A new Aspen Historical Society walking tour is telling Aspen’s Bauhaus story, as the world and the local community celebrates the centennial of the influential German school and art movement.
A crowd of more than 20 came out for the inaugural tour in mid-June — a mix of locals and tourists enticed by the much-ballyhooed Bauhaus 100 celebration and the work of Bauhaus master Herbert Bayer.
Led by the Historical Society’s Nina Gabianelli, the walk starts on Hallam Street with the home of photographer — and Herbert Bayer contemporary — Ferenc Berko. With renovations still underway, the property joins Berko’s historic studio, built in the ’40s in the midcentury modern style, to a new addition fashioned of Bauhaus-styled glass and steel with the flourish of a “Bayer blue” door. An adjacent Victorian, also owned by the Berko family, is undergoing a renovation, as well.
Gabianelli uses it as a starting point because it sums up modern Aspen’s architectural story of saving the old, building modern and letting different eras live on side by side.
“That’s what defines Aspen,” Gabianelli, who developed the tour with her Historical Society colleagues, the city of Aspen and architect Harry Teague, told her tour group. “We are everything. There is no one Victorian historic district, there is no one style. We are people from different places gathered together. That’s why I start here.”
From there, the tour winds through the West End toward Herbert Bayer’s Aspen Institute campus, his iconic Bauhaus environment including functional conference buildings, his marble “Anocanda” sculpture and Marble Garden, his grass mounds and landscape design for Anderson Park, his “sgraffito” mural.
But on the way there, Gabianelli stops at some lesser known Bauhaus-related sites. At the refurbished Victorian home where Herbert and Joella Bayer lived from 1946 to 1959, she stops to let the crowd marvel at Bayer’s distinct fencing design of interconnected rectilinear lines.
The tour also touches on restored, unrestored and new Victorians, noting midcentury modern construction and civic projects like the schoolhouse that became the Red Brick Center for the Arts, telling the story of Aspen’s approach to historic preservation — itself a Bauhaus legacy. Herbert Bayer was a founding member of what would become the Historic Preservation Commission, and Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, as far back as 1946, urged city officials to save the old but to build new.
The tour also makes a stop at the construction site where the beloved Given Institute once stood, noting the failure to save the Harry Weiss-designed building, constructed on land gifted to the University of Colorado by Elizabeth Paepcke, and sold off by the college during the recession to the Lewis family now building a private compound on the site.
The anniversary Bauhaus tour joins a Historical Society’s lineup of summer tours that includes a History Coach electric car-ride tour of town and walking tours of the West End, downtown, a pub crawl, mining and ranching sites, the Hotel Jerome, the Wheeler Opera House, Smuggler Mountain and the Aspen Historical Society archives. The weekly History Hikes series also runs on Saturdays from July 20 to Aug. 17.