This year is the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus Architectural School of Design and Art, founded by Walter Gropius, who later taught at Harvard and forged the largest architectural business in the U.S.
Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, Le Corbusier, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, et al, were associated with this modernistic, form-follows-function, esoteric art movement. Their creations spread around the globe and surfaced in many prominent buildings across the U.S., including Des Moines and Drake University.
In 1981, Tom Wolfe’s famous book “From the Bauhaus to Our House” criticized the simple glass, steel and concrete theme of Gropius’ designs.
In the late 1920s, Gropius and colleague Otto Haesler designed the Bauhaus “Dammerstock” settlement in Germany. This is where a connection to my father materialized. He, too, was an architect and, like Gropius, a very hedonistic one.
Working for Haesler on Dammerstock, my father absorbed Bauhaus design. In 1933, the Nazis shut down Gropius and Haesler, causing Gropius to move to the U.S.
Desiring to emigrate and in search of employment, my father in 1947 wrote for help from Gropius, who kindly responded that he should follow normal immigration procedures.
Seeking financial help, my father sent his oil paintings to my two aunts who farmed near Waterloo. In the 1920s, their families acquired farms in four Midwestern states. Losing it all after 1929, they moved to Washington state, where their father had bought 4,112 acres of Puget Sound tideland.
Sometime later, he designed an expansion of the factory of my cousin’s husband, who had acquired a scientific-technological transfer from the University of Iowa which enabled him to produce pill-making equipment. Eventually, he transformed this Iowa-derived development into a global company producing equipment for pharmaceutical products. A transfer from Iowa boosted Germany’s post-war economy.
While Gropius flourished in the U.S., my father gradually flourished in Germany’s post-war economic miracle. He divorced my mother and married a trophy wife. Yet, my mother, brother and I were forced for years into brutal living conditions, including one year in a small attic room without water, electricity and heat.
Those terrible conditions prompted immigration by my 17-year-old brother and me, then 15. We viewed America as the Land of Liberty and wealth. This notion was cemented through Hollywood, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne and an endless parade of movies and even American-style bookmobiles where we read Mark Twain, Jack London, Zane Grey, et al.
We believed what Ken Osgood summarizes in his book “Total Cold War: Eisenhower’s Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad.” We admired the U.S., romanticized Indians through movies such as “The Last of the Mohicans” — in spite of the fact that two brothers of our great-grandfather were killed in the 1897 Klondike gold rush. A Denver conman who partook in the gold rush like Trump’s grandfather may have murdered them.
The low point of our existence was an old dilapidated trailer home in which my brother and I lived for 10 months, again without electricity or water. For several years, we worked for relatives and their neighbors as unpaid farmhands.
While attending university, I lived in another trailer, further enhancing my interest in them.
The 1960 census counted 180 million Americans, of whom, about 1.3 million lived in trailer homes. By 1990, out of 240 million Americans, about 15 million did so. Total population rose by about one-third, yet those living in trailer homes rose more than tenfold!
If this growth continues, then at some point most Americans may be living in them, a pattern already increasingly identified as quintessentially American.
In spite of this, the pols, media, pundits and academicians are silent about this nationwide evolution. They do not focus on military spending, extremely high real estate taxes, wealth accumulation by bureaucracies and Wall Street fraud, etc., as possible causes.
In the final analysis, it means that Gropius and architects in general were serving the upper 0.1% and wealth-accumulating bureaucracies. This shows up glaringly in all metros in the form of pompous bureaucratic office buildings — often next to run-down human habitation.
Essentially, Gropius and colleagues failed to serve human habitation. Thus, his legacy could be called from the Bauhaus to luxurious office buildings to our trailer “homes.”