Open Letter to the Council of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Geschrieben am 05.11.2013
Kategorie(n): ARCH+ news, Open Letter, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, Philipp Oswalt

Update: The open letter has received an incredible amount of support. As of November 12, more than 1,500 people around the world have signed the petition on Meanwhile, the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung has reported that Minister Dorgerloh is planning to give the council of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation the chance to submit a new vote on Philipp Oswalt's term of office. This is an interesting turn of events, which can certainly be attributed to the public outcry over how Dorgerloh has handled the situation, and to the vast support for Oswalt shown in the open letter. Please forward the petition to your friends. Thank you!

(Deutsche Fassung hier) In the past few days we were disconcerted to see numerous articles in the local, national, and online press reporting that Stephan Dorgerloh, Sachsen-Anhalt’s Minister of Culture, would like to replace Philipp Oswalt, the current director of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, in an unprecedented silent procedure neither preceded nor followed by any discussion whatsoever.

This open letter is an appeal to the responsible minister and the Council of Bauhaus Dessau Foundation to reverse the abrupt decision to end Philipp Oswalt’s tenure. The fact that more than 80 key figures from the international architecture and culture scene have signed the letter shows a significant interest in and a broad support for his work from all over the world. Please support the initiative with your signature on

Oswalt.jpg Portrait Prof. Philipp Oswalt. Photo: Doreen Ritzau 2009, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Dear members of the council,

We were quite disconcerted to see numerous articles in the local, national, and online press in the past few days that reported that Stephan Dorgerloh, Sachsen-Anhalt’s Minister of Culture, would like to “get rid of” Philipp Oswalt, the current director of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation. We were equally upset to learn that you, the Council of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, in a silent procedure neither preceded nor followed by any discussion whatsoever, agreed to search for a new candidate to fill the position following the end of Oswalt’s first period of office.

The refusal to give a substantive argument, as seen in the “replacement of the director in a silent procedure,” may appear, within the internal logic of power, to be a particularly clever calculation. However, all reports make it clear that these proceedings are unprecedented in the history of the federal state of Sachsen-Anhalt. No state foundation there has ever sought to replace its director after only a single period in office. Even the press spokesman of the Minister of Culture conceded: “This procedure has never taken place before.”

This extraordinary decision is all the more astonishing, as, thus far, no justification for it has been offered. None of you have made the effort to explain the motive behind this plan to search for a new candidate. Sachsen-Anhalt’s cultural politics have an “authoritarian streak” is how an article in the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung puts it. But that alone can’t suffice as an explanation.

As the members of the foundation's council, you bear the responsibility for the Bauhaus in Dessau—for the preservation of its historical heritage and for an ongoing engagement with this epicenter of modernism. And as the institution’s work is now receiving worldwide attention, your decision is a signal that will be perceived far beyond the borders of Germany.

In the past five years, Philipp Oswalt and his team have impressively demonstrated the extent to which the short era of the Bauhaus in Dessau has retained its relevance to the present day. Under his direction, the Bauhaus Dessau has successfully returned to the international spotlight. The very names of the exhibitions themselves attest to that: “Kurt Kranz: Programming Beauty” (2010), “Kibbutz and Bauhaus” (2011), “The Bauhaus in Calcutta,” and “From the Bauhaus to Palestine” (both 2013). And the institution’s publications—the Bauhaus paperback series and the bilingual bauhaus magazine—have garnered international recognition. Through such projects, the legacy of the Bauhaus has inspired a new generation. Additionally, new educational programs have been founded: a designer- and artist-in-residence program, fellowships, and a summer school. Finally, the much-discussed demography project “Sachsen-Anhalt 2050,” and the research project on new energy landscapes that Oswalt inaugurated are only two topics with which the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation has strengthened the claim, in recent years, that our society can be “designed”.

Under the aegis of Philipp Oswalt, the Bauhaus has been reinvigorated—a success that one can neither plan nor sufficiently appreciate. The five years under his leadership were incredibly advantageous—not the least for the city of Dessau and the state of Sachsen-Anhalt. One should be able to expect that such work would garner support from the foundation’s council.

With the abrupt decision to end Philipp Oswalt’s tenure, you are putting a living site of cultural exchange in danger. As the foundation’s council, you are surely aware that your decision to begin a candidate search for the position at this time means that the position will remain vacant for many months—and this during a period in which the most important decisions about ongoing and upcoming projects must be made.

For all of the reasons stated above, we write this appeal to you: examine your political responsibility to the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, and prevent this purportedly standard administrative proceeding from bringing about the premature end of an era, one that has already proven itself one of the liveliest in the 80-year “post-history” of the Bauhaus.



Dr. Galia Bar Or, Director of Museum of Art, Ein Harod (Israel)

Fred Baumgartner, former head of Sektion Siedlung und Landschaft, Bundesamt für Raumentwicklung ARE, Bern

Frank Berberich, Editor Lettre International, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Barry Bergdoll, Professor for the History Architecture, Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City

Prof. Dr. Zane Berzina, Professor for Textile and Surface Design, Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee, Berlin

Prof. Günter Karl Bose, Professor for Typography at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig, Berlin/Leipzig

Prof. Arno Brandlhuber, Architect, Professor for Architecture and Urban Research at the Academy for Fine Arts in Nuremberg, Berlin

Prof. Beatriz Colomina, Professor for the History and Theory of Architecture, Director of Graduate Studies, Ph.D. Program, Director of Program in Media and Modernity, Princeton University, School of Architecture, Princeton

Hans-Jürgen Commerell, Director of Aedes Network Campus, Berlin

Prof. em. Gerhard Curdes, Professor em. for Urban and Regional Planning, RWTH Aachen, Aachen

Chris Dercon, Director of Tate Modern, London

Prof. Diedrich Diederichsen, Author, Professor for the Theory, Practice and Communication of Contemporary Art, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, Berlin/Vienna

Prof. Karl Clauss Dietel, Designer, Chemnitz

Prof. Markus Dreßen, Designer and Publisher, Spector Books, Leipzig

Florian Ebner, Director of the Photography Collection, Folkwang Museum, Essen

Prof. Zvi Efrat, Architect, Former Head of the Architecture Department, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem

Oliver Elser, Curator, Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt a.M.

Harun Farocki, Filmmaker, Author, Berlin

Dr.h.c. Kristin Feireiss, Director of Aedes Architekturforum, Berlin

Prof. Jesko Fezer, Professor for Experimental Design at the HFBK Hamburg, Berlin/Hamburg

Prof. Detlef Fiedler, Designer, cyan, Berlin

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Christian Gänshirt, Department of Architecture, Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, Jiangsu, China

Dr. Amos Gitai, film builder, Doctor of Architecture University of California, Berkeley, Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Haifa

Prof. Christoph Grafe, Professor for the History and Theory of Architecture, Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Director of the Flemish Architecture Institute, Antwerp

Prof. Daniela Haufe, Designer, cyan, Gestalter, Berlin

Florian Heilmeyer, Architecture journalist, BauNetz, uncube magazine, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Hemken, Professor for the History of Modern Art, Kunsthochschule Kassel, Kassel

Prof. Nikolaus Hirsch, Architect, Director of Städelschule, Frankfurt a.M.

Dr. Karl-Heinz Hüter, History of Architecture and Design, Author, Königs Wusterhausen

Louisa Hutton, Architect, Sauerbruch Hutton, Berlin

Prof. Eva Illouz, President of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem

Prof. Alexander Jordan, Professor for Visual Communication, Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee, Paris/Berlin

Günter Kämpf, Publisher, Anabas Verlag, Frankfurt a.M. und Uzès (France)

Prof. Petra Kellner, Professor for Product Design, Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach am Main

Ulla von Klot, Gallerist, Berlin

Anne König, Publisher, Spector Books, Leipzig

Prof. Dr.h.c. Kasper König, Curator Manifesta 10 St. Petersburg, Cologne

Prof. Eike König, Desginer, HORT, Berlin/Offenbach

Prof. Stefan Koppelkamm, Professor for Visual Communication, Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee, Berlin

Dr. Irina Korobina, Director of Shusev State Architectural Museum (Russia), Member of International Academy of Architecture (MAAM), Council of Russian Academy of Architecture and Building Sience, Member of advisory board of BIArch (Barcelona Institute of Architecture), Moscow

Stephen Kovats, Founding director of r0g_agency for open culture and critical transformation gGmbH, Berlin

Elke Krasny, Curator, Author, Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien, Vienna

Prof. em. Dr. Joachim Krausse, Professor em. for Design Theory, Hochschule Anhalt (FH) in Dessau, Berlin

Cilly Kugelmann, Deputy Director, Director of Program, Jüdisches Museum, Berlin

Dr. Nikolaus Kuhnert, Editor ARCH+, Berlin

Anne Lacaton, Architect, Lacaton &Vassal Architectes, Paris

Prof. Dr. Andres Lepik, Director of Architekturmuseum of TU Munich, Chair for the History of Architecture and Curatorial Practice, Munich

Prof. Bart Lootsma, Head of the Institute for the Theory and History of Architecture and Heritage Preservation, Faculty of Architecture, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck

Maren Lübbke-Tidow, Editor-in-chief, Camera Austria International, Berlin/Graz

Beate Manske, Wilhelm Wagenfeld Foundation, Bremen

Matthias Lilienthal, Curator Theater der Welt 2014, Berlin

Prof. Armin Linke, Artist, Berlin/Karlsruhe

Prof. Reinhold Martin, Director of PhD Program in Architecture (History and Theory), Director of Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, Columbia University, New York

Prof. Philipp Misselwitz, Habitat Unit, Chair of International Urbanism and Design, Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin

Prof. Stephan Müller, Designer, Berlin/Leipzig

Anh-Linh Ngo, Editor ARCH+, Member of Art Council of the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, Berlin

Prof. Olaf Nicolai, Artist, Professor for Sculpture and Three-dimensional Design, Akademie der Bildenden Künste München, Berlin

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Curator, Co-Director Serpentine Gallery, London

Jutta Oesterle-Schwerin, Architect/Politician, Berlin

Prof. Klaus Overmeyer, Chair of Landscape Architecture, Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Berlin

Armin Petras, Director of Schauspiel Stuttgart, Stuttgart

Angelika Petruschat, Editor of form+zweck, Berlin

Prof. Tristan Pranyko, Professor for Experimental Design, Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee, Berlin

Prof. Dieter Raffler, Department of Design, Hochschule Anhalt Dessau, Starnberg

Prof. Stefan Rettich, University of Bremen, Member of Deutsche Akademie für Städtebau und Landesplanung, Member of Sächsische Akademie der Künste, Leipzig

Prof. em Hans (Nick) Roericht, Designer, Prof. em. Universität der Künste Berlin, Ulm

Jochen Sandig, Cultural entrepreneur, Co-founder of Radialsystem V, Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Berlin

Tomás Saraceno, Artist, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Columbia University, Co-Chair Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University, New York City

Matthias Sauerbruch, Architect, Member of the Academy of Fine Arts Berlin, Member of the board of trustees of Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Walter Scheiffele, Guest professor for Design Theory, Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Bernd M. Scherer, Director, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin

Peter Cachola Schmal, Director, Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt a.M., Member of the Steering Committee of the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award, Member of the Jury of the European Prize for Urban Public Space, Mitglied Expertenbeirat Kunst, Goethe Institut, München, Mitglied Kuratorium Kulturelles Frankfurt, Frankfurt a.M.

Prof. Barbara Schmidt, Professor for Product Design, Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee, Berlin

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Angelika Schnell, Professor for the History and Theory of Architecture, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna

Peter Schubert, Film producer, Starnberg

Andreas Siekmann, Artist, Author, Space Strategies, Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weissensee, Berlin

Prof. Sergei Sitar, Editor of Project International, Professor for History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism, MARCH, Moscow

Barbara Steiner, Curator, Leipzig

Mag. Dietmar Steiner, Director of Architekturzentrum Wien, President of the International Confederation of Architecture Museums, Member of the Steering Committee of the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award, Member of the Jury of the European Prize for Urban Public Space, Vienna

Jörg Stürzebecher, Journalist, History and Theory of Design, Frankfurt a.M.

Prof. Dr. Achim Trebeß, Professor for Cultural Sciences at the University of Wismar, Wismar

Prof. em. Dr. Günther Uhlig, Architect and Urban Planner, Professor em. for Housing, University of Karlsruhe, Editor ARCH+, Cologne

Prof. Jean-Philippe Vassal, Architect, Lacaton &Vassal Architectes, Professor for Design and Urban Regeneration at UDK Berlin, Paris/Berlin

Prof. Dr. Kai Vöckler, Professor for Creativity in Urban Context, Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach, Director of Programme Archis Interventions, Berlin

Sasha Waltz, Choregrapher, Sasha Waltz & Guests, Berlin

Jan Wenzel, Publisher, Spector Books, Leipzig

Ursula Wenzel, Photographer and Designer, Frankfurt a.M.

Prof. Thomas Weski, Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst, Leipzig

Prof. em. Dr. Karin Wilhelm, Professor em. for the History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism, TU Braunschweig, Member of the scientific advisory board of Bauhaus Dessau Foundation (1994-1999), Berlin

Yuval Yasky, Chair of the Architecture Department, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, Co-curator of the exhibition “Kibbutz and Bauhaus: Pioneers of the Collective” at the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation (2011), Tel Aviv

Tobias Zielony, Artist, Berlin

Dr. Michael Zinganel, Architecture theoretist, Artist and Curator, Founding member of Tracing Spaces, Vienna


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