Monday, August 1, 2011

Explorations of Gropius's life and works - Esplorando la vita e i lavori di Gropius

Walter Gropius and his family showing us their house

This past weekend we explored the life and works of Walter Gropius, the architect who founded the Bauhaus school. On Saturday, we toured his house in Lincoln. We then found ourselves back there on Sunday, first having a picnic in a pretty park with a cute pond not far from Gropius's house and then ended up swimming in his favorite lake!... Walden Pond. All in the same weekend.

This happened not because I wanted to use Gropius's patio or his cool back yard shower, two design ideas which, I must confess, I might at some point emulate in our back yard. It happened because my friend Gaia, who works as an architect in Cambridge (MA), and who knows that my father (also an architect) and I admire the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, dropped the idea that I could plan a visit to his house in Lincoln. So on Saturday morning, at last minute, we decided to go there. The following day, on Sunday, we just wanted to take William swimming, without having to stay in the car for two hours, without having to roast on a beach and without having Tronk's lips turn blue in the North Atlantic Ocean.

It is not a coincidence that we ended up by Gropius's house twice this past weekend: the house is located in the woods, in a place that is peaceful, charming, fairy-tailish, with stunning views, refreshing (especially on a hot day of July), almost therapeutic. Plus, it is not far from where we live in Arlington (MA). No wonder we picked the same place twice this past weekend! However, the first time I went swimming there (two years ago or so), despite I knew that Walden Pond was the place where Thoreau found his Muse (and published "Walden", a dissertation on his two-year, voluntary isolation in the woods), I failed to experience the magic of the place. All I could think of was that the water was not as clean as in the French Mediterranean sea. And I was worried of putting my feet to rest on mud.

After seeing Gropius's house, eating in the nearby park and experiencing the pond in a different way, I now feel I have seen the place and its magic the way Gropius and his family experienced it seventy years ago. An enchanting experience. During the tour of the house, I could imagine Gropius working in silence in his office,with the door closed, and his wife reading a novel on the couch of her living room, in front of a beautiful sunset. Everything there was so familiar to me at some point I felt I was visiting an English house that had been interior designed by my father! I couldn't stop thinking that my father would have probably made very similar architecture and design choices if he had ever built a house in New England: original, modern without being cliched, slick, elegant, at the same time a bit industrial, flexible in the usage of the space, but also with privacy, sound-proofing and insulation always in mind. If I remember well, I am almost sure my father's first office in Via Cassini in Turin had similar furniture, including Gropius's industrial looking separating walls made of glass!

Everything went so well this past weekend. Tronk was thrilled to run around the outside of Gropius's house on Saturday. On Sunday, he ate his entire lunch at the park not far from the house and he gained confidence going in and out of the water all by himself. He was so happy he could not stop pointing at the people around him and making comments (luckily, in Italian!):

"Tanti bimbi la', e' bello la'!" (There are many children there, it is nice there)
"Bimbo la', uomo la', anche donna la'" (There is a boy there, a man there, also a woman there)
"Tette grandi la'!'" (there are large breasts there!) [woman with large breasts standing next to Tronk in the water]

As nonno would probably say (when you are a bit older): ''le architetture locali sono tutte da guardare qui" (the local architectures are all worth looking at here).

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