As the Bauhaus celebrates its 100 year anniversary, it’s obvious that it’s style influence has had a very profound impact on our day to day living. Its ethos and approach to design formulated a framework and thinking process that has developed into concepts such as open plan living and the clean, sleek, ergonomic tech that sits in our pockets today. Pretty amazing for an experimental art school that only in existence for 12 years in the 1920’s.
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As a brief history
Founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar Germany where it taught a collective art curriculum from 1919 to 1933, it moved to Danca in 1925 and then onto Berlin in 1932 with the directorship being held by Hannes Meyer and then Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Its aim was to unify art, craft, and technology to create a ‘total work of art’, Gesamtkunstwerk.
In very political and turbulent times Gropius said that Bauhaus should be entirely apolitical. He was also heavily influenced by the 19th-century English designer William Morris, who had argued that art should meet the needs of society and that there should be no distinction between form and function. The teachings and style of the Bauhaus rejected the decadence of styles like Art Nouveau and was identified by the harmony between the function of an object or a building and its design.
The school was forced to close under pressure by the Nazi party in 1933 which scattered its faculty and students across the world and disseminated its ethos. The Bauhaus style went on to become one of the most influential currents in modern design, and heavily influenced developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography.
It feels worlds apart but it is evident in two of the worlds biggest brands that the Bauhaus has had a profound influence. Apple, with its unmistakable crisp and clean functionality and Ikea’s ergonomic attitude to shaping our living spaces.
The teaching of Colour Theory at the Bauhaus can be attributed to the vibrant patterns and art prints that the students created. Four artists and tutors, Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Josef Albers encouraged students to look at the relationship between colour, contrasting hue, light and dark, warmth coolness, saturation amongst others. The Art of Colour by Johannes Itten is still in print today and is said to be the forerunner of contemporary colour theory.
Architecture seemed to be the prominent creative output of the Bauhaus, partly due to the three directors being architects. Its work by students during their time at the school and after, have become a powerful stylistic force on modern architecture that still very much resonates today.
Pulling all these elements together, it is easy to see the influential reach that the art school has had, our houses are full of it from modern furniture design to minimalist open plan living, the way in which we use colour on walls and how it will influence our mood and decisions.
So it is definitely worth celebrating and possibly reflecting on how fundamental this experimental institution has been to us and our lives. It is often said that art and craft are simply an aesthetic that is there to entertain, not sustain, but it is evident that when people are allowed to explore concepts and theories without boundaries or inhibitions then some of the most powerful and far-reaching ideas in design can be created. At a time when funding is being cut and art, creativity and free thinking is slowly being eradicated from our education system, maybe it’s not just time to celebrate, but to look really closely and find a way to replicate this astonishing window in our history.