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October 6, 2010

Back in my Frank Lloyd Wright phase, I came across the term Bauhaus. Bauhaus is German for “House of Building” or “Building School.”

Indeed it was, the Staaliches Bauhuas was a school in Germany that combined crafts and the fine arts from 1919 to 1933. The school was located in three different German cities, eventually closing it’s doors under pressure from the Nazi regime.

But with it’s legacy we have:

The Gropius door handle. Walter Gropius was the founder of the Bauhaus school. His original goal was “to create a new guild of craftsmen, without the class distinctions which raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist.” But at the end of the war, his style in architecture and consumer goods was to be functional, cheap and consistent with mass production. Gropius wanted to reunite art and craft to arrive at high-end functional products with artistic pretensions. Gropius later went on to work at the Harvard School, where his instruction produced such architects as I.M.Pei and Philip Johnson.

The second director of the Bauhaus was Hannes Meyer, who was responsible for two important building commissions for the school. He also said this:

“1. sex life, 2. sleeping habits, 3. pets, 4. gardening, 5. personal hygiene, 6. weather protection, 7. hygiene in the home, 8. car maintenance, 9. cooking, 10. heating, 11. exposure to the sun, 12. services – these are the only motives when building a house. We examine the daily routine of everyone who lives in the house and this gives us the functional diagram – the functional diagram and the economic programme are the determining principles of the building project.”

yellow_blue_red (1926)

Wassily Kandinsky, Russian painter and art theorist, and a Bauhaus professor from 1922-33. It’s a bit shameful but my only real knowledge of Kandinsky is what I learned in Six Degrees of Separation. However, Kandinsky taught the basic design class for beginners and the course on advanced theory. Geometrical elements took on increasing importance in his teaching as well as in his painting.

One of the main objectives of the Bauhaus was to unify art, craft, and technology. The machine was considered a positive element, and therefore industrial and product design were important components.

image via Ebay

The Cantilever chair, designed by Marcel Breuer and Mart Stam during this time period, is an important example of 20th century design.

Buckminster Fuller exhibit via Black Mountain

But my favorite story coming out of Bauhaus was that of Black Mountain College, nestled right in the NC mountains. The radical school was owned and operated by the faculty, and they believed the the study and practice of art were indispensable aspects of a student’s general liberal arts education. Josef Albers was hired as the first art teacher and many of the schools faculty or alumni went on to succeed in their field (Cy Twombly, Robert De Niro Sr.). The college is now a museum and art center.



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