Hubert Hoffmann was borni in Berlin but spent his early years in Monte Verità, Ascona, where his father was working as an architect. He attended school in Hanover then completed an apprenticeship in agriculture in Eastern Friesland. He subsequently returned to Hanover to study at the Bauschule (school of architecture), Kunstgewerbeschule (school of arts and crafts) and the Technische Hochschule (technical university), and for a further year at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich.
Bauhaus Dessau Years
In 1926 he finally found the ideal educational institution – the Bauhaus Dessau. He enrolled as student No. 124 for the winter term 1926-27 and was immediately able to witness the completion of the Bauhaus building. Up to 1929 his teachers included Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy-Nagy and Oskar Schlemmer, later also Hannes Meyer, Joost Schmidt and Alfred Arndt. He was involved in a several projects for the expansion of Siedlung Törten and was active in the advertising department. After completing his studies, from 1929 to 1932 Hoffmann worked among others for Fred Forbat and Marcel Breuer’s office in Berlin and fitted over fifty grocery stores for a cabinet maker’s, using a modular construction system. At the same time he continued to visit the Bauhaus as a guest student and worked with Jacob Hess and Cornelius van der Linden on the Analysis of Dessau, which was presented at the 1933 CIAM congress.
Berlin Years During the War
From 1934 to 1936 Hoffmann was an assistant to Prof. Müller at the Institut für Kraftverkehr und Städtebau (institute of transport and urban development) of TU Berlin and was subsequently employed in the planning office of the province of Posen. From 1938 to 1939 he also worked briefly as a town planner in Potsdam. In 1940 he was called up to the Wehrmacht, for which he worked among other things as a land-use planner in Lithuania. Towards the end of the war, as an employee of the Akademie für Städtebau (academy of urban development) near Magdeburg, he was briefly incarcerated in an American prisoner of war camp.
Hoffmann was for few months a town planner in Magdeburg and then, from late-1945, in Dessau. Under the reinstated Lord Mayor Fritz Hesse he worked towards the re-opening of the Bauhaus and organised initial measures to safeguard the now severely damaged Bauhaus buildings. From 1946 to 1948 he participated in numerous competitions with a group of former Bauhauslers known as the 'Planungsgemeinschaft Bauhaus' (Bauhaus planning collective). Fritz Hesse set Hoffmann the task of reviving the Bauhaus. Ultimately however, the re-opening of the Bauhaus as a modern art school failed following the rise to power of the Socialist Unity Part of Germany (SED), which judged the Bauhaus to be too elitist. Hoffmann was denounced and had to flee to the West. Hubert Hoffmann settled in West Berlin and worked for the building design authorities. From 1953 he worked as a freelance architect for Hans Scharoun and Walter Rossow and others and contributed to the planning of Berlin’s Hansaviertel. In 1957 in association with Wassily Luckhardt he built house no. 9 for the international building exhibition Interbau.
In 1959 Hoffmann was appointed tenured professor and director of the Institut für Städtebau und Entwerfen (institute of urban design and planning) at the technical university in Graz (now Graz University of Technology). Numerous projects in Austria followed, mainly in Styria and Vorarlberg; Hoffmann also participated in various competitions in Germany. In 1956 he became a guest lecturer at Auburn University in Alabama, USA. The same year, he and a team of colleagues won a competition for the Institut für Hochspannungstechnik und elektro- und biomedizinische Technik of TH Graz (institute of electrical engineering of what is now Graz University of Technology), which was realised from 1968 to 1972. In the 1970s Hoffmann was a dedicated advisor of citizens’ initiatives and frequently took on the role of initiator. A professor emeritus from 1975, he worked with his former pupil Arnold Werner as an architect and planner in St. Veit, Graz.
Back to GDR
In the meantime the already historic Bauhaus was steadily gaining traction in the public eye and Hubert Hoffmann became one of its most fervent protagonists. Indefatigable and committed, he missed few opportunities to publicly express his views on the subject. He was equally tireless and dedicated in his work as a town planner and architect and worked into old age on numerous developments and buildings.
In 1983 Hubert Hoffmann was permitted entry to the GDR for the first time in order to attend a Bauhaus colloquium. The GDR had taken offence to his article about the revival of the Bauhaus after 1945, published in Eckhard Neumann’s book 'Bauhaus und Bauhäusler. Erinnerungen und Bekenntnisse' and had blacklisted him from 1971 onwards. From 1988 Hoffmann regularly visited Dessau and the Bauhaus on his journeys to the Academy of Arts in Berlin, where he had been a fellow since 1972. He visited Dessau for the last time in 1996 for the 70th anniversary of the opening of the Bauhaus building, by which time he was one of very few contemporary witnesses. It was to be Hubert Hoffmann’s last Bauhaus party – the Bauhaus had also just been awarded World Heritage status – and his final chance to reign as the most indefatigable storyteller and dancer of all.
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