Bauhaus was an art and design school founded in 1919 in Weimar which operated later on in Dessau and Berlin until 1933. It’s full German name was Staatliche Bauhaus, „State Building House”.
Bauhaus was an indeed unconventional school. It’s logical program, transition between different fields of study, combination of theory and practice in the curriculum, direct contact between lecturers and students made it special and unique at its time. Students had the possibility to try themselves out in a number of various fields of study before choosing one as a concentration. This methodology became a norm of numerous schools in the 20th century.
Bauhaus functioned as a true talent pool. School founder Walter Gropius had a good sense of choice at finding colleagues to teach. The Russian Wassily Kandinsky, the Hungarian László Moholy-Nagy, Swiss Paul Klee, German Ludwig Mies van der Rohe taught at the school for a shorter or longer period of time. Among the workshop leaders we can also find world famous characters such as the Hungarian Marcel Breuer architect-designer or the Austrian Herbert Bayer.
ABauhaus was innovative in various fields of design or could it unfold results of current innovations. Herbert Bayer created here Bauhaus’ universal typography – with no upper case, so did Marcel Breuer his lightweight tubular-steel frames furniture design and Gunta Stölzl experimentalized here with synthetic fabrics in his workshop.
First thing that comes to one’s mind for Bauhaus is the school building in Dessau. Financed by the city it was finished in 1926-27 and in its functionality, material choices, mass formation and construction was such a pioneer that it looks like even today as if it was just inaugurated yesterday. As an icon of the 20th century modern architecture the building was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1996.
Although architecture studies started only in 1927 at Bauhaus school, it had the utmost importance in this field. Bauhaus continued the heritage of the pre-World War functional design and became the lead institution of „matter-of-fact” architecture. Architects spread the fame of the school from the US to Tel-Aviv.
Cradle of 20th century design is also Bauhaus, where we can find the roots of numerous innovations. The experimental school also influenced theatre, photography, film and even music.
The operation of the school was banned in 1933. László Moholy-Nagy tried to re-open it in 1937 in Chicago. Bauhaus-Archive treasures the richest collection of documents and artifacts related to the school, such as the heritage of Walter Gropius. In Weimar the school taken over by Gropius still operates under the name Bauhaus-Universität since 1996.
Bauhaus soon became a brand name as a synonym of simple forms, colours, puritan and functional approach. „Bauhaus” became an undisputed attribute in architecture, interior design, design and even in graphic design. When it comes to branding the best example is the German do it yourself store Bauhaus founded in 1960, that has nothing to do with the school (according to the official reasoning the name originates from the name of the founder, Heinz-Georg Baus).
Centenary of Bauhaus is celebrated worldwide in 2019. New museums are to be opened in Weimar and Dessau, the opening of the archive in Berlin is delayed and shall only be opened in 2022. Bauhaus Imaginista exhibition aims to map the influence of the school in Japan, Brazil and Moscow. Budapest100 joins the celebration by research and showcase of the values of the capital’s modern architecture.
Bauhaus is not a style-name, but also not only the umbrella of ideologies. It became a word commonly used as a synonym for modernity. Although this may be false from the perspective of architecture history, but it is not without precedent. „Baroque” was only used for music for centuries. „Stile Liberty” is the Italian equivalent of secession after the pioneer British interior design store Liberty & Co.. So when it comes to terminology, you are probably wrong, but no one would ever hurt you if you say: this building is so „bauhaus”.
How shall I find more on Bauhaus?
You can fill up full libraries with Bauhaus. In Hungarian we recommend the books of Nóra Pamer, Éva Bajkay, Krisztina Passuth and András Ferkai. On the occasion of the centenary, Bauhaus100 magazin has been launched – also in English and German, where you can also find the most important events.
Dániel Kovács, art historian
Cover page: Masters of Bauhaus in Dessau. Top row from the left: Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius, László Moholy-Nagy; next row: Josef Albers, Gunta Stölzl, Oskar Schlemmer, Wassily Kandinsky, Herbert Bayer and Hinnerk Scheper. Photo: Reinhardt Friedrich, 1926. Photo source: BAUHAUS-ARCHIV BERLIN