Walter Adolph Georg Gropius was a German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School, who, along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright, is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture.
Born in Berlin, Walter Gropius was the third child of Walter Adolph Gropius and Manon Auguste Pauline Scharnweber. He married Alma Mahler, widow of Gustav Mahler. Hi daughter Manon, died of polio at age 18.
Walter Gropius, like his father and his great-uncle Martin Gropius before him, became an architect. Gropius could not draw, and was dependent on collaborators and partner-interpreters throughout his career. In school he hired an assistant to complete his homework for him. In 1908 Gropius found employment with the firm of Peter Behrens. His fellow employees at this time included Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Dietrich Marcks.
In 1910 Gropius left the firm of Behrens and with employee Adolf Meyer established a practice in Berlin. Together they share credit for one of the seminal modernist buildings created during this period: the Faguswerk in Alfeld-an-der-Leine, Germany, a shoe last factory. Although Gropius and Meyer only designed the facade, the glass curtain walls of this building demonstrated both the modernist principle that form reflects function and Gropius's concern with providing healthful conditions for the working class. Other works of this early period include the office and factory building for the Werkbund Exhibition (1914) in Cologne.
In 1913, Gropius published an article about "The Development of Industrial Buildings". A very influential text, this article had a strong influence on other European modernists, including Le Corbusier and Erich Mendelsohn.
Gropius's career was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Called up immediately as a reservist, Gropius served as a sergeant major at the Western front during the war years, and was wounded and almost killed. Gropius's career advanced in the postwar period. Henry van de Velde, the master of the Grand-Ducal Saxon School of Arts and Crafts in Weimar was asked to step down in 1915 due to his Belgian nationality. His recommendation for Gropius to succeed him led eventually to Gropius's appointment as master of the school in 1919. It was this academy which Gropius transformed into the world famous Bauhaus, attracting a faculty that included Paul Klee, Johannes Itten, Josef Albers, Herbert Bayer, László Moholy-Nagy, Otto Bartning and Wassily Kandinsky.
In 1919, Gropius was involved in the Glass Chain utopian expressionist correspondence under the pseudonym "Mass." Usually more notable for his functionalist approach, the "Monument to the March Dead," designed in 1919, indicates that expressionism was an influence on him at that time.
In 1923, Gropius designed his famous door handles, now considered an icon of 20th-century design and often listed as one of the most influential designs to emerge from Bauhaus. He also designed large-scale housing projects in Berlin, Karlsruhe and Dessau in 1926-32 that were major contributions to the New Objectivity movement, including a contribution to the Siemensstadt project in Berlin.
With the help of the English architect Maxwell Fry, Gropius was able to leave Nazi Germany in 1934, on the pretext of making a temporary visit to Britain. He lived and worked in Britain, as part of the Isokon group with Fry and others and then, in 1937, moved on to the United States. The house he built for himself in Lincoln, Massachusetts, (now known as Gropius House) was influential in bringing International Modernism to the U.S. Gropius teached at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and collaborate on projects. In 1944, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
In 1945, Gropius founded The Architects' Collaborative (TAC) based in Cambridge with a group of younger architects. He died in 1969 in Boston, aged 86.