Bauhaus: The Persistence Of Design

The Bauhaus (the full name Bauhaus means “state building house”) was the most famous school of architecture and design of the 20th century. Founded by Walter Gropius at Weimar, Germany, in 1919, the Bauhaus was originally a combined school of fine art and school of arts and crafts. In his opening manifesto, Gropius issued a call for the unification of all the creative arts under the leadership of architecture. He declared that a mastery of materials and techniques was essential for all creative design. Students were to have two teachers in every course, one an expert craftsman, the other a master artist.

The preliminary course, organized by Johannes Itten, introduced students to rudiments of design, freed from historic associations:  size, shape, line, color, pattern, texture, rhythm, and density. This course has become the foundation for design education in many countries. It was followed in the curriculum by advanced work with form and materials, including workshops in stone, wood, metal, pottery, glass, painting, and textiles. Industrial design became a major focus at the Bauhaus, which hoped to improve radically the quality of all manufactured goods.

Teachers appointed in the early years included Lyonel Feininger, Gerhard Marcks, Johannes Itten, and Adolf Meyer (1919);  Georg Muche (1920); Paul Klee and Oskar Schlemmer (1921);  Wassily Kandinsky (1922);  and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1923).  From the beginning, the striking newness of the concepts developed at the Bauhaus and the liberal beliefs of many of the people associated with it aroused strong opposition.

In 1925 political pressures forced the removal of the school from Weimar to Dessau, where Gropius designed a new complex of buildings for it, including classrooms, shops, offices, and dwellings for faculty and students. This group of buildings in Dessau came to symbolize the Bauhaus to the rest of the world. Although Gropius repeatedly insisted that it was never his intention to codify a Bauhaus style or dogma, the need for a new architectural image appropriate to a technological age caused the Bauhaus to be adopted as a model for what came to be known as the international style, or, more generally, modern architecture.

Gropius left the Bauhaus for private practice in 1928 and was succeeded as director by Hannes Meyer. Strong political pressures continued. In 1930 Ludwig Mies van der Rohe took over as director, moved the school to Berlin in 1932, and finally closed and disbanded it under pressure from the Nazis in 1933.

Among the former students who became important teachers at the Bauhaus were Josef Albers, Marcel Breuer, and Herbert Bayer. The Bauhaus became influential around the world as a result of the continued active teaching and designing by former faculty and students, including many Americans. In the United States, Gropius became dean of the School of Architecture at Harvard University, Mies van der Rohe became dean of architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology, and Moholy-Nagy founded the New Bauhaus in Chicago.

The work and principles of the Bauhaus have been further disseminated by many publications and exhibitions that have circulated internationally. A major Bauhaus Archive, founded at Darmstadt in 1961, was moved in the 1970s to Berlin. Another Bauhaus Archive is kept at Harvard University.

The design philosophy of the Bauhaus continues pervasive to the present day.

Author: The Artist

Artist, Designer & Photographer

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