Workshop in Dessau


Optimizing the energy efficiency in the housing estate Törten 

The Bauhaus-building in Dessau is an artefact that is renowned worldwide. Together with the Meisterhäuser, also in Dessau, as well as the Bauhaus­building and the Haus am Horn, both in Weimar, it is inscribed on the UNECSO World Heritage List. “The Committee decided to inscribe the nominated property on the basis of cultural criteria (ii), (iv) and (vi) considering that the site is of outstanding universal value since these buildings are the seminal works of the Bauhaus architectural school, the foundation of the Modern Movement which was to revolutionize artistic and architectural thinking and practice in the twentieth century“, to quote here from its description as reported in the World Cultural Heritage List. [1] 

fig. 1 - an advertisement asking which is our contribution to (saving) our climate

The Bauhaus-building is an outstanding building, but as a matter of fact it is an artefact. It was manufactured when building physics and the directly related theme of comfort were still little known subjects. Therefore it is not astonishing that its construction did not respect fundamental requests of building physics and of comfort. By consequence, the comfort of this building depended on the climatic conditions for a long time. The huge glass surfaces with no shadowing, except an internal curtain system, were allowing all external heat into the building in summer. Where there are no partition walls, a cross-ventilation works exclusively, whereas in winter the same glass surfaces were unable to prevent the constant loss of warmth that had been produced in the building by the radiation system, with temperatures in the interior rooms therefore not surpassing 16 degrees Celsius. The additional energy consumption to reduce the heat in summer and to warm the building up although always insufficiently in winter when possible, was enormous. In order to respond to the low comfort and to the fact that the same time the energy costs augmented over the last decades considerably a couple of years ago a project to optimize the energy efficiency of the Bauhaus-building was started.

fig. 2 - The original pediment of this window got lost  
under the insulation to be than re-proposed  above the insulation in polystyrene 

“With support from the German economic stimulus package (Konjunkturpaket II) in recent months the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation was able to implement a comprehensive energy efficiency optimisation. These measures were necessary because headquarter of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation is the historic Bauhaus-building in Dessau. Overall, the federal government allocated ca € 3.9 million for the project. The aim of the project was to strike a balance between the conservation of the building listed as a World Cultural Heritage, the requirements of long-term use and expressively optimizing the building’s energy efficiency.” [2]  

This project, developed by Winfried Brenne, Berlin, together with the office of Transsolar, Stuttgart, and accompanied by the department of construction and building at the Bauhaus, here by Rainer Weisbach and Monika Markgraf, is exemplary for combining great respect for the highly sensitive monument and a most precisely formulated proposal to enhance energy efficiency and comfort contemporaneously.

When meeting Monika Markgraf at the annual conference of DOCOMOMO Germany in 2011 soon the idea to bring firstly this exemplary project to the attention of schools, professors and students Europe-wide, and secondly to investigate – in the frame of an international workshop to be held in the Bauhaus itself – to which extent it would be possible to transfer the experiences made in the Bauhaus to a different set of buildings again from the Bauhaus-Era, and more precisely to the Törten Estate, to the House Anton, the Steel-House and to the House with Balcony Access was formulated.

fig. 3 - Dessau, Bauhaus - Preller House, Walter Gropius, 1925-26, after the relacement of the windows from 1974 in 2012 

We have developed an Intensive Programme on these grounds. This website intends to give the interested reader a first idea of the work we - about 40 students, and 10 professors from architectural programmes from the Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the Eesti Kunstiakadeemia in Tallinn, the department for Building Environment Science Technology, Politecnico di Milano and from the Fachhochschule Frankfurt am Main, Studiengang Architektur - have done over the span of winter-term 2011/2012 and spring-term 2012.

In addition to that, a brochure intends to allocate the workshop in a broader context. In beginning, two papers, mine and the one following by my colleague Hans Jürgen Schmitz, intend to introduce the Intensive Programme’s themes, questions, and approaches. Andrea Canziani’s paper then more specifically discusses the theme of planned conservation and Berthold Burkhardt’s article reasons concept of repair. In the second part the students’ pre-workshop preparations are outlined, and specifically their research for informative references in the countries the participants are coming from. These are followed by Monika Markgraf’s, Christian Matt’s and Winfried Brenne’s papers discussing the Bauhaus-building, our principal reference, and the optimization of its energy efficiency, in detail. The third part starts with Berthold Burkhardt’s brief introduction to the new design guidelines he together with Andreas Schwarting has most recently formulated for the Törten-estate, to be followed by the concepts and strategies developed by the students on these grounds for House Anton, the House with Balcony Access and the Steel House. Here, Maria Paola Borgarino briefly comments the theoretical approach of the Italian participants. In conclusion, our guest critics Bernhard Furrer and Tapani Mustonen re-open the horizon of the workshop, discussing concepts and strategies for two analogous cases, the Halen-estate designed by Atelier 5 and the Sunila-estate by Alvar Aalto. The very last pages of this brochure are given to a sequence of images by Stefan Heßling to characterize the workshop as such.

With the website and the brochure we would like to present and promote this work moving between the requests of preservation and challenges of change. We are looking forward to getting to know your view. 

fig. 4                                                             fig. 5

fig. 4 - Dessau, the Törten-estate, a house just opposite the Anton House showing a composite heat insulation system 

fig. 5 - Dessau, the Törten-estate, houses showing solar panels installed on their roofs

fig. 6                                                             fig. 7

fig. 6 - Dessau, the Törten-estate, the Anton House, photographed in 2007 during the restoration
fig. 7 - Dessau, the Törten-estate, the Anton House, photographed in 2012 after its restoration   


[1] Cfr. and its Sites in Weimar and Dessau. The cultural criteria (ii), (iv) and (vi) are, that it „exhibit(s) an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design“; that it is „an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history“; and that it is „directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance“. Cfr. - selection criteria.

[2] Quoted from the website of the Bauhaus Foundation, cfr.