A look back at Bauhaus: The school that changed design forever
There are moments in history when a convergence of ideas, people, culture and technology creates a movement that can change the world around it. The Bauhaus was one of these. It challenged the foundations and common perceptions of design, art and architecture. Although the Bauhaus school of design lasted little more than a decade, no other school of architecture or design has been as influential as the Bauhaus. This year marks the 100th anniversary since the Bauhaus school was founded in Weimar, Germany, leaving a durable mark on arts, design and architecture.
The Staatliches Bauhaus, commonly known as the Bauhaus, was founded in 1919 in the city of Weimar by German architect Walter Adolph Georg Gropius. Its objective was to reimagine the material world to reflect the unity of all the arts and the school became famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught. Bauhaus is more than geometric shapes and primary colors, more far ranging than the modern chairs and sleek office buildings it became known for. Bauhaus creations are functional, aesthetic-driven and object-based in response to industrialization and mass production. Architecture and design students came from a diverse range of social and educational backgrounds to create useful and beautiful objects and designs appropriate to a new system of living and creative expression.
The Bauhaus wasn’t limited by time or geography. The original school moved across three cities in Germany. In 1925, it moved to Dessau from Weimar, where Gropius designed a new building to house the school. This building contained many features that later became hallmarks of modernist architecture, including steel-frame construction, a glass curtain wall, and an asymmetrical, pinwheel plan. After the Nazi regime became the dominant political force in the city, Bauhaus then moved to Berlin in 1932 where it remained open only one year, officially dissolving in 1933 under pressure from the Nazis. However, the group continued to collaborate and spread their functionalist ideas.
During the turbulent years of World War II, many of the key figures of the Bauhaus — Walter Gropius, Marcel Lajos Breuer, Josef and Anni Albers, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe — emigrated to the United States, where their work and their teaching philosophies influenced generations of young architects and designers. The “New Bauhaus” was established by Hungarian painter and professor Moholy-Nagy in Chicago in 1937 at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). The school, which remains open, was renamed the IIT Institute of Design” in 1944. German-American architect Mies van der Rohe designed the campus and taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Hungarian architect Breuer and German architect Gropius taught at Harvard University. German designers Josef and Anni Albers taught at Black Mountain College, and later Josef taught at Yale University.
The influence of Bauhaus can be felt across the world today — its curriculum is still taught in architecture, design and art schools around the world — and later became one of the most influential currents in Modernist design, architecture, architectural education and art.
Click here to view a timeline of the Bauhaus and the many architectural designs it influenced and created.