The Glassworks in Amberg is Walter Gropius’ last built work. This spectacular industrial workplace – which, because of its religious-like futuristic design is also known as the “Glass Cathedral” – was completed in 1970, one year after Gropius’s death. The Bauhaus founder designed the project together with his Boston architectural firm, The Architects Collaborative (TAC), and his partner Alex Cvijanovic. It was commissioned by factory owner Philip Rosenthal. Three years earlier, Gropius had already built a porcelain factory for the Rosenthal corporation in the town of Selb. Both of Gropius’s buildings for Rosenthal rank as visionary models of industrial architecture and important exemplars of the Bauhaus in Bavaria.
The entire site lies within a dell. Only the roofs of the low-rise buildings and the imposing gabled hall rise impressively above the surrounding greenery of Amberg’s Bergsteig district. The 100-metre-long smelting furnace hall – the “central nave” of the Glassmaker’s Cathedral – forms the heart of the complex. The stepped-back roofs of light-grey concrete and the ribbon windows terminate in a massive triangular gable that bestows a sacral quality to the building. In front of it are single-storey buildings for storage, shipment and processing, as well as a canteen (meanwhile disused) with an atrium.
The radically modern architecture of the Glassworks was the result of close collaboration between Gropius and Rosenthal. Both men advocated a holistic approach towards the question of architecture’s social role. Thus an industrial building should not only be efficient but also aesthetically pleasing, so as to guarantee humane working conditions with ample light, air and openness.
Now operating under the name “Kristall-Glasfabrik Amberg”, glass products are still produced in the building. [KM/DK]