Bauhaus movement

cnwokedi By cnwokedi, 16th Oct 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Art>History

Bauhaus is an international movement known for inspiring the 20th Century Modern Architecture and Design. It was named after Bauhaus School of Architecture and Fine Art in Weimar. The thought-provoking ideas spread worldwide having a great influence on architecture and all arts.


It seems almost impossible to define the significant impact of the Bauhaus movement. Nevertheless, a brief look into the short history of the school between 1919 and 1933 might throw light on the routs of the challenging task the school took upon and the way the ideas conquered the world.
In 1919, architect Walter Gropius founded Bauhaus school in Weimar (Germany, Saxony). It was a merger of the Grand Ducal School of Arts and Craft and the Weimar Academy of Fine Art. The philosophy and approach to teaching of the new school shows traces back to the 19th century reform movement of Philipp Morris, which aimed at combating the damage incurred on culture by industrialization. It also was closely associated with discussions of the ideological and socioeconomic reconciliation of the fine arts and the applied arts going on since 1907. (Represented by Henry van de Velde who called for crafts being the basis for design and Hermann Muthesius who introduced first industrial prototypes in architecture)


Bauhaus manifesto commits to bringing back together all artistic disciplines: sculpture, painting, arts and crafts, and manual trades. Alfred Barr (the Director of the Museum of Modern Art 1938) summarizes in his preface to the book Bauhaus (edited by Gropius and Bayer) the ideas. He believes, “because we live in the 20th century, the student architect or designer should be offered no refuge in the past but should be equipped for the modern world in its various aspects, artistic, technical, social, economic, spiritual, so that he may function in society not as a decorator but as a vital participant.” Walter Gropius claimed in April 1919 at their first exhibition "Exhibition of Unknown Architects" that the school will be breaking down the barrier between craftsman and artists, creating a new guild of craftsmen without the class snobbery.
This portentous aims were set into practice by well-known persona: German architect Walter Gropius, along with German sculptor Gerhard Marcks, Swiss painter Johannes Itten, German-American painter Lyonel Feininger. Since Bauhaus was striving to detach from academics, it developed a specific compulsory preliminary course in metalwork, weaving, pottery, furniture, typography, and wall painting to enable pupils to work with materials, to be acquainted with the characteristics of colors and forms. Johannes Itten enhanced the pedagogical and aesthetic ideas by establishing a structural approach to the study and use of color based primarily on the light-dark opposition. He followed in his teaching the ideas of Franz Cižek and Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel, the influential ideas of the Blaue Reiter group in Munich and the work of Austrian Expressionist Oskar Kokoschka. Hungarian designer László Moholy-Nagy introduced the New Objectivity. He ensured the acceptance of graphic design into the Bauhaus curriculum. German painter, sculptor, and designer Oskar Schlemmer, Swiss painter Paul Klee and Painter Wassily Kandinsky received a call to join them. In 1922, Dutch painter Theo van Doesburg moved to Weimar to promote De Stijl ("The Style"), and Russian Constructivist artist and architect El Lissitzky came to lecture at the school.
1924 The Council of Masters at Bauhaus and Architect Gropius announced the closure of the Bauhaus in Weimar. The Social Democrats had lost control of the state parliament of the German state of Thuringia to the Nationalists, and the Ministry of Education cut the school's funding for the Bauhaus in Weimar in half. 1925 the school moved to Dessau into its recently completed building. The building forms represented the fusion of technical, social, and aesthetic requirements the school had aimed at. The first department of Architecture was established.

Change of Location

Together with the change of the location, remarkable changes in the direction of the school took place. Dutch architect Mart Stam executed the newly founded architectural program. Hannes Meyer followed him and secured two building commissions for the Bauhaus. As a radical functionalist, Hannes Meyer took a more scientific approach to teaching. He criticized the program of the Bauhaus as being too formalist, and demanded the exclusion of aesthetic criteria. Herbert Bayer, Marcel Breuer and other long-time instructors left Bauhaus. Hannes Meyer had allowed the formation of communist student organizations. Soon Bauhaus got the stamp as a front for communists and social liberals. Long before Nazi Party came to power in 1933 Bauhaus was labeled as “None German.” Hannes Meyer and a number of his students emigrated from Germany to the Soviet Union in 1930. 1930 Mies von der Rohe became the new director of Bauhaus. In September 1932, National socialists became the strongest party in Dessau and forced Bauhaus to move to Berlin. Mies van der Rohe continued running Bauhaus as a private institution in Berlin. In 1933, National socialists expelled Mies van der Rohe, and Bauhaus dissolved itself under the political pressure.


Most of the prominent Bauhaus Masters and Students emigrated during following years to the USA, Great Britain, France , Switzerland, Netherlands and others and infused worldwide the Bauhaus ideas into architecture and arts. They carried the ideas and set them into practice again.
Johannes Itten’s color wheel found incorporation into many other artistic fields including computer operating systems. Moholy-Nagy left for America and formed the New Bauhaus, later called the Institute of Design. Josef Alber’s book “Interaction of Color” is a standard textbook in art classrooms. Herbert Bayer developed exhibition techniques and commercial art as a profession; Hannes Meyer became director of the Institute of Urban Planning in Mexico in 1939. Mies van der Rohe settled in Chicago and became head of the architecture school at Chicago's Armour Institute of Technology. The philosophy of architect Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Erich Mendelssohn was implemented by the creations of their followers as Arieh Sharon, Zeev Rechter, Richard Kauffmann, Dov Karmi in Isreal and Genia Averbuch in Palestina. Max Bill, a former Bauhaus, student helped to found the Technical College for Design in Germany reflecting the principles of functionalism. Eliot Noys another Bauhaus student developed the IBM Corporate Identity with Paul Rand.
When observing design lines and trends today in all fields of interior design as well as architecture and urban planning one can trace ideas developed by Bauhaus.

Different Purposes

Bauhaus buildings in Dessau offered space for different purposes in the years that followed. In 1945, bombshells destroyed few houses. Since the reconstruction in 1976, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, a public institution, runs the house and offers an international and interdisciplinary post-graduate program for designers, urban planners, and architects. It is an extra-mural program for professionals whose work involves aspects of urban research and urban design. It undertakes research, lectures, and exhibitions on topics as “colors on the Bauhaus buildings”; “young peoples built the future”; “functionalism.”
UNESCO World Heritage foundation honored the international significance of the Bauhaus by its registration in 1996.

Bauhaus 2009

In 2009, Germany celebrated the 90th birthday of Bauhaus movement with an impressive series of exhibitions and quality events at Bauhaus Museum New Museum Weimar, Schiller Museum, and Goethe National Museum in Weimar. The exhibition Bauhaus – A Conceptual Model in Berlin’s Gropius House drew 17 000 visitors, the first week after opening. Designers and producers took the occasion bring Bauhaus classics back to the market. Bauhaus spirit lives on in schools of design, architecture, and urban planning

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
16th Oct 2010 (#)

great info, their design was impeccable example of good taste.

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author avatar James R. Coffey
16th Oct 2010 (#)

Very interesting subject. Very good article!

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