Peter Magyar: From The Bauhaus to My House: Migration of Ideas. A Personal Account

Please reference this article as Theatron Vol. 15, No. 3. (2021): 77–87. (See the PDF file at the end of the Table of Contents.)

Abstract: By paraphrasing Tom Wolfe’s title, I am risking the accusation, that this talk is about myself. However, I intend to use my example, as a case study.

Institutions and ideas – related to, and subjects of, this conference – played very important part in my life, from the beginning of my education up to the present time. The cyclic voyages of people and ideas travelled from east to west, and vice versa. Sometimes, their directions of movements coincided, other times pointed in opposing destinations.

Born as a Hungarian, at first I learned, that people, who wanted to obtain a special education, traveled to the West. Between the two world wars, more often – as my father also did – to Germany.

Farkas Molnár, a Weimar Bauhausean, was born forty years earlier than I. Yet, one if my professors – as a young architect – was in the same circles with him, after his return. Also, one of my high-school classmate, János Fájó, was and still is the most important follower of Lajos Kassák. And for the last 18 years, at least once, but many times twice, I am serving as guest critic at the Dessau International Architecture School, which is the anointed heir of the Bauhaus. So, my second-hand experience with the Bauhaus ideas during my education are promoted to personal involvement with them in the present time.

I hope, these outlined conditions enable me for presenting a short summary of the transferences and mutations of the Avant Garde credos, locus of their origin might have been in Germany, but their influence has been always International.

From The Bauhaus to My House…

The proper way to begin this short presentation is, to start with a disclaimer. As a Hungarian architect, I do not consider myself a scholar, but only a person, who observed certain recurring elements in his extensive works in architectural design, and applied these in his academic involvement in different universities in Europe, Africa and the Americas. Considering these facts, maybe the personal aspects of my references will be forgiven.

Accordingly, I start with describing some events, happened within the last twenty years. During my stay at the Florida Atlantic University, where I was the founding director of the School of Architecture (between 1996 to 2007), I came to know Professor Alfred Jacoby, who in 1999 became the director of the Dessau Institute of Architecture, today the Dessau International Architecture School (DIA). It is an internationally accredited Graduate School, active on the site of the Bauhaus, but has a new campus there. In the year of its maiden voyage, 7 of the 12 first year students came from my school. Consequently, for the last 18 years, I have participated in its educational process, as an external examiner, or in some cases, as the chair of the jury of the graduate thesis competitions. There was the opportunity to come across and become friends of Attilio Terragni, the grand-nephew of Giusseppe Terragni, the latter, one of the main characters of Italian modern Avant-Garde.

My presentation to this 34th György Ránki Hungarian Chair Conference, FIG. 1  happens through the intervention of my esteemed friend, Ruth and Norman Moore Professor of Architecture, Robert McCarter, so I was invited by Professor Dr. András Kappanyos. May I express my sincere thanks and appreciations to both of them, and for the University of Indiana!

Bartók, Moholy-Nagy, Kassák and Breuer, all Hungarians. With my next Image (Bartók in Dessau), I would like to tie them, directly or at least indirectly, to my education. FIG. 2 On the left, stands Walter Gropius, the director of the Bauhaus in Dessau. In the middle, is Béla Bartók. On his left, Paul Klee, painter, pedagogue, guiding spirit of the establishment of the educational process of the Bauhaus.

Architecture, music and painting, three important fields of the avant-garde! It is not too inappropriate to mention the role of Hungarians in all of these three fields. Marcell Breuer, Béla Bartók, Lajos Kassák and László Moholy-Nagy – names, all on the poster. All of them – in an important but indirect way, on the second-tier level – played important roles in my life.

Some of my professors at the Technical University were educated at the Bauhaus and many were taught by Dessau educated persons. Interesting to note, that although all were involved in social issues, they were not all socialists, or communist.

During the communist system, due to the governmental support of everything “folks…”, Zoltán Kodály, the folks-musicologist, Béla Bartók’s compadre, received a nationalized castle in the vicinity of my town, for an Institute of Music Education. Consequently, in the music school of our town, the best of the best taught willing and able students (I had the will, but it was not enough, to learn my favorite instrument, the violin-cello).

My classmate, János Fájó, was the only pupil of Lajos Kassák. Even today, he continues to evolve his master’s artistic direction, and participates on exhibitions, as we speak.

To bring in the fourth name on the poster to my presentation, after this short introduction, I will show mostly the works of another Hungarian architect of the avant-garde, Farkas Molnár. He was working with Marcell Breuer several instances in his life, and also started out in the Bauhaus, however not at Dessau, but at its first location, in Weimar.

This is the point, where I will continue with images, explaining quickly their relevance to the topic of this conference. Architecture is a non-verbal communication, therefore the images are absolutely necessary, to convey the essence of my presentation.

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. Poster of the Conference. Four of the five names on it are the signatures of Hungarians

Fig. 2. Photo from unknown source, with Walter Gropius on the left, Béla Bartók at the middle, and Paul Klee on the right, at the balcony of the Bauhaus building, Dessau.

FIG. 3 Drawing of Farkas Molnár: a house and studio for Lajos Kassák – made while their stay in the Bauhaus at Weiman.

FIG. 4 Image of Orvieto, Italy, by Farkas Molnár, 1921.

FIG. 5 Orvieto “Spaceprints,” analytical drawings by author, 2015.

FIG. 6 Painting by Farkas Molnár. The “Red Cube” reference is clearly visible at the upper left corner.

FIG. 7 Male nude with houses and a flying contraption – drawing of Farkas Molnár.

FIG. 8 The “Red Cube” villa, by Farkas Molnár

FIG. 9 The model of the “Red Cube,” made for, and exhibited at the First Salon of Hungarian Architecture 2014, in the Kunsthalle, Budapest.

FIG. 10 Drawing of author, of the house in the Castle District, by Peter Reimholz. It is part of the album, containing 129 drawings, which were drawn as a graphic essay of the previously mentioned exhibition, published with the title: “Travel Sketches by Peter Magyar.”

FIG. 11 Drawing and photo from another exhibition in 1931, of the works of Farkas Molnár, in Budapest

FIG. 12 Some of the houses of a group of villas, influenced by Farkas Molnár, and other works from the Bauhaus. They were quite similar to the contemporary Weisenhof Siedlung in Germany – at the time and in the same location, around the early Thirties.

FIG. 13 The book on Farkas Molnár, the scholarly volume of András Ferkai, the source of most of the pertinent information on the architect, and of his life.

FIG. 14 A book, published in 1998 by MIT Press, contains two chapters from the author of the previous book, András Ferkai. In the last one, “Chapter 12, Hungarian Architecture in the Post-War Years,” on pages 286 and 307, he mentions ‘a group of progressive young architects,’ working at the design office “Iparterv.” These are: István Janáky, Péter Reimholz, Antal Lázár, and Péter Magyar.

FIG. 15 Photo of the young Antal Lázár and Péter Reimholz, who designed together the much awarded “Domus” department store in Budapest.

FIG. 16 The Photo of the recently completed Sports and Cultural Center, Budapest. Co-designed by Antal Lázár, DLA and Dr. Péter Magyar.

FIG. 17 Photo of Antal Lázár and Ernő Rubik (Yes, the Rubik-Cube) – Partners and owners of the A&D Studio, which produced the construction document of the previous project. (Between Lázár and Rubik is Etele Baráth.)

FIG. 18 Architect Attilio Terragni, in front of one of his paintings.

FIG. 19 Cultural Center and Museum to Como, Italy (at the center of the picture), designed by one of the students in Attilio Terragni’s studio at the Dessau International Architecture School, in 2016. At the right edge of the image the famous “House of Fascism,” designed by Giuseppe Terragni.

FIG. 20 The atelier of Janos Fájó, the only pupil of Lajos Kassák; his paintings are meant to be the variation on, and evolution of the works of his master.

FIG. 21 The medal of “Pro Architectura Hungarica,” received by author from the Association of Hungarian Architects (AHA) in 2011. Sculptor Tamás Vigh. Interesting revival of the style of the early Avant-Garde, after 100 years.

PETER MAGYAR, AHA, Fellow of RIBA, between 1989 and 2011, served at three American universities as head of the architecture department, or as in Florida Atlantic, as founding director. His strong belief is that teaching has to have a constantly tested and renewed source of direct participation in the actual practice of architecture. Hence his many projects, the results of consulting with noted firms or entering competitions. Both his practice and his academic activities are conducted on the international level. His master and doctor of architecture degrees are from the Technical University of Budapest. He authored several books, Thought Palaces (1999), Thinkink (2010), Urban Innuendoes (2013), the six volumes of the Pen Zen Diaries (2015), The Making of Evergreen Architecture (2016 with Antal Lazar) and the Palladian Space-Neurons (2016) are among the latest and most important ones. In 2015 he was elected as member of the Hungarian (Szechenyi) Academy of Arts and Letters.