Walter Gropius and Operative History: an Architectural Palimpsest





Modern Movement, Modern architecture, Modern housing


This essay evaluates the legacy of the pedagogical model set by Walter Gropius and other founders of the Bauhaus on subsequent curricula for schools of architecture. More specifically, it uses Walter Gropius’ views on history as a backdrop for a closer reading of operative history. While at the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius did not initially mandate the teaching of history. Later, as Dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, he re-structured the history sequence as electives, thereby undermining its hitherto central role in what he viewed as a traditional approach to pedagogy that was overly analytical and intellectual. Rather, he encouraged his students to “make history” for themselves. What are the manifestations of operative history in architecture schools today, and how have they gone beyond references to 20th century Modernism? It is undeniable that there is a concerted effort among contemporary historians to complicate the history of the movement. Nonetheless, the impulse to self edit persists, such that imagery of like minded practitioners converge and sometime eclipse other architectural production.

How to Cite

Benyamin, J. (2019). Walter Gropius and Operative History: an Architectural Palimpsest . Docomomo Journal, (61), 18–23.




Author Biography

Jasmine Benyamin, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Jasmine Benyamin is currently Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and French Literature from Columbia University, a Master of Architecture degree from Yale University, and a PhD in Architecture from Princeton University. Her doctoral research was the recipient of several grants, as well as fellowships from both the DAAD and Fulbright Foundation. Among her publications include essays and reviews for the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, the Journal of Architectural Education and the Journal of Architecture.


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