Near the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius built the masters' houses as accommodation for the masters of the Bauhaus. These also served as model houses for modern living. The client was the city of Dessau, and the Bauhaus masters lived there as tenants.
From east to west, there was Gropius' house and the double houses for Moholy-Nagy/Feininger, Muche/Schlemmer and Kandinsky/Klee. The three double houses had identical floor plans, with one half forming nearly a mirror image of the other and rotated by 90 degrees.
Characteristic for the architecture of these houses is their cubic shape featuring a flat roof, their expansive, monochrome surfaces and their large windows, which create a connection between the inside and outside. This connection is also thematised by the expansive terraces and balconies as well as the numerous doors: From nearly every room there is a door providing access to the outdoors. Elements that are highly visible from the outside are also the radiators of the central heating system, with which "the contemporary" was to be conveyed outwards for everyone to admire. For example, this even led to the radiators in the bathrooms being placed in thermally unsuitable locations, just so that they would be clearly visible from the outside through the windows.
The large studio windows of the house reflect the trees out in front. These reflections mix with the trees behind the house, rendering these elements nearly invisible or, in a sense, transparent. It is not possible to say whether this effect of lightness or openness was initially intended by the builders, as the tree population at the time is not known in detail.
The master houses of Gropius and Moholy-Nagy were destroyed in a bombing raid in 1945. In the 1950s, a residential building with a traditional gable roof was built on the foundations of the destroyed Gropius house (Emmer Haus). The bombed half of the Moholy-Nagy house was demolished leaving an open space which left the Feininger house to stand alone (it is currently used by the Kurt Weill Centre).
In the 1990s, the remaining houses were extensively restored, partly with private funds. In the process, attempts were made to restore the original colour schemes of the interiors, which were based on the colour theory of the Bauhaus. Since each interior's colour scheme corresponded to its occupant, the rooms today feature exemplary colour combinations that only attempt to reflect the state of a room at a particular time.
The few existing historical photographs of the interiors show that the residents of the Masters' Houses adapted the interior design very much to the prevailing zeitgeist of the time, quite the opposite of the exterior appearance. Only Moholy-Nagy furnished his house according to the results, principles and products of the Bauhaus. In the Kandinsky house, one wall has been reconstructed true to the original with gold leaf.
Today, the Gropius and Moholy-Nagy Masters' Houses, which were destroyed during the war, have been rebuilt as abstract reinterpretations of the original architecture at the suggestion of the British architect David Chipperfield under the direction of the Berlin office Bruno-Fioretti-Marquez. The interior walls were designed by conceptual artist Olaf Nicolai with different types of plaster and shades of white, creating a changing impression depending on the incidence of light. The official reopening of the Masters' Houses was carried out by the Federal President of Germany, Gauck, on the 16th of May 2014. The earlier debate about whether the houses should be reconstructed true to the original has now become obsolete.
A kiosk (Trinkhalle) built in the neighbourhood of the Masters' Housing Estate according to plans by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was demolished in the 1970s. In 2013, the kiosk was rebuilt as part of the renovation of the Masters' Housing Estate.