Architecture : The Bauhaus – Stephen Bau – Medium

100 Years Later

The Bauhaus Building, Dessau, Germany by Walter Gropius. Photography by Stephen Bau.
The Bauhaus Building, Dessau, Germany by Walter Gropius. Photography by Stephen Bau.

Germany is celebrating 100 years since the beginnings of the Bauhaus in 1919.

The Bauhaus was an interdisciplinary, international workshop for ideas, in which diverse opinions, theories and styles coalesced in the search for the New Man, New Architecture and New Living; in which the primary focus was on an open-minded approach to methods and ideas: namely, on reinventing the world.

The Bauhaus Movement

Art and Technology: A New Unity

The State Bauhaus was founded by Walter Gropius as a school of arts in Weimar in 1919. As the Bauhaus was a combination of crafts and arts, its nature and concept was regarded as something completely new back then. Today, the historical Bauhaus is the most influential educational establishment in the fields of architecture, art and design. The Bauhaus existed from 1919 to 1933 and today the world considers it to be the home of the avant-guard of classical modern style in all fields of liberal and applied arts. The resonance of the Bauhaus can still be felt today, essentially characterizing the image of German design abroad.

The Bauhaus Manifesto

Walter Gropius inaugurated the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany in 1919 with the following words:

The ultimate goal of all art is the building! The ornamentation of the building was once the main purpose of the visual arts, and they were considered indispensable parts of the great building. Today, they exist in complacent isolation, from which they can only be salvaged by the purposeful and cooperative endeavours of all artisans. Architects, painters and sculptors must learn a new way of seeing and understanding the composite character of the building, both as a totality and in terms of its parts. Their work will then re-imbue itself with the spirit of architecture, which it lost in salon art.

The art schools of old were incapable of producing this unity — and how could they, for art may not be taught. They must return to the workshop. This world of mere drawing and painting of draughtsmen and applied artists must at long last become a world that builds. When a young person who senses within himself a love for creative endeavour begins his career, as in the past, by learning a trade, the unproductive ‘artist’ will no longer be condemned to the imperfect practice of art because his skill is now preserved in craftsmanship, where he may achieve excellence.

Architects, sculptors, painters — we all must return to craftsmanship! For there is no such thing as ‘art by profession’. There is no essential difference between the artist and the artisan. The artist is an exalted artisan. Merciful heaven, in rare moments of illumination beyond man’s will, may allow art to blossom from the work of his hand, but the foundations of proficiency are indispensable to every artist. This is the original source of creative design.

So let us therefore create a new guild of craftsmen, free of the divisive class pretensions that endeavoured to raise a prideful barrier between craftsmen and artists! Let us strive for, conceive and create the new building of the future that will unite every discipline, architecture and sculpture and painting, and which will one day rise heavenwards from the million hands of craftsmen as a clear symbol of a new belief to come.’

Bauhaus Books

Fortunately for design nerds, typography mavens and architecture enthusiasts everywhere, the good folks over at Monoskop have posted online a whole set of beautifully designed publications from the storied school.

The Bauhaus Diaspora

During the years of World War II, many of the key figures of the Bauhaus emigrated to the United States, where their work and their teaching philosophies influenced generations of young architects and designers. Marcel Breuer and Josef Albers taught at Yale, Walter Gropius went to Harvard, and Moholy-Nagy established the New Bauhaus in Chicago in 1937.

The International Style

The International Style is the name of a major architectural style that developed in the 1920s and 1930s and strongly related to Modernism and Modern architecture. It was first defined by Museum of Modern Art curators Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson in 1932, based on works of architecture from the 1920s.

The “International Style”, as defined by Hitchcock and Johnson, had developed in 1920s Western Europe, shaped by the activities of the Dutch De Stijl movement, Le Corbusier, and the Deutscher Werkbund and the Bauhaus. Le Corbusier had embraced Taylorist and Fordist strategies adopted from American industrial models in order to reorganize society. He contributed to a new journal called L’Esprit Nouveau that advocated the use of modern industrial techniques and strategies to create a higher standard of living on all socio-economic levels.

Ulm School of Design

Founded in the memory of Hans and Sophie Scholl, who were executed by the Nazis as members of the resistance, HfG Ulm was established by their younger sister, Inge Scholl with Otl Aicher and others. Environmental design, as a holistic approach to human habitation, combined with political education was seen as a strategy for strengthening democratic ideals within society.

The school that linked the Bauhaus to the iPhone

If you want to discover the missing link between the Bauhaus and the iPhone, visit London’s Raven Row gallery, which is staging an exhibition dedicated to a short-lived, post-war German design school. The Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm or Ulm School of Design was founded in 1953 in the southern German city of Ulm by the graphic designer Otl Aicher, the writer and peace campaigner Inge Aicher-Scholl and the Swiss architect, designer and Bauhaus graduate Max Bill.

The Bauhaus Legacy

The Bauhaus continues to have a profound influence on art, design, furniture, and architecture.

The design revolution that we have witnessed over the past decades has been brought about by companies such as Apple and IDEO in large part due to the influence of the innovations of the Bauhaus school in combining craft, art and mass production as the genesis of modern industrial design.

Bauhaus Art and Apple Aesthetics

Bauhaus art had an obvious effect on Apple’s aesthetics, especially their usage of the color white. While Sony products had a look of “gunmetal grey, maybe paint it black, do weird stuff to it”, Apple went the opposite direction, right down the packaging which is treated as carefully as every other design aspect — Apple products are the same ‘total works of art’ as the original Bauhaus building.

Apple and The Bauhaus

But many of the same ideals that Apple represents directly come from the teachings of the Bauhaus. One of the quotes that designers regularly throw around, or post, on their Facebook wall and Twitter feed, is Jobs’ famous “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” This quote, however, shows specifically how much Jobs, and Apple as a whole, was influenced by Bauhaus.

What Steve Jobs Learned from the Bauhaus

Some eight decades earlier, in Germany, the artists, designers, and craftspeople associated with the Bauhaus school had tackled a similar problem. They’d observed the rise of manufacturing in the early 1900s and decided that the resulting mass-produced household goods were artless and soulless. So they intervened, creating furniture, appliances, even textiles that were elegant and eminently functional — and that could also be manufactured en masse.

In Its New House, Apple Goes Bauhaus

Consumer products are the stars of the new Apple retail store in SoHo. The store’s design is fairly bland compared with the suave styling that has won Apple’s products legions of loyal fans over the years. But the shop’s minimalist forms and neutral palette nonetheless go far toward establishing the claim that Apple’s products are today’s modern classics.

The Marxist Foundations Of Steve Jobs’ New Home

Gropius was no Bolshevik, but he couldn’t help but be influenced by the era’s Marxist obsession with ridding society of class differences. “Let us create a new guild of craftsmen, without the class distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist,” Gropius proclaimed.

The result was a design language that made a show of forcing form to follow function. Curves were ditched for right angles. Surfaces adorned with fancy moldings and other ornamentation were replaced with glass walls.

Designs that drew lines between one man’s property and another’s were replaced by an emphasis on communal spaces.

It’s a view of design that grew into a mid-century movement known as the International Style that swept through the United States in the post-war period.

How Steve Jobs’ Love of Simplicity Fueled A Design Revolution

Steve Jobs’ interest in design began with his love for his childhood home. It was in one of the many working-class subdivisions between San Francisco and San Jose that were developed by builders who churned out inexpensive modernist tract houses in the 1950s for the postwar suburban migration. Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of simple modern homes for the American “everyman,” developers such as Joseph Eichler and his imitators built houses that featured floor-to-ceiling glass walls, open floor plans, exposed post-and-beam construction, concrete slab floors and lots of sliding glass doors

Form and Fortune

The Bauhaus lives on in Apple also in other ways. In addition to its minimalism, the Bauhaus also championed an obsession with functionalism — the idea, revolutionary in its time, that form follows function. The Bauhaus enthusiasm for “function” is the precursor of Apple’s enthusiasm for “essence.” But how did the Bauhaus designers and architects explain the functions of their products and structures? Where did they come from, and how were they discovered? In a superb essay, in 1995, on the question of why the notion of “form follows function” was so attractive to the Bauhaus, the design historian Jan Michl observed that, instead of appealing to religious deities or nature to justify the product’s functions, modernist designers appealed to something abstract and objective: the spirit of the times.

Peter Saville: Abstraction and Design

Legendary designer Peter Saville says abstract art is part of our everyday lives. From Kasimir Malevich and his Black Square through to contemporary product design, in an exclusive film he makes the argument that modern devices such as iPods owe their shape and feel to pioneers of Abstraction.

The Shape of Things to Come

How an industrial designer became Apple’s greatest product.

That text could be thought of as a supplement to design principles set down by Dieter Rams, the German designer celebrated for pale, clean-lined, Bauhaus-inspired work, largely at Braun.

Designing Men

The democratization of high modern design was a dream that began with the early modernists in Europe nearly a century ago, and for a long time it was mostly an illusion. The Bauhaus designers in Germany in the 1920s, for example, espoused theories about modern design as a popular movement, but they produced mainly expensive, handcrafted objects. The rare Bauhaus designs that have become common, like Marcel Breuer’s Cesca dining chair of cane and tubular steel, are generally compromised versions, cheap copies that are easier to manufacture than the more complex originals. Jonathan Ive’s designs for Apple are different: the mass-market version is the pure version, done without compromise. Ive, who was knighted last year, is one of the first designers to have actually achieved the Bauhaus dream of bringing high-end modern design to almost every level of society.

How a Designer from Braun Influenced Apple

Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer famously known for his association with the consumer products company Braun. His unobtrusive approach and belief in “less but better” design generated a timeless quality in his products and have influenced the design of many products. Rams is known worldwide as one of the most significant representatives of function-oriented design.

Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, and Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Senior VP of Industrial Design, have long acknowledged and admired Dieter Ram’s iconic design aesthetics. That admiration can often be found seeping into Apple’s own products.

Jony Ive says that “what Dieter Rams and his team at Braun did was to produce hundreds of wonderfully conceived and designed objects: products that were beautifully made in high volumes and that were broadly accessible”. It is evident, then, that the calculator on the iPhone and iPod Touch is so clearly inspired by Rams’ version for Braun.

Jony Ive on Apple Park: “It’s nice, though, isn’t it?”

Apple’s chief designer Jonathan Ive has revealed his feelings about the tech giant’s new home, as his team prepares to move in, and photos of the building’s interior emerge.

Dieter Rams and the Relevance of Functionalism

After two semesters at Wiesbaden School of Art, Rams attended a three year practical apprenticeship as a carpenter, after which he went back to complete four more semesters at Wiesbaden School of Art. By this time Wiesbaden School of Art had moved into a building of its own and now was headed by popular thinkers from the new German Modernist and the Bauhaus movement. These four semesters proved to be pivotal in shaping Rams’ design philosophy as he was exposed to the German Modernist ideologies of functionalism, mass-production and multi-disciplinary approach developed and nurtured in Bauhaus and Ulm School of Design. After graduating in 1956 he worked for Frankfurt based architect Otto Apel, where he encountered another wave of Modernism reintroduced from the United States.

The Braun Products That Inspired Apple’s Iconic Designs

Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and former CEO, and Jony Ive, the company’s Senior Vice President of Industrial Design, famously admired the work of Braun designer Dieter Rams. And that admiration can often be found seeping into Apple’s own products. We mentioned not so long ago that Apple’s Podcasts app looks a lot like an old Braun tape recorder, but it goes much, much deeper than that.

In fact, a lot of Apple’s products can be likened to those from Braun.

Dieter Rams: Apple has achieved something I never did

I have always regarded Apple products — and the kind words Jony Ive has said about me and my work — as a compliment. Without doubt there are few companies in the world that genuinely understand and practise the power of good design in their products and their businesses. Probably the first example was Peter Behrens and his work for the German company AEG, in the early part of the 20th century. He might be considered to be the founder of corporate identity. Adriano Olivetti was close behind as he transformed his father’s Italian company, Olivetti. Having become aware of this scarcity at the start of my career in the 1950s, I am sorry to report that the situation does not seem to have improved to this day.

I have always observed that good design can normally only emerge if there is a strong relationship between an entrepreneur and the head of design. At Apple this situation exists — between Steve Jobs and Jony Ive. This was the case at Braun where I always reported to Erwin and Artur Braun or, after their departure, the chairman of the board. It is the same in my relationship with the furniture manufacturer, Vitsoe, where I worked closely with the founder Niels Vitsoe and, since his death, Mark Adams — a period now spanning more than 50 years.

I am always fascinated when I see the latest Apple products. Apple has managed to achieve what I never achieved: using the power of their products to persuade people to queue to buy them. For me, I had to queue to receive food at the end of World War II. That’s quite a change.

Dieter Rams: If I Could Do It Again, “I Would Not Want To Be A Designer”

That’s why, if I had something to do in this world again, I would not want to be a designer. Because I believe, in the future, it will be less important to have many things and more important to exercise care about where and how we live.

“Simplicity is the key to excellence” says Dieter Rams

In the interview, published in the latest issue of Kinfolk, Rams said that restrained aesthetics and optimised functionality are key to creating products that will endure, even if these qualities “act as a constraint upon innovation”.

Dieter Rams: As Little Design As Possible

This is a global struggle against excess, waste, visual pollution and environmental destruction. Since his retirement, Rams has continued to advocate these values forcefully in essays, interviews and exhibitions — and later this year in a documentary film — reasserting that design must serve rather than dominate people, and that it must help us feel comfortable with fewer things so that we can resist wasteful exploitation of material and energy. “We need new structures for our behaviors,” he declares, “and that is design.”

Back To The Future

Apple’s design revolution goes way deeper than Jony Ive

This great leap forward, however, has just as much a foot in the past as the future — specifically, in an influential German design movement that grew out of the chaos of WWI, aiming to reinvent a more ordered and just society through great design. The Bauhaus school shifted between Weimar (1919 -1925), Dessau (1925–1932) and Berlin (1932 -1933) during Germany’s most pivotal years, and acted as an innovation incubator, not unlike Apple’s Design Lab. In both instances, a team of dedicated practitioners thought they could alleviate the alienation of modern society through more personal consumer products, clean lines, and user-friendly interfaces. In other words, a revolution centered on aesthetics that benefitted the people.

A Total Theory of Design

Everything is connected to everything else.

The Selectric was designed in 1961 by Eliot Noyes, a onetime student and colleague of Gropius. An accomplished architect, Noyes was also a pioneer in the development of comprehensive corporate design programs that integrated design strategy with business strategy. He considered himself the “curator of corporate character” for all his clients — IBM, Mobil Oil, Westinghouse, Cummins — and he always claimed Walter Gropius as his mentor.

The New Bauhaus

IIT Institute of Design

The design profession developed as a result of the Industrial Revolution when the machine replaced the craftsman and mass-produced goods replaced individually made artifacts. As the economy increased in scale, we began to abandon tailor-made products.

Within this context, the German Bauhaus was born.

The Bauhaus had a revolutionary agenda: to create an new aesthetic appropriate for a modern industrial society. The school would use technology to improve our quality of life.

The New Bauhaus

How László Moholy-Nagy brought a movement to Chicago.

In Chicago, The New Bauhaus evolved from its origins at the German Bauhaus into an extraordinary flowering of interdisciplinary design pedagogy premised on the notion that “the whole field of contemporary architecture and design must be based upon an indivisible unification of formerly separated and independent fields.”

Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin

The Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung was founded in 1960 as a private society. The aim was and is ‘to collect and present all documents relating to the activities and cultural and intellectual heritage of the Bauhaus’. This includes photographs, books, designs, models and artistic works, as well as the organization of exhibitions and accompanying programmes.

The Bauhaus Dessau

Dessau is the city most closely associated with the Bauhaus. This is where the school of design founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919 was active for the longest period of time, and where it experienced its heyday from 1925 to 1932. All three directors of the Bauhaus — Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer und Ludwig Mies van der Rohe — left their mark on the Bauhaus Dessau, and almost all of the Bauhaus buildings erected in Dessau are now regarded as icons of twentieth century architecture.

The Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

With faculties and areas of study such as Architecture and Urbanism, Civil Engineering, Art and Design and Media, the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar has a distinctive identity. Today the University offers an extensive spectrum of instruction with about 40 courses of study, including fine art, design, visual communication, media design, media studies, computer scinence and media, architecture, civil engineering, materials science, processing technology, environment and management. The term »Bauhaus« stands for an eagerness to experiment, openness, creativity and internationality.

The Bauhaus at MoMA

Having known the word in my youth — first as the moniker of the big-haired 1980s proto-goth punk band from the UK, then as a shorthand term for certain modernist architecture — I was thoroughly shocked the first time I encountered images of the Bauhaus School complex, taken during the 30-year period of East German decay following World War II. That vast swaths of culture had been left to languish under hard-line regimes throughout the Eastern Bloc was no surprise (many towns in the former East Germany had a derelict appearance until only recently). But that the Dessau campus of an institution so renowned and of such significance across all disciplines of art and design had been left to crumble was jolting.

Is There Bauhaus in IKEA?

Ninety years ago, Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus on humanistic principles. “Our guiding principle was that design is neither an intellectual nor a material affair, but simply an integral part of the stuff of life, necessary for everyone in a civilized society,” Gropius reflected in 1962 (Gropius, Walter. “My Conception of the Bauhaus Idea,” Scope of Total Architecture. Ed. Walter Gropius. New York: Colliers, 1962. 6–19). “Our conception of the basic unity of all design in relation to life was in diametric opposition to that of ‘art for art’s sake’ and the much more dangerous philosophy it sprang from, business as an end in itself.”

Gateway Drug of Dessau

I’ve heard the statement, “Modernism was a failed experiment,” for thirty years. The expressive typography of the 1960s abandoned the tenets of simplicity and function. In the 1970s and 80s design shifted again to embrace historical references, illustrative imagery, and post-modern appropriation. Even the minimalism of the 2000s incorporated self-reference and irony. For these last thirty years, I felt like a character in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953), hiding my reverence for Bayer, Matter, and Moholy-Nagy.

The typography and graphic design at the Bauhaus represent the most religious allegiance to Modernism. But, it is the photography at the Bauhaus that serves as a gateway drug. The imagery of happy art students is disarming and nostalgic now but revolutionized the way we see through the lens.

Learning in the Bauhaus School

Five lessons for today’s designers (and five ways the web still is Bauhaus)

In the 1920s and 30s, a period of increasing mechanization, Bauhaus teachers and students challenged the conventions of fine art, architecture and design by advocating a return to individual craftsmanship. They also rejected the flowers and frills that dominated the design language of the early twentieth century, and instead sought solutions that were simple, rational, and functional — an approach that remains dominant in design today.

The news that Harvard University has put over 32,000 digitised Bauhaus School works online set the creative world buzzing recently.

The Harvard Art Museums: Bauhaus

The Harvard Art Museums hold one of the first and largest collections relating to the Bauhaus, the 20th century’s most influential school of art and design. Active during the years of Germany’s Weimar Republic (1919–33), the Bauhaus aimed to unite artists, architects, and craftsmen in the utopian project of designing a new world. The school promoted experimental, hands-on production; realigned hierarchies between high and low, artist and worker, teacher and student; sharpened the human senses toward both physical materials and media environments; embraced new technologies in conjunction with industry; and imagined and enacted cosmopolitan forms of communal living. The legacies of the Bauhaus are visible today, extending well beyond modernist forms and into the ways we live, teach, and learn.

Photo Credit: Negatives of the Bauhaus

Founded by architect Walter Gropius in 1919, the Bauhaus school in Germany would go on to shape modern architecture, art, and design for decades to come. The school sought to combine design and industrialization, creating functional things that could be mass-produced for the betterment of society. It was a nexus of creativity in the early 20th century. Most now-famous designers and artists who were in Europe during the 1920s and ’30s spent time at the Bauhaus.

Muriel Cooper: Designing a Bridge Between the Bauhaus & the Digital Age

Bierut would know: he worked on the design of the shape-shifting MIT Media Lab logo, which was inspired by Cooper’s graphic design work decades prior on the MIT Press colophon (which is still in use). Her seven-bar graphic was simple, a geometric abstraction of the letters ‘mitp,’ driven both by Bauhaus aesthetics and new technologies.

Never-before-heard Audio Gives us Insight to the Creativity of Prominent Architects and Reveals Forgotten Bauhaus Secrets

In two intriguing new podcasts, the team over at 99% Invisible uncovered some never-before-heard audio and forgotten secrets about elements of architectural history. In the first, The Mind of an Architect, producer Avery Trufelman explores the audio archives of the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research (IPAR), where a study undertaken in the late 1950s mapped the personalities of prominent architects. Eero Saarinen, Philip Johnson, and Richard Neutra were among the study group, and the data came to some interesting conclusions about the role of ego and the presence of creativity.

In the second, Photo Credit; The Negatives of the Bauhaus Sam Greenspan explores the misattribution of credit for some of the most prolific images of the Bauhaus. Taken in the 1930s by German photographer Lucia Moholy, the historic images paint one of the clearest pictures of life at the Bauhaus. In the turmoil of the war, her negatives were lost, and absorbed by the school’s collection, denying her the credit she deserved.

Peter Murphy and David J to celebrate 40 Years of Bauhaus with a European Festival Date

Peter Murphy and David J are set to perform on August 15th, the first night of the 4 day festival, which also features performances from acts like Chameleons Vox, Modern English, DAF, Altered Images, Heaven 17, Nouvelle Vague, Marc Almond, Shriekback, Clan of Xymox, Trisomie 21, and more.

Kevin Haskins himself is marking his former band’s 40th anniversary with the release on March 16th of his book Bauhaus — Undead “The Visual History and Legacy of Bauhaus.

Bauhaus Restaurant, Vancouver

Bauhaus sets a new standard for refined dining in Vancouver. Owned by German film director Uwe Boll, the award-winning restaurant is known for its modern take on German cuisine and attention to detail. The menu delicately balances European cuisine with West Coast influences. The chefs’ creativity can be seen, tasted and felt in each of their creations.

Bauhaus Brew Labs

During its brief existence in post-WWI Germany, the Bauhaus School was among the world’s most famous art and design schools. A crucible of modernism, the impact of the Bauhaus can still be felt today. The Bauhaus was inspiring not just because of the extraordinary group of brilliant, visionary people involved, but because it was fueled by a commitment to creativity and experimentation with the underlying tenet that work, play and celebration should be intertwined. Here at Bauhaus Brew Labs, we live by the Bauhaus concept that the joy of art and craft should be celebrated as a part of everyday life.


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