Lotte Beese was born in Reisicht in Silesia, Germany (now Rokitki in Poland) on 28 January 1903. After her school-leaving exams in 1921, she took courses in stenography and typing to enable herself to go travelling all over Germany. Two years later, she arrived at the ‘Deutsche Werkstätten’ (German Workshops) in the Hellerau district of Dresden. Although she was actually an office worker there, she was soon given a place in the institute’s own weaving workshop, where she learned the basics of weaving. In Hellerau, she met former students from the State Bauhaus in Weimar and their descriptions of it convinced her that the Bauhaus was exactly what she was looking for. Following an extended illness, she finally applied to the Bauhaus (which had in the meantime moved to Dessau) for the winter semester of 1926.
In her first semester, Lotte Beese – like all the students who were accepted for places – attended the preliminary course taught by Josef Albers. In addition, she took the supplementary subjects ‘Analytic Drawing’ with Wassily Kandinsky, ‘Lettering’ with Joost Schmidt, ‘Descriptive Geometry’ and ‘Physics/Chemistry’. On completing the basic course, Beese moved to Gunta Stölzl’s weaving workshop. At the end of the 1927/28 semester, the young student had met all the requirements needed for her to switch to the Department of Architecture, newly opened in 1927, and she was the very first woman to study with Hannes Meyer and later Hans Wittwer in the department. In addition to architecture, she also learned the basics of statics, building materials, construction, heating technology, and urban planning. Only one year later, Lotte Beese left the Bauhaus voluntarily without completing a qualification. Her romantic involvement with the Bauhaus Director, Hannes Meyer, who was married at the time, made her period at the Bauhaus in Dessau complicated. But she was an enthusiastic photographer while at the college and she left a large number of pictures of a quality that goes well beyond ordinary amateur photography.
In 1929, she moved to Berlin, where she initially worked in Hugo Häring’s architectural office and finally in Meyer’s private office in Berlin, collaborating in work on planning the building for the national college of the General German Trades Union League (Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund) in Bernau, near Berlin. When the project was completed, Beese had nothing more to do in Berlin. Through his connections with the architectural avant-garde in Czechoslovakia, Hannes Meyer arranged a post for her in Brno with the architect Bohuslav Fuchs. In 1930, Beese followed Hannes Meyer to Moscow, where she carried out planning work for the city of Orsk (in Siberia) under the Dutch architect Mart Stam. Lotte Beese’s son by Hannes Meyer, Peter, was born in 1931. In the meantime, Meyer was already living with his future wife, Lena Bergner.
In 1935, Lotte Beese moved to Amsterdam with Mart Stam, whom she later married. She ran her own architectural office in Amsterdam until 1938. During the war years, she wrote a diploma dissertation at the College of Architecture in Amsterdam and received the diploma there in 1944. From 1946 to 1968, Beese worked as an architect involved in urban development in Rotterdam. She created the first car-free street in the Netherlands in 1947; starting in 1949, she was involved in the building of the Pendrecht district and later Alexanderpolder and Onmoord. She also taught at the Academy of Architecture and Urban Planning in Amsterdam. [AG 2015]
∙ John Brosma: Beese, Charlotte Ida Anna (1903–1988), in: Online Dictionary of Dutch Women, Huygens ING.
∙ Copies of documents in the Bauhaus Archive Berlin.
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