‘i had become so spiritually and mentally hardened by education, school and academia that I required an extremely spirited organism to free me from this rigidity. that’s why I came to the bauhaus. here, I found lively and healthy people and much activity and vitality.’
Wera Meyer-Waldeck, in: ‘bauhaus’, issue 4, Dessau, 1928, p. 18.
Wera Meyer-Waldeck was born in Dresden on 6 May 1906. Due to her parents’ professions, she was raised with her siblings in Alexandria until the age of 8. With the outbreak of the First World War, the family relocated to Switzerland; thereafter, Wera Meyer-Waldeck returned to her birthplace, Dresden. She studied here at the Frauenschule Dresden from 1921 to 1924 and qualified as a kindergarten teacher and after school care provider. She went on to attend a three-year graphic design course at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts.
Meyer-Waldeck enrolled at the Bauhaus Dessau School of Design on 20 April 1927, seeking a modern way of life and approach to education to suit her character. On the preliminary course with Josef Albers and Laszló Moholy-Nagy, she learned how to work with various materials. The teaching deeply influenced her way of thinking and she was certain that, ‘… had the bauhaus offered nothing more than this preliminary course, the human and artistic gain was such that this alone would have made it worth being here.’ In addition to the preliminary course, Meyer-Waldeck attended classes taught by Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee.
From the winter semester of 1927, the young Bauhausler studied under Marcel Breuer in the carpentry workshop. Here her designs included a children’s stool, a deck chair, a tea table and a folding table. In 1928 she attended a town planning course taught by the Dutch architect Mart Stam. From the winter semester of 1928/29 she also attended classes taught by Klee and Schlemmer and studied in the building/interior design department under Hannes Meyer. In spring 1929 Meyer-Waldeck signed an apprenticeship contract for the carpentry workshop under Karl Bökenheide; the Bauhaus had also advised her ‘to assist in Meyer’s office in order to gain practical experience’. In the winter semester of 1929/30 the versatile Meyer-Waldeck collaborated on the plans for the ADGB-Bundessschule in Bernau (ADGB Trade Union School in Bernau). Most of the furniture and interior fittings were designed by Meyer-Waldeck. Her diploma certificate also attests to her work on projects including Erwin Piscator’s apartment in Berlin (design and implementation), the Employment Office in Dessau (interior design) and the furnishings of Hahn House in Dessau.
When her father died in May 1930, Meyer-Waldeck travelled to join her family in Switzerland. Due to this event and poor health, Meyer-Waldeck postponed her studies at the Bauhaus for a year. When she returned in May 1931, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe had become director of the school. Meyer-Waldeck now studied under Ludwig Hilberseimer and van der Rohe and in the wall painting workshop under Alfred Arndt. She had now been working in the furniture world for almost four years; finally, she was awarded her apprenticeship diploma. In 1932, Meyer-Waldeck completed her studies with the Bauhaus Diploma and a final project for an ‘Eight-class elementary school and kindergarten’.
Having completed her studies, she initially returned to Switzerland. In 1934, she took a job in the Junkers factory in Dessau as a draughtswoman working an aircraft construction. In 1937 she was employed at middle management level on the construction of the Reich autobahn network, designing bridges, motorway service areas and office buildings. From 1939 to 1941 she worked in the building division of the Reich railway network in Berlin. She was subsequently employed by the Karwin-Thzynietz mining and steel company, where she headed the fourteen-man planning office in charge of all construction projects in the eight collieries in the area. On 1 April 1940 Meyer-Waldeck returned to Dresden. On the recommendation of art critic Will Grohmann, she obtained employment as a lecturer in interior design at the Staatliche Hochschule für Werkkunst in Dresden. However, because the students refused to accept her, her contract was terminated in 1948. Meyer-Waldeck subsequently settled in Walldorf, Hesse, where she designed furniture for displaced persons.
When she joined the German Werkbund, a new phase began in Meyer-Waldeck’s life. She was one of the organisers and designers of the 1949 Werkbund exhibition ‘Neues Wohnen’ in Cologne, in which she exhibited her own designs and prototype furnishings for a kindergarten. Her professional success was achieved in the following years, initially as an interior designer and eventually also as an architect. Meyer-Waldeck worked as a freelancer for Hans Schwippert, one of the most prominent German architects of the postwar period. Here she collaborated on projects including the interior design of the Bundestag, two ministries and the Chancellery building. The architect and interior designer also worked on redevelopment projects, among them a hotel in Cologne and a carpet shop in Bonn. In 1951 she contributed to the exhibition ‘So wohnen’. For the special exhibition ‘City of tomorrow’ at the international architecture exhibition ‘Interbau’ in Berlin in 1957, Meyer-Waldeck collaborated with architect Hilde Weström on the design of interiors as examples of how to furnish apartments. At the 1958 Brussels World Fair Meyer-Waldeck was responsible for the exhibition architecture of the section ‘Der persönliche Bedarf’ of the West German Pavilion. Meyer-Waldeck also published numerous specialist articles. Her final project was a hall of residence for female students in Bonn (1962). Wera Meyer-Waldeck died of diabetes-related causes on 25 April 1964 in Bonn. [AG 2016]
· Corinna Isabel Bauer (2003): Bauhaus- und Tessenow-Schülerinnen. Genderaspekte im Spannungsverhältnis von Tradition und Moderne, Kassel.
· Kerstin Dörhofer (2004): Pionierinnen in der Architektur. Eine Baugeschichte der Moderne, Bad Langensalza.
· Josenia Hervás (2019): Wera Meyer-Waldeck, in: Elizsabeth Otto, Patrick Rössler (2019): bauhaus women. A global perspective, Great Britain (PDF), t3://page?uid=1036 .../Das - Meyer-Waldeck/
· Ute Maasberg, Regina Prinz (2005): Die Neuen kommen! Weibliche Avantgarde in der Architektur der zwanziger Jahre, Hamburg.
· Wera Meyer-Waldeck (1928): interview mit bauhäuslern, in: bauhaus. zeitschrift für gestaltung, 2. Jg., H. 4, Dessau, S. 18f.
· Union Internationale des Femmes Architectes Sektion Bundesrepublik e.V. (1987): Zur Geschichte der Architektinnen und Designerinnen im 20. Jahrhundert. Eine erste Zusammenstellung, Berlin.
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