Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bauhaus - the origin of modern design

Post World War One in Germany was a culturally experimental time and out of this era came one of the most influential and important design movements of the 20th Century.

There is plenty of good info available on the web about the nitty gritty details about Bauhaus, but to put things really simply bauhaus was:

A Design and Aesthetic movement that embraced modern manufacture process to create high quality design pieces that were available to a wide group of people. Bauhaus had a very specific simple geometric aesthetic that did away with excess decoration, and got down to incorporating form and function into their pieces.

The Bauhaus set were design hardliners that changed aesthetics of the time from decorative artisan produced pieces to functional aesthetically pleasing pieces of design. Their sphere of influence included ceramics, graphic design, architecture, interior design, furniture design and fashion.

The most important European school of design and architecture in the 20th century was founded in Weimar by Walter Gropius in 1919. He gave his vision of the regeneration of humankind the programmatic title of the " Bauhaus”. Like the medieval cathedral stonemasons’ lodges, the school was intended to unite all the artisanal crafts under one roof: cabinetmaking, sculpture, workshops for metalworking, ceramics, mural painting, weaving, commercial artwork, photography and the Bauhaus theatre. A compulsory preparatory course helped students to throw overboard what they had previously learned in order to free their senses for a new visual and haptic exploration of the world.

Weimar - Dessau - Berlin

Gropius’ vision underpinned the Bauhaus during its short life through various periods of development and locations: the emphasis on craft production at Weimar, designing for modern industrial society at Dessau from 1925 as well as the more academic orientation of the curriculum under Mies van der Rohe in Berlin from 1932.
The National Socialists closed down the Bauhaus in the spring of 1933, but were unable to prevent its teachings, pedagogic innovation and its free, experimental spirit from being disseminated all over the world. The lifestyle aesthetic developed at the Bauhaus had a profound influence on the modern living environment. Many of its ideas, prototypes and everyday utilitarian objects have enjoyed unprecedented success over the past 80 years. Furniture designed at the school has become an icon of classic modern interior design.

Standard types

The „New Style of Living“, often designed with those living at the minimum existence level in mind, today still represents the standard for statefunded housing. The furniture for these „people’s apartments“ was standardized on Bauhaus production principles. According to Gropius, „….a good thing can only have one definitive solution, a standard type“. At first, the standard type was a unique individual piece. With the gradual reorientation of the Bauhaus towards technical production processes at the cutting edge of industrial development („Art and technology – a new unity“) it lost its individuality and from the middle of the 1920s came to be regarded as an element in a programme of furniture that could be combined at will.

Designers and Architects

The creators of this furniture were students from the cabinet-making and interior design workshop which students of architecture such as Marcel Breuer, Hin Bredendieck, Erich Brendel, Erich Dieckmann or Ferdinand Kramer also had to attend. Many important innovations – unit furniture, minimal interior design, tubular steel furniture – were developed by the directors of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, themselves. The new spirit of architecture evoked an open, uncluttered sense of space. The Bauhaus was the first school of design to take into account this visual and spatial reorientation.

With their functional designs for furniture that was easy to construct and dismantle and made from materials such as tubular steel, laminated bentwood and fabric woven from a specially developed extra-strong yarn known as "Eisengarn”, the designers and architects of the Bauhaus invented a universal language of design whose enduring success was based on its clarity and modernity of form.

Agood starting point to find out more is:

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