The Bauhaus Legacy - 100 Years Later / by Helen Zouvelekis

Weimar 1919-1925, Dessau 1925-1932, Berlin 1932-1933

In 2019, the Bauhaus school of design will turn 100 and Germany will launch a three-year celebration, certain to be one of the most important cultural events in the world!  After long admiring Bauhaus design, I'm dedicating this blog to the remarkable history of the most significant school for design and architecture. In almost 100 years, this movement has had a MASSIVE impression on world design, considering it was only in existence for fourteen years. 

The Bauhaus School in Dessau, built by Gropius in 1926. The Bauhaus is a German word meaning "house of building"or "house construction".

First Period: Weimer, 1919 - 1925

The celebrated Bauhaus school was founded by Walter Gropius in 1919 and lasted to 1933 with three moves throughout its existence. It was the most influential modernist art school of the 20th century and its objective was to combine art, craft and design in order to define the modern future. It also focused on joining minimalism and mass production using 20th century machinery to create buildings, design and furniture. The expression form follows function defined the beauty and productivity of the design.

The faculty included a range of astonishingly talented architects, sculptors, painters, photographers, graphic designers and printmakers. Some of these artists included Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, Marcel Breuer, Johannes Itten, Lyonel Feininger, Gerhard Marcks, and Oskar Schlemmer.

 Bauhaus School Faculty

Bauhaus School Faculty

The artwork below highlights a few of the great Bauhaus artists.

Paul Klee, Red Balloon

Albers and Maholy-Nagy, From Bauhaus to the New World

Wassily Kandinsky, Yellow-Red-Blue

Oskar Schlemmer, Stairs to the Bauhaus

Second Period: Dessau (1925 to 1932)

In 1925 the school moved to Dessau where designing for mass production was the priority. Simple geometric shapes and primary color palettes became the movement's signature. In 1928, under Hannes Meyer, the school shifted toward the social function of design, designing for public good. Meyer was obsessed with the question of how well designed products and buildings might be made affordable for all.

Meyer‘s slogan was: The people’s needs instead of the need for luxury! 

 A staircase in the Bauhaus school of design in Dessau, Germany,1932.

A staircase in the Bauhaus school of design in Dessau, Germany,1932.

 Piet Mondrian, Chair designed by Dutch designer Gerrit Rietveld.

Piet Mondrian, Chair designed by Dutch designer Gerrit Rietveld.

Third Period: Berlin 1932 - 1933

Unfortunately, the school was forced to move to Berlin when the Nazis gained control of the Dessau city council in 1931. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe became the school’s new director in 1932 and opened the third version of Bauhaus in an abandoned factory where he paid the rent with his own money.  In 1933 the school closed due to Nazi intimidation which forced the staff to leave Germany.  Although this was the shortest period of the schools existence, it was responsible for expansion of the design movement worldwide.

 Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe


In addition to paintings, Bauhaus artists designed sculptures, collages, and modernist posters featuring bold typography and blocks of color.

 Universal Font by Herbert Bayer

Universal Font by Herbert Bayer

The Bauhaus font is inspired by the Universal font of Herbert Bayer. The school believed in a balanced layout, geometric shapes, vibrant colors and sans-serif type. The Bauhaus layout was not only horizontal and vertical, but angled as well, or wrapped around objects.

Bauhaus has also inspired web design including The Metropolitan Museum of Art which features a lot of Bauhaus design in its photography and colors.

Many beautiful and iconic furniture designs have come from this movement. Some of the most famous are the Cantilever, Barcelona and the Wassily chairs. A perfect example of form follows function is obvious in the stacking tables that work together or independently. 

 

 Wassily Chair, Marcel-Breuer

Wassily Chair, Marcel-Breuer

 Walter Gropius Chair

Walter Gropius Chair

 Barcelona Chair, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Barcelona Chair, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

 Tubular steel chairs, Marcel Breuer

Tubular steel chairs, Marcel Breuer


Architecture education owes more to the Bauhaus than to any other single institution. The Bauhaus Archive opened in Berlin in 1979 and houses the largest collection of Bauhaus-related works in the world!

 The Bauhaus Archive

The Bauhaus Archive

Walter Gropius, would go on to design the iconic MetLife Building which opened in 1963 as the PanAm Building. He also founded The Architects Collaborative (TAC). Marcel Breuer would design the landmark Whitney Museum, now known as the Met Breuer.

 The MetLife Building, Walter Gropius

The MetLife Building, Walter Gropius

 The Whitney Museum, Breuer

The Whitney Museum, Breuer

Both Gropius and Breuer taught at Harvard. The New Bauhaus was set up at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. In 1996, more than a dozen Bauhaus inspired buildings were declared Unesco World Heritage Sites in Germany. Every year more than 100,000 visitors from all over the world visit Dessau to view the Bauhaus buildings and many become involved as architects, designers, artists or students.

In its almost 100 years, Bauhaus design has survived the chaos of Nazism, WWII and design trends that have come and gone. It still inspires new generations of artists and designers in the 21st century.

So when you experience that terrifying lack of inspiration that plagues the minds of creative people, keep it simple...no frills, no gimmicks.

 

Helen Z.