Desk in Exile
A Bauhaus Object Traversing Different Modernities
Published by Spector Books/Bauhaus Dessau Foundation.
Text by Leah Hsiao, Aleksandra Kedziorek, Thomas Lehner, Joana Pardal, Achim Reese, Madelaine Sillfors, Stefania Strouza, Lia Tostes, Regina Bittner.
How can a heavy cherry wood desk tell a story of exile and migration? Walter Gropius’ writing desk was designed as part of a collective furniture ensemble for the 1923 Bauhaus exhibition in Weimar.
When the Bauhaus moved to Dessau, the desk moved with it, landing in the director’s office, where it was used as a demonstration of a vision of a modern office culture. The desk took up residence temporarily in the Lawn Road Flats in London before following Gropius to Lincoln, Massachusetts, in 1938. It has remained in Lincoln since then and is currently in the Gropius family’s private home.
An index of the changing fortunes of the Bauhaus, Gropius’ desk itself becomes an actor in a complex history of changing locations and social environments. Desk in Exile traces the trajectory of this uniquely weighted object, offering a model of an object-based history of exile. Part of Spector Books’ series of readers on individual aspects of Bauhaus design, this volume comes out of the research and curatorial work carried out by the Bauhaus Lab 2016.