100 Years of the Bauhaus
The Reinvention of Design

Neues Bauhaus in Dessau

Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in 1919 – and in doing so revolutionised architecture, design and the way we think about it. What influence does this art school have today? And what should everyone know about the Bauhaus? We answer the most important questions about next year’s anniversary.

Bauhaus and its History

  • <b>“The ultimate goal of all art is the building!”</b><br><br>All about the building: Walter Gropius, founder and first director of the Bauhaus, knew exactly where he wanted to take his new school. In the 1919 Bauhaus Manifesto he wrote: “Let us strive for, conceive and create the new building of the future that will unite every discipline, architecture and sculpture and painting.” This interdisciplinary approach sought to bring fine art together with the art of architecture, with the spotlight on the building itself. Illustration: © Tobias Schrank

    “The ultimate goal of all art is the building!”

    All about the building: Walter Gropius, founder and first director of the Bauhaus, knew exactly where he wanted to take his new school. In the 1919 Bauhaus Manifesto he wrote: “Let us strive for, conceive and create the new building of the future that will unite every discipline, architecture and sculpture and painting.” This interdisciplinary approach sought to bring fine art together with the art of architecture, with the spotlight on the building itself.

  • <b>“The needs of the people before the need for luxury”</b><br><br>Make way for the architecture of the proletariat! Swiss architect Hannes Meyer took over from Gropius as Bauhaus director. He was critical of his predecessor’s work, and assessed the first phase under Gropius as “sect-like and aesthetic”. Meyer set a new guiding principle to take the school in a different direction: “Basically my teaching will be on absolutely functional-collectivist-constructive lines.” In practice this meant that any object to come out of the Bauhaus had to be designed for inexpensive mass production to make it affordable for everyone. Illustration: © Tobias Schrank

    “The needs of the people before the need for luxury”

    Make way for the architecture of the proletariat! Swiss architect Hannes Meyer took over from Gropius as Bauhaus director. He was critical of his predecessor’s work, and assessed the first phase under Gropius as “sect-like and aesthetic”. Meyer set a new guiding principle to take the school in a different direction: “Basically my teaching will be on absolutely functional-collectivist-constructive lines.” In practice this meant that any object to come out of the Bauhaus had to be designed for inexpensive mass production to make it affordable for everyone.

  • “Form follows function”  Illustration: © Tobias Schrank

    “Form follows function”

    No ornamentation, no frippery or finery, and no bells and whistles: While the “form follows function” ideal did not originate with the great minds of the Bauhaus – although it is often misattributed to them – they were the first to consistently apply it in Germany. And though the language of the Bauhaus might make it seem like this principle perfectly captures the school’s quintessence, Wassily Kandinsky qualified it somewhat with his dictum, “necessity creates form.”

  • <b>“Onde há lã, há também uma mulher tecendo, nem que seja só para passar o tempo</b><br><br>Mesmo que a Bauhaus parecesse muito moderna para sua época, Gropius deixou rapidamente claro que não valorizava de fato a equidade entre os gêneros, por ele postulada de início, nem pretendia ter consideração pelas mulheres. A recomendação do Conselho de Mestres para que não fossem feitos “experimentos desnecessários” demonstrou até onde se queria chegar com a emancipação feminina: as mulheres deveriam ir direto para a tecelagem e ser excluídas dos cursos de arquitetura. Illustration: © Tobias Schrank

    “Onde há lã, há também uma mulher tecendo, nem que seja só para passar o tempo

    Mesmo que a Bauhaus parecesse muito moderna para sua época, Gropius deixou rapidamente claro que não valorizava de fato a equidade entre os gêneros, por ele postulada de início, nem pretendia ter consideração pelas mulheres. A recomendação do Conselho de Mestres para que não fossem feitos “experimentos desnecessários” demonstrou até onde se queria chegar com a emancipação feminina: as mulheres deveriam ir direto para a tecelagem e ser excluídas dos cursos de arquitetura.

  • <b>“A thing is defined by its essence”</b><br><br>... Gropius claimed in 1925. So far, so good. “In order to design it so that it functions well, its essence must first be explored; it should serve its purpose perfectly, that is, fulfill its function practically and be durable, inexpensive and ‘beautiful’.” This need to explore the essence of things might help explain many an insane sounding lesson in which students are encouraged to think like the object. Illustration: © Tobias Schrank

    “A thing is defined by its essence”

    ... Gropius claimed in 1925. So far, so good. “In order to design it so that it functions well, its essence must first be explored; it should serve its purpose perfectly, that is, fulfill its function practically and be durable, inexpensive and ‘beautiful’.” This need to explore the essence of things might help explain many an insane sounding lesson in which students are encouraged to think like the object.

  • <b>“Positively unfriendly”</b><br><br>What has architecture come to? The Bauhaus school also came under considerable fire, as reviews of the cool, functional living spaces from the 1923 “Bauhaus Exhibition” showed. Whitewashed steel constructions with innovative interior elements; the walls in the children’s rooms were for writing on, and the furniture could be moved together to save space. Contemporaries did not hold back their harsh derision, using phrases like “North Pole station”, “operating theatre”, referring to the floorplan as an “architectural joke”, and classifying the overall feel as “positively unfriendly, orthodox-puritanical”. Photo: © Tobias Schrank

    “Positively unfriendly”

    What has architecture come to? The Bauhaus school also came under considerable fire, as reviews of the cool, functional living spaces from the 1923 “Bauhaus Exhibition” showed. Whitewashed steel constructions with innovative interior elements; the walls in the children’s rooms were for writing on, and the furniture could be moved together to save space. Contemporaries did not hold back their harsh derision, using phrases like “North Pole station”, “operating theatre”, referring to the floorplan as an “architectural joke”, and classifying the overall feel as “positively unfriendly, orthodox-puritanical”.

Projects worldwide
BAUHAUS IMAGINISTA in Kyoto

The Bauhaus wanted to redefine the relationship between education, art and society. The Bauhaus shared this approach, which can be found in Gropius' Manifesto of 1919, with other movements in the 20th century, such as Japan and Russia.

Heike Albrecht: Trace Movement © Goethe-Institut


A little piece of Bauhaus

In anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the German Bauhaus, in 2019, the Goethe-Institut Chicago is showing works by local, national and international artists whose works relate to the Bauhaus.

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