ANSTED, W.Va. -- West Virginia state park lodges may be better known for their scenic views, guest amenities and proximity to outdoor activities than they are their style of architecture.
But three lodges -- Hawks Nest, Twin Falls and Pipestem -- are prime examples of buildings designed in the modernist style by the architectural group that was founded by and included Walter Gropius, father of the Bauhaus movement.
Gropius founded the Bauhaus (German for "house of building") School in Weimar, Germany, in the early 1920s. Graduates of the school, which combined the disciplines of craft-making, the fine arts, and design, had a major influence on art, architecture and industrial design in the decades that followed.
After leaving Nazi Germany in 1934, Gropius worked as an architect in England and the United States, where he joined the faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. In 1945, he founded The Architects Collaborative (TAC), a design firm in which all eight partners had input on a project, and individualism was discouraged.
The modernist design style practiced by TAC was in the Bauhaus tradition, emphasizing the use of steel, glass and concrete, and an absence of non-functional ornamentation, to produce a sleek, functional look. Buildings featured flat roofs, smooth facades, cubic shapes and open floor plans.
Buildings designed by TAC include the John F. Kennedy Office Building in Boston; the Harvard Graduate Center Building in Cambridge, Mass.; and the AIA Headquarters Building in Washington, D.C.
In the early 1960s, a plan to expand West Virginia's state parks system was gaining momentum. Then-Gov. Wally Barron "went to Washington, and called on several different federal agencies, trying to sell the idea of expanding the park system," said Robert Beanblossom, district administrator for the DNR's state parks section. "The people he met with were apparently not too keen on the idea, so Barron asked for a meeting with President Kennedy."
Barron fared much better during the meeting with JFK, according to Beanblossom, and walked away with a commitment for $24 million in federal funds for the park expansion program. West Virginia's pivotal support for Kennedy during the 1960 Democratic primary may have had something to do with presidential support for the program.
"One of the stipulations for receiving federal funds for the expansion was that the National Park Service had to approve the architectural firm to be used," said Beanblossom. "That's how The Architects Collaborative got involved in the process and was eventually selected to do the design work."
Among other developments, the Area Redevelopment Administration project added a 30-room lodge, which opened at Hawks Nest State Park in 1967; built a 20-room lodge at newly created Twin Falls Resort State Park, which opened in 1968, and built two lodges with a total of 143 rooms at another new state park, Pipestem, which opened in 1970.
While the name of Walter Gropius, who died in 1969, appears on some of the blueprints for the new park developments, "whether he was actually here in West Virginia, I don't know," Beanblossom said.
Gropius did spend time in West Virginia while working on an unrelated TAC project, the Huntington Museum of Art, at about the same time the lodges were being designed.
"By and large, The Architects Collaborative designed some very attractive structures," said Beanblossom. "For the lodges, they tried to find spaces with the best views that involved the least disturbance to the natural surroundings. And the DNR wanted the design to incorporate such West Virginia-made resources as glass, wood and brick."