objects that each have their own, sometimes divergent set of climactic needs? How does one serve both the history that the museum is dedicated to, and the city the museum is located in?

Three Layers

1. Big Roof The first thing the public will see is a massive volume that will hover above the ground. This plenum of pure infrastructure functions as an environmental engine for the entire museum, containing the entirety of the infrastructure needed to both support the preservation and display of delicate archival materials. Instead of attempting to hide service space we intend to emphasize its presence. In this way the public can experience the immense amount of energy required to support archival programs.

This plenum will contain environmentally productive technologies such as a giant array of 2500 m2 photovoltaics - optimized at 42 degrees - to provide an abundance of renewable energy for the building and even surrounding neighborhood, north-facing skylights to provide the entire ground floor with natural light, and storage of a acoustic curtains and mechanized wall systems to seal off the temporary gallery and event spaces as needed. The large but lightweight construction is supported on the two interior cores which bring infrastructure to the column-free floors below. The large cantilever to the south gives shade during the summer months to reduce the cooling load on the interior spaces and creates a covered area for the cafe and guest entry. The south cantilever also reaches out to and protects the Memorial for Victims of Fascism. To the north, the cantilever opens towards the Hauptpost and defines the entrance to the shop. The covered square also provides outdoor space for the administration offices and covered loading and logistics.

The goal is to not only minimize the environmental impact of the building, but to produce energy in excess of the building’s needs. The Big Roof acts as a symbol of both functionality and social collectivity, unifying design and technology and hinting towards a more productive role for architecture in the spirit of the Bauhaus.

2. Archival Foundation As the space with the greatest environmental demands the exhibition and archival spaces are placed underground, taking advantage of the ground’s naturally insulating properties and freeing the ground floor for public programs and an uninterrupted connection between the park and the city. The gallery spaces are both specific and flexible, from dedicated rooms for each of the six topoi to a fully open and industrial exhibition space. The art and artifacts of the Bauhaus become the literal and educational foundation for the public above and greater city beyond.

3. Social Surface In between the Big Roof and the Archival Foundation is the a minimally enclosed Social Surface, which contains all public programs and administration. Requring less stringent climate control than the galleries below, the surface can remain continuous with the city and park that surrounds it, a gesture that suggests the building’s integration into the city. From the street level the most visible presence is the park beyond this space. Openings to the galleries below are excavated, welcoming the city and its visitors to actively participate in the creation of a lively culture informed by rare Bauhaus artifacts rarely brought to light.

Dessau - A Living City. While its most prominent historical legacy is as the home of the Bauhaus, the city of Dessau is a living and evolving city. As host to Germany’s Federal Environmental Agency Dessau has the opportunity to set progressive environmental standards. The building as a whole links the park with the city center, establishing an urban presence along the street. Its openness on the ground level also draws the public inwards by creating a clear connection to the park, while the Very Thick Roof, visible from the train station will act as a new landmark within the city drawing visitors unfamiliar with Dessau to the building itself.

A History That Never Stands Still. What would the Bauhaus be today? As an institution dedicated to innovation, the Bauhaus, had it survived would not be the same school it was at its closing more than eighty years ago. If the Bauhaus was dedicated to addressing society’s most pressing needs, should its commemoration be limited to a static history? Our proposal for The Bauhaus Museum, Dessau is to produce a building that not only celebrates the past but renews a commitment to global society’s most urgent issue by treating the cultural and climatic environment as a single and unified function. By producing more energy, more ideas and opportunities for cultural exchange, our design proposes a new new unity.