The Christian Science Monitor : 2019-02-11
35 : 35 : 35
By Carol Strickland / Contributor IT’S NO EXAGGERATION TO SAY the Bauhaus movement profoundly shaped our built environment and the products we use every day. From the midcentury modern chair you sit on, to the gooseneck lamp on your desk, to the graphic font used in the magazine you read, the Bauhaus is in your house. In fact, the name comes from the German words
(to build) and (house). This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus, which was first a revolutionary design school and today lives on in the imaginations of artists and designers all over the world. Today’s designers work in “brainswarming” labs and create handson prototypes, fulfilling Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius’s call for a “new type of worker for craft and industry, who has an equal command of both technology and form.”
Linking craft and artful design to industrial production was a Bauhaus innovation with an egalitarian purpose. High-quality furnishings like Marcel Breuer’s tubular- steel chair – inspired by his bicycle’s handlebars – were, and still are, produced in large numbers. Mass production extended the benefits of good design not just to the elite but to the public in general.
To mark the centenary of this radical school of art, architecture, and design, exhibitions are happening not only across Germany where the Bauhaus was born but in Japan, China, Israel, Brazil, Russia, the Netherlands, and the United States. Inaugurated in the city of Weimar in 1919, the school lasted just 14 years – until the Nazis shut it down in 1933. But what the Bauhaus lacked in duration, it made up for in the durability of its ideas.
Since the Bauhaus school evolved in three locations (Weimar, Dessau, and Berlin) under three directors (Gropius, Hannes Meyer, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe), defining its essence is difficult. Laura Muir, curator of the exhibition “The Bauhaus and Harvard” (on display through July 28 at Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Mass.), describes the key viewpoint as “starting from zero and not looking back at the past.”
Jeffery Mau, adjunct faculty member at Chicago’s Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology, adds: “The idea was to bring together people from all backgrounds professionally and culturally to build the future.” wanted to study painting or sculpture first had to learn technical skills like carpentry and pottery. Before specializing, every student learned crafts like metalworking, theater design, and weaving.
Team teaching was another innovation, with both a master artisan and a master artist participating in each workshop. Talk about star power: The dream faculty included Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, László Moholy-Nagy, Lyonel Feininger, Josef Albers, and Breuer, all avant-garde artists whose work became synonymous with modernism. These Bauhaus teachers threw out traditional methods of art instruction like so many empty tubes of paint. No longer were aspiring artists forced to imitate Old Masters and historical models.
Bauhaus students and masters worked side by side. To discover properties and possibilities of materials like wood or metal, they assembled and transformed bits and pieces into original forms. As New York’s Museum of Modern Art curator of design Juliet Kinchin says, “They had a passionate and positive engagement with design in the workshops, which encouraged experimentation and open-ended thinking.”
This learning through hands- on experience “is still the foundation of how a studio is taught,” said Amale Andraos, dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.
The stress on versatility anticipated a necessity of design today: flexibility. In a digital world of rapidly mutating technology, learning basic principles and then applying them in new contexts is mandatory. “There’s no manual,” says Michael Hendrix, partner in the global design firm Ideo. “You learn as you go.”
The focus on playing with materials is a crucial component, according to Mr. Hendrix.
“To be creative, you have to be happy,” he says. “Play is how we discover new things, and the Bauhaus actually adopted that.” The Bauhaus hosted rowdy parties, zany dances, and a house band. Today, table tennis and hoverboards abound on the campuses of high-tech companies.
Another Bauhaus contribution that remains relevant is the insistence that basic, functional form matters. “We should credit the Bauhaus with the awareness that simplicity and honesty of form are values that survive as design principles,” says Steven Eppinger, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of product development and innovation. “If we didn’t start with the Bauhaus, we would never have gotten where we are today.”
Another way Bauhaus ideals survive is the emphasis on cooperation with diverse partners. “Design is an intrinsically collaborative process,” Ms. Kinchin explains. “Designers work with imaginative manufacturers, retailers, and advertisers who all contribute to the bauen haus COURTESY OF HARVARD ART MUSEUMS COURTESY OF HARVARD ART MUSEUMS Anni Albers came to the Bauhaus to study painting; she became an accomplished textile designer. Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s design uses industrial-inspired materials; versions of this lamp are still being sold. DESIGN FOR A RUG (1927): LAMP (1924): NO DISTINCTION BETWEEN ART AND CRAFT One revolutionary concept that still permeates art schools and design firms today is a multidisciplinary workshop approach. In devising the Bauhaus curriculum, Gropius erased the hierarchical distinction between fine and applied art so that even a student who VBAUHAUS SEE NEXT PAGE THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY FEBRUARY 11, 2019 35 | PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PRESSREADER PressReader.com +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW
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