100 Years of Bauhaus – then and now

Germany is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Bauhaus in 2019

First established in Weimar in 1919, Bauhaus moved to Dessau and eventually Berlin, where it was dissolved in 1933 by the directors and staff, as a consequence of the political climate of the day. Although the school lasted only 14 years, the architecture, art and design that was created by Bauhaus can be seen all across Germany and is still influential around the world to this day.

Background

Weimar: 1919-1925. The famous Bauhaus art school was founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919. By 1923, the school had already made a name for itself and the high calibre artists Gropius appointed as masters at the Bauhaus Weimar included Gerhard Marcks, Lyonel Feininger, Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, Oskar Schlemmer, Wassily Kandinsky and László Moholy-Nagy. Following a change in local politics in 1925, the Bauhaus moved to Dessau.

Dessau: 1926-1931 the majority of the products and buildings that still define the image of the Bauhaus today were created in Dessau. The famous Bauhaus Building – designed by Walter Gropius in cooperation with the Bauhaus workshops – opened in 1926 and is still open today as a museum and education centre. You can even stay there. Gropius also designed the masters’ houses which are now open to the public. However, the city of Dessau passed a resolution to close the Bauhaus in Dessau in September 1932.

Berlin: 1931-1933 The move to Berlin was organised by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who was the third Bauhaus director from 1930, following on from Walter Gropius and Hannes Meyer. In October 1931, the Bauhaus masters and students resumed their work in an abandoned telephone factory in Berlin-Steglitz. However, the premises were searched and sealed by the police and the SA on 11th April 1933. In the process, 32 students were arrested. A reopening would only have been possible under conditions dictated by the political powers of the day, unacceptable to Mies van der Rohe and the teaching staff. The Bauhaus was dissolved on 20th July 1933. A commemorative plaque now stands on Birkbuschstraße 49, near the Bauhaus’s last place of activity, a building which no longer exists.

The Bauhaus story is not only found in these cities – the influence can be seen all over Germany and the GNTB is inviting culturally minded travellers to explore the ‘Birthplace of Modernism’ throughout Germany and discover the lasting legacy of Bauhaus.

Works

In addition to architecture and interiors, the Bauhaus influence was seen in everyday items such as ashtrays, theatrical props, puppets and photograms to tubular steel furniture and balcony access blocks. There was a constantly growing encyclopaedia of works throughout the Bauhaus year, many of which can now be seen at Bauhaus institutions in Weimar, Dessau and Berlin

Advertising and Printing

The Bauhaus influence was seen through advertising campaigns, in designs for commerce and trade fairs, book covers, catalogues.

Architecture and Design

Is there one particular ’Bauhaus Style’? Gropius promoted flexible and cost-efficient building by means of prefabricated components, Meyer’s buildings focused entirely on meeting their residents’ needs. By contrast, Mies van der Rohe was mainly concerned with removing boundaries between the interior and the exterior. The results vary strongly. Just as the buildings of the three directors are very different from one another, the buildings of students and masters are not consistent in style.

Ceramics, homeware and textiles

Bauhaus was incorporated into ceramics, glass and textiles. Many of the original ‘homeware’ objects designed throughout the Bauhaus period have become design classics; the famous table-lamp by Jucker/Wagenfeld, metal works by Marianne Brandt, numerous furniture-pieces by Marcel Breuer, ceramics by Wilhelm Bogler and Otto Lindig, including a functional kitchen set for the ‘Haus am Horn’, a mocha pot and the famous weaving workshops. Many of these pieces can be seen today at the Bauhaus Stiftung in Weimar, where the collection has grown to hold around 11,000 exhibits, including the famous Bauhaus cradle by Peter Keler. The collection also includes paintings, prints, craft works and design objects, as well as study pieces from teaching work at the Bauhaus and documents on the Bauhaus years in Weimar, from 1919 to 1925. It is supplemented by a major collection on the creative work of Henry van de Velde and his School of Arts and Crafts and on the State School of Crafts and Architecture, headed by Otto Bartning, from 1926 to 1930

Stage

The Bauhaus stage performances were said to have been legendary; an arena for interdisciplinary experimentation. Students of all fields were to participate in the stage workshop, to explore the methods of stage work. With the move into the new school building in Dessau in 1926, the Bauhaus gained a “house-stage” of its own. Although there had been a stage workshop in Weimar from 1921, “we [...] had to give our productions on a sort of dubious suburban podium there”. In Dessau the stage workshop had rooms for its rehearsals and performances – most of which were to take place in the context of the Bauhaus parties The Bauhaus was also seen in design, props and promotional materials. For Bauhaus, the very buildings were considered a ‘stage’. Today Bauhaus is still enacted in theatre and dance performances, influenced by the famous ‘Triadic Ballet’, performances of which will be staged across Germany in a variety of venues, during 2019.
Bauhaus in the UK and Ireland: Extended Influence

Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius at RIBA (Royal Association of British Architects, London): Walter Gropius was awarded the Royal Gold Medal by RIBA in 1956 – RIBA’s highest award possible and which must be approved by the Queen – in recognition of a lifetime’s work and contribution to architecture. RIBA holds original Walter Gropius designs and correspondence, plus original text of some of his speeches among other things, which can be accessed by the public through the RIBA library and collections.

Brutalist or beautiful? Several iconic landmarks can be seen in the UK, with a direct connection to Bauhaus and the influence of the modernist movement:
  • The Lawn Road Flats (Isokon Building) Hampstead, London: A residential building in the modernist style; it opened in 1934 and was the home of Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer and Hungarian-born architect Lazslo Moholy-Nagy, who all lived at Lawn Road in the years before the War. It is now listed by English Heritage. The Isokon gallery is still open to this day, in Hampstead.
  • 2 Willow Road, Hampstead London: Private residence of the Hungarian modernist architect Erno Goldfinger, who moved to London in the 1930s. The house is now in the care of the National Trust. Goldfinger was also commissioned by the then London County Council to design social housing. Other examples include Trellick Tower in West London and the Brownfield Estate in East London.
  • Barbican Centre, London: The Barbican centre in London is another example of modernist, Bauhaus inspired architecture. The centre offers architectural tours which refer to the influence of modernist design, which continues to this day. Walter Gropius’ relationship with Alma Mahler is also highlighted in a current exhibition at the Barbican, ‘Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde’, continuing until 27 January 2019.
  • Bauhaus Influence in Ireland: Irish Architect Robin Walker is the only Irish architect to have worked for le Corbusier and during the 20th century, studied and subsequently taught under the direction of Bauhaus professor Mies van der Rohe, in the USA before returning to Ireland. He worked with renowned architect Michael Scott on several buildings throughout Ireland, some of which can still be seen today.
What does Bauhaus mean today? Exhibitions and events in 2019
  • How can the historical Bauhaus provide impetus for the present and the future? How do we want to live? How do we want to shape our daily lives, our residences, our social existence? These questions, first asked at the foundation of Bauhaus are still relevant today.
  • The Bauhaus was an idea that made a name for itself not just in Germany, but worldwide. It was the integration of art and the applied arts, architecture and design, dance and theatre.
  • A comprehensive programme of international events will show the lasting effects of Bauhaus and its influence which can be seen not only in these creative fields but in the way we live today. Examples include:
  • ‘Better Living in Altona’ – exhibition in Hamburg until June 2019 “City Development in the 20th and 21st Century”
  • ‘Making Futures Bauhaus+’ – a global action research project initiated in 2018 as a cooperation between the ‘Raumlabor’ and the Berlin University of the Arts on the occasion of the Bauhaus’ centenary, which will result in a summer academy in Berlin in September 2019.
  • ‘Tasting Tomorrow’ – exhibition in Halle showing a modern interpretation on the relationship between people, porcelain and their food.

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