Bauhaus, for many, has been one of the most influential, if not the most influential modernist art schools of the last century. Modern art has been shaped by a range of genres from Surrealism to Abstract Expressionism but each of these heavily centred around painting. It was not until the Bauhaus movement that a wider range of mediums were utilised, with new materials and disciplines realised.
Throughout the 1920’s and 30’s, Bauhaus took over the European art scene with pieces in the form of graphic art, paintings, architectural masterpieces and interior design. The influence of the movement has spread across the world and though originally being closely tied to Germany, it has gone on to inspire artists from all walks of life.
What is Bauhaus?
Originally founded by German Architect Walter Gropius, Bauhaus originated as a German school of Art in the early 20th century. Translated, the term means ‘building house’ which from the German meant ‘school of building’ and despite its architect founder, it did not initially have an architecture department. The idea behind Bauhaus was that work would be created utilising all the arts, including architecture. As such, Bauhaus has gone onto have an inordinate influence on a full range of creative fields such as architecture, art, graphic design, interior design, typography and industrial design.
How can you differentiate Bauhaus from other designs?
To begin to understand what the defining characteristics of a Bauhaus design are, it is first important to acknowledge the motivations behind its creation. The 19th century bred a time of fear and anxiety due the soullessness of manufacturing and its products coupled with the fear over the loss of art’s purpose in society. The creative and manufacturing industries were moving further apart during this time and it was the aim of Bauhaus to once again reunite the two to replenish the products used in everyday life.
So how do you define Bauhaus design? For many the descriptor would be ‘ultra-contemporary’ but for others this is too vague. Many place importance in analysing the output of those who taught and studied in the school and despite the work being very varied, there are elements which tie it all together. Key descriptors of the work would be minimalist, anti-ornate, geometric all whilst having a distinct juxtaposing mass-produced aesthetic despite its hand-crafted nature.
Arguably, Bauhaus design aims to solve the functional issues of everyday products whilst keeping any traditionally decorative aspects to a minimum. Many often confuse this characteristic with the purely minimalist aesthetic which almost ironically hinders the functionality of an object for the sake of its appearance. If Bauhaus were to be described, it would likely be ‘less is more’.
Iconic Bauhaus Designs
The Bauhaus movement gave birth to countless iconic designs but some of the most widely recognised are often the chairs. Arguably the most famous Bauhaus chair design would have to be The Wassily Chair, designed in 1925 by Marcel Breuer. This chair perfectly encapsulates the ways in which Bauhaus elegantly brought the world, easy designs with an innovative use of materials. The design was based on something as simple as a Bicycle frame and was recreated into a steel framed, leather seated chair which was comfy, easy to move and easy to manufacture. It is a design which completely changed the shape of modern furniture in ways which we undoubtedly still experience today.
Moving away from chairs, another easily recognisable Bauhaus piece would have to be Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s Bauhaus Lamp. Designed in 1924, this lamp without question is the most iconic lighting piece to come from the movement, which is why it is named as such. A culmination of perfectly smooth metal and glass, this piece follows the idea that form follows function. It is simple, geometric and again, a manufacturing masterpiece.
Bauhaus architecture can be experienced across the globe, but it is most prevalent in Germany where the founder of the school Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer first designed the Fagus Factory. Built in 1911, this was the founder’s first major project and would pave the way for architectural modernism. The idea of form follows function was strictly adhered to in this masterpiece as can be seen with the large almost floor to ceiling factory windows. Workers were able to experience a constant stream of natural light with this design, something rarely seen in factories at this time.
Will Bauhaus fall out of fashion?
‘Fashion’ is a relative term and for many Bauhaus never has fallen out of fashion as everyday we see the influences of this movement recreated time and time again in art, architecture, interior design, all the way down to the everyday consumer products.
In 1933 when The Bauhaus was forced to close down due to increasing pressure from the Nazi Party in power at the time, many thought the movement would end there but it continued to thrive. Members of the Bauhaus inevitably emigrated abroad, taking the fundamental ideas with them which led to the creation of a New Bauhaus location in Chicago during 1937 where new mediums were integrated. It wasn’t until after the end of the Second World War that Bauhaus began its return to Germany where it faced a new division through the West and East of Germany. Whilst the West were eager to ‘to improve the quality, form and usefulness of consumer goods that are manufactured in Germany’, the GDR in the East did not welcome back the movement. But, after many years, in the late 70’s and 80’s Bauhaus was finally restored to its former glory and celebrated under a new Eastern ministry.
Despite its turbulent history, wherever The Bauhaus was situated was unimportant as it is more than a building or a place, it is an idea. Its influence has spread across the globe for almost a century and it will continue to live on long past the demolition of its iconic architecture. Above all else, Bauhaus can be seen in its fundamental core methods and ideas more so than it ever will be in any physical works.