One of the most influential schools of the twentieth-century, the Bauhaus was a place of innovation, creation and experimentation that would ultimately rethink the basic conditions of life and change the way we all lived, worked and even played. Through iconic design objects, photography, textiles, and archival material, the exhibition explores the school’s pioneering approach to art education, its influence on design and its significant impact on architecture showcasing the work of Marcel Breuer, one of the most notable figures to come out of the Bauhaus. The exhibition also sheds light on the movement’s influence and relationship to our region, revisiting key projects across the Middle East, including our house, JPNF, designed by architect Mario Jossa of Marcel Breuer & Associates.

Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius’s 1957 design for a mosque in Baghdad
Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius’s 1957 design for a mosque in Baghdad © Iraq Harvard Art Museums / Busch- Reisinger Museum

Jadallah also demonstrates how modernism appears in the UAE, in two buildings that TAC designed: the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi and in the Inter-Continental Hotel on Sharjah’s Corniche (now the Radisson Blu), which were both built in 1981. (Gropius died in 1969, but the collaboratively led TAC continued until the mid-1990s.)

The Arab flourishes of the Cultural Foundation, such as the blue tiled arches and geometric carving in the dark wooden doors, show how TAC operated in tandem with local architects. The level of regional adaptation – or on the flipside, modernist purity – differed from project to project, based on the goals of whomever commissioned the building. Sheikh Zayed, for example, is said to have ordered the tiles himself from Morocco. 

For the Cultural Foundation, TAC worked with the Iraqi architect Hisham Ashkouri, who trained at the University of Baghdad and later studied under the modernist Louis I. Kahn. In his designs for the building, such as the plans for the outside fountain, one can clearly see again the overlap between traditional Arab forms and modernism.