Culture & Art

Mar 1, 2017

HISTORY OF BAUHAUS - UTOPIA, THEORY, DESIGN

Born from the ashes of World War I, it is not yet possible to go around the importance that its 14 years of existence have brought to the world, under a radical concept for its time: re-imagine all materials in the world and reunite them around all kinds of art.

This was the vision German architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969) shared, when opening activity of the one would be the most revolutionary school ever, in the field of arts and design: Bauhaus, in Weimar, Germany (in German, Bau Haus, means "building a house"). Thus was born a guild of artists which combined many disciplines such as architecture, sculpture and painting, into a singular creative expression.

During its short existing period, Gropius developed a project where he would gather craftsmen and designers, able to build useful objects for daily use and which, at the same time, would ally aesthetic concepts, skilled drawing of form and really objective and practical functions.

The industrial school Bauhaus combined elements which came from the fine-arts up to design. The new students who had to pass through curricular tests, came from different educational areas and social status, and dedicated to disciplines such as theory of colour, social relationship, technical drawing or history of materials. These courses where lectured by known artist of that time, such as Paul Klee (Switzerland, 1879-1940), Vasily Kandinsky (Russia, 1866-1944) or Josef Albers (Germany, 1888-1976).

After these preliminary courses, students were sent to workshops where they would specialize in crafts such as metalworks, cabinetmaking, weaving, pottery, typography and wall painting.

Even though the original Gropius purpose was the union of several arts through crafts, it soon proven to be unprofitable. Therefore, keeping focus on craftsmanship, from 1923 on, the main objective changed to the production of the original pieces to an industrial scale. It is so that the concept changes into" art to industry".

At Dessau, Germany, in 1925, Gropius opened a new building for the school, which he had designed himself. Nowadays, many of the modern techniques and trends used in architecture, are born with this building, with a construction based on steel frames and glass walls, all assembled on an asymmetrical plan for further expansion and efficiency of the use the space logic.

Walter Gropius would step out of the art school management in 1928, and gave place to Hannes Meyer (Switzerland, 1889-1954), another architect, who maintained focus industrializing the projects. Slowly, he introduced a new line of thought which would focus more on the peoples wellbeing, instead of creating highly luxury and expensive products. Advertising and photography continued to grow importance in the school curriculum, under his management, which would become short.

In 1930, Meyer gave his place to the third architect in management of the flagship school: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (Germany, 1886-1969), who reshaped curriculum, placing back special emphasis on the architecture area and set new school courses, such as photography, fine-arts and construction.

Given the political and social German situation, he moved the school to Berlin and it would be him to close the school in 1933.

Workshops

Cabinetmaking workshop, directed by Marcel Breuer (Hungary, 1902-1981) became one of the most popular, between 1924 and 1928. The studio set a new concept for furniture, by deconstructing the classic chair concept (for example), reducing it to a minimal structure. It was his idea that chairs would be substituted by simple lean back columns, in air suspension. Inspired by tubular structure of the bicycle in which he moved every day, the studio developed metal structures, very light and ready for production in a large scale. Some of them, equipped the studios at the Dessau building.

Naturally, this studio worked very close to the metalwork workshop, building very succeeded prototypes, ready mass production. In this studio, studied designers like Marianne Brandt (Germany, 1893-1983), Wilhelm Wagenfeld (Germany, 1900-1990) and Christian Dell (Germany, 1893-1974), who created wonderful modern pieces, such as table and room lamps, or tables bases. These pieces were always included into the school areas of Bauhaus.

Brandt was the first woman to enter the metalwork class and later came to substitute the first director of the course, Laszló Moholy-Nagi (Hungary, 1895-1946), in 1928. Many of her projects became aesthetical icons of the Bauhaus school, highlighting for her tea set, sculptural and geometrical in silver and ebony which, even though it has never been produced at larger scale, is a reflection of the influence of her mentor, Moholy-Nagy, and the focus of the school to produce industry shapes.

At weaving, especially during the direction of Gunta Stöltz (Germany, 1897-1983), the class created decorative fabrics suitable for the decoration of the school environment. Beyond the theory of colour study, Stöltz encouraged the students to use less conventional materials such as cellophane, glass fibre and metal. The developed materials, generated the needed funds for the school's survival and, along with the wall painting class, they would come to ornament the building's interior spaces, creating abstract and polychromatic environments on the largest surfaces of the Institute.

At the beginning, the weaving class welcomed only women, as they were discouraged to enter the other classes of the school. This studio would generate a large part of the most prominent artists of modern age, including Anni Albers (Germany, 1899-1994), one of the most important fabric designer of our days, who kept creating new designs and innovating until the day of her death, in Connecticut, USA, and who, shortly after leaving Bauhaus, would marry Josef Albers, one of the school's propellers, since the early days.

The typography course wasn`t one of the most wanted, at the beginning of the school history, having won its interest and candidates only under the direction of Moholy-Nagi and the graphic designer Herbert Bayer (Austria, 1900-1985). By the time, typography was essentially seen as a merely thumb way to communicate through a clear artistic expression. But shortly after, it would become recognized as an essential element of the communicational visual identity of the school itself. The usage of sans serif typefaces, along with rather graphic images were an inspiration to the avant-garde movement (1969-1970).

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