The Bauhaus: A brief history 12.04.19

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Bauhaus Dessau IconThe Bauhaus in Dessau. Photo by Olaf


The Bauhaus, celebrating its 100-year anniversary, has had a disproportionate influence on history for the length of time it existed. Founded in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius, the school in Dessau, Germany, was responsible for architects, furniture designers and artists who went on to become some of the world’s most celebrated in their fields.

The central principles stemmed from the influence of the industrial age, with the focus, particularly in architecture and furniture design, being on the importance of function and how designing for function would in itself create a beautiful form.

Gropius started the school in Weimar in 1919 (now the site of a new museum about the movement), combining fine art and applied art into a single design school. Some of its most famous early attendees included Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, and in its earliest years it brought together art, performance design and applied arts, including pottery.

It was later in Dessau from 1925 that the school began to form its ideas around functionality and move away from decorative arts. The school and its famous masters’ houses were created using more industrial techniques, with the simple forms and straight lines that continued to influence modernists to come.

Bauhaus Dessau exterior ICON

Throughout its 15 years of existence, the Bauhaus created a new movement, away from Expressionistic and highly decorative design of the early 20th century to create simple but beautiful forms designed to be mass produced, with the aim of making quality design available to more than just the elite.

Though ultimately that aim was never realised, with the school breaking up and its members spreading around the world as the Nazis took power in 1933, its influence on modernism as a movement was extensive.

Key members of the school including Marcel Breuer, Mies van der Rohe, Anni and Josef Albers, many of whom went on to spread the school’s principles globally, through their own work and through education, influencing architecture, graphic design, art and furniture design for a century - and at least another to come.

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