Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
1886 - 1969
It sounds like one of the ironies of history: while the first two Bauhaus directors, Walter Gropius and Hannes Meyer, made architectural history in Dessau with impressive buildings like the Bauhaus building, the Master’s Houses, the Törten Estate, or the Pergola Houses, the third and last Bauhaus director, star architect Mies van der Rohe, only left behind a single, small structure in Dessau: the “Drinking Hall,” built into the garden wall of Walter Gropius’ Master House.
Though this structure might seem unspectacular at first, the story of its origin is as fascinating as its architectural design. The mayor of Dessau, Fritz Hesse, put this project in motion and asked Mies van der Rohe for a draft of a “refreshment hall” at the “Sieben Säulen” (Seven Pillars) intersection, directly beside the Masters’ Houses estate. As usual, the famous architect did not draw the design himself, instead delegating this task to Eduard Ludwig, his favorite pupil at the Bauhaus.
True to his motto, “God is in the details”, Mies van der Rohe did not create a typical pavilion; instead, he used the six-foot-tall garden wall to establish the space. From the outside, the Drinking Hall only appears to be a covered window aperture, while it is not even visible from the garden. The diligence with which Mies van der Rohe designed his project is evident in another detail: the steel frame of the window was installed on wheels so it could disappear entirely into the wall. The Drinking Hall was put into operation in 1932, likely offering only non-alcoholic drinks like milk and fruit and vegetable juices, but also sweets, tobacco products, and postcards.
The fact that Mies van der Rohe was only able to construct one single building in Dessau was not ironic for him and the Bauhaus: it was, in fact, a bitterly serious matter. Shortly after the Drinking Hall opened, the architect was fired by the Nazi-dominated city council. The Bauhaus in Dessau was shut down.