"If today's arts love the machine, technology and organization, if they aspire to precision and reject anything vague and dreamy, this implies an instinctive repudiation of chaos and a longing to find the form appropriate to our times."
The Bauhaus was the most influential modernist art school of the 20th century, one whose approach to teaching, and understanding art's relationship to society and technology, had a major impact both in Europe and the United States long after it closed. It was shaped by the 19th and early 20th centuries trends such asmovement, which had sought to level the distinction between fine and applied arts, and to reunite creativity and manufacturing. This is reflected in the romantic medievalism of the school's early years, in which it pictured itself as a kind of medieval crafts guild. But in the mid 1920s the medievalism gave way to a stress on uniting art and industrial design, and it was this which ultimately proved to be its most original and important achievement. The school is also renowned for its faculty, which included artists , , , and , architects and , and designer .
BAUHAUS KEY IDEAS
MOST IMPORTANT ART
Bauhaus building in Dessau, Germany (1919-1925)
Gropius's complex for the Bauhaus at Dessau has come to be seen as a landmark in modern, functionalist design. Although the design seems strongly unified from above, each element is clearly divided from the next, and on the ground it unfolds a wonderful succession of changing perspectives. The building consists of an asphalt tiled roof, steel framework, and reinforced concrete bricks to reduce noise and protect against the weather. In addition, a glass curtain wall – a feature that would come to be typical of modernist architecture - allows in ample quantities of light. Gropius created three wings that were arranged asymmetrically to connect different workshops and dormitories within the school. The asymmetry expressed the school's functionalist approach and yet retained an elegance that showed how beauty and practicality could be combined.
The Bauhaus, a German word meaning "house of building", was a school founded in 1919 in Weimar, Germany by architect. The school emerged out of late-19th-century desires to reunite the applied arts and manufacturing, and to reform education. These had given birth to several new schools of art and applied art throughout Germany, and it was out of two such schools that the new Bauhaus was born.
Gropius called for the school to show a new respect for craft and technique in all artistic media, and suggested a return to attitudes to art and craft once characteristic of the medieval age, before art and manufacturing had drifted far apart. Gropius envisioned the Bauhaus encompassing the totality of all artistic media, including fine art, industrial design, graphic design, typography, interior design, and architecture.
Concepts and Styles
Central to the school's operation was its original and influential curriculum. It was described by Gropius in the manner of a wheel diagram, with the outer ring representing the vorkurs, a six-month preliminary course, initiated by, which concentrated on practical formal analysis, in particular on the contrasting properties of forms, colors and materials. The two middle rings represented two three-year courses, the formlehre, focused on problems related to form, and werklehre, a practical workshop instruction that emphasized technical craft skills. These classes emphasized functionalism through simplified, geometric forms that allowed new designs to be reproduced with ease. At the center of the curriculum were courses specialized in building construction that led students to seek practicality and necessity through technological reproduction, with an emphasis on craft and workmanship that was lost in technological manufacturing. And the basic pedagogical approach was to eliminate competitive tendencies and to foster individual creative potential and a sense of community and shared purpose.
The creators of this program were a fabulously talented faculty that Gropius attracted. Avant-garde paintersand , and sculptor were among his first appointments. Itten would be particularly important: he was central to the creation of the Vorkurs, and his background in lent much of the tone to the early years of the school, including its emphasis on craft and its medievalism. Indeed, Itten's avant-gardism and Gropius's social concerns soon put them at odds. By the early 1920s, however, Gropius had won out; Itten left and was replaced by , who reformed vorkurs into a program that embraced technology and stressed its use for society. Other important appointments included , , , and .
In 1925, the Bauhaus moved to the German industrial town of Dessau, initiating its most fruitful period. Gropius designed a new building for the school, which has since come to be seen as a landmark of modern, functionalist architecture. It was also here that the school finally created a department of architecture, something that had been conspicuously lacking in an institution that had been premised on the union of the arts. But by 1928 Gropius was worn down by his work, and by the increasing battles with the school's critics, and he stood down, turning over the helm to Swiss architect. Meyer headed the architecture department, and, as an active communist, he incorporated his Marxist ideals through student organizations and classroom programs. The school continued to build in strength but criticism of Meyer's grew, and he was dismissed as director in 1930, and after local elections brought the Nazis to power in 1932, the school in Dessau was closed.
In the same year, 1932, it moved to Berlin, under the new direction of architect, an advocate of functionalism. He struggled with far poorer resources, and a faculty that had lost some of its brightest stars; he also tried to remove politics from the school's ethos, but when the Nazis came to power in 1933, the school was closed indefinitely.
The Bauhaus influence travelled along with its faculty.went on to teach at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, became Director of the College of Architecture, Planning and Design, at the Illinois Institute of Technology, began to teach at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, formed what became the Institute of Design in Chicago, and , a former Bauhaus student, opened the Institute of Design in Ulm, Germany. The latter three were all important in spreading the Bauhaus philosophy: Moholy-Nagy and Albers were particularly important in refashioning that philosophy into one suited to the climate of a modern research university in a market-oriented culture; Bill, meanwhile, played a significant role in spreading throughout the world.
"The ultimate aim of all artistic activity is building! ... Architects, sculptors, painters, we must all get back to craft! ... The artist is a heightened manifestation of the craftsman. ... Let us form ... a new guild of craftsmen without the class divisions that set out to raise an arrogant barrier between craftsmen and artists! ... Let us together create the new building of the future which will be all in one: architecture and sculpture and painting."
"Designing is not a profession but an attitude. Design has many connotations. It is the organization of materials and processes in the most productive way, in a harmonious balance of all elements necessary for a certain function. It is the integration of technological, social, and economical requirements, biological necessities, and the psychological effects of materials, shape, color, volume and space. Thinking in relationships."
"I consider morals and aesthetics one and the same, for they cover only one impulse, one drive inherent in our consciousness - to bring our life and all our actions into a satisfactory relationship with the events of the world as our consciousness wants it to be, in harmony with our life and according to the laws of consciousness itself."
"Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into space."
Mies van der Rohe
Bauhaus BOOKS AND ONLINE RESOURCES
By Barry Bergdoll, Leah Dickerman, Benjamin Buchloh, Brigid Doherty
Bauhaus 1919-1933 (Taschen 25)
By Bauhaus Archiv, Magdalena Droste
The Bauhaus: 1919-1933: Reform and Avant-Garde (Basic Art Series)
By Magdalena Droste
The Bauhaus Group: Six Masters of Modernism
By Nicholas Fox Weber
Bauhaus (World of Art)
By Frank Whitford
From Bauhaus to Our House
By Tom Wolfe
How Bauhaus Was Shaped Into Greatness
By Alice Rawsthorn
Bauhaus: Ninety Years of Inspiration
By Sharon Ross
The Face of the Twentieth Century: Bauhaus