Das Bauhaus Jeremy Hart German Civilization 2320 Professors Cook, Kopp, and Prager March 6, 2013 The Bauhaus, a revolutionary school of art and craft founded by Walter Gropius in 1919, stands today as an important influence on postmodern art and architecture. It is also the namesake of its own movement; which is characterized by severely economic and geometric designs and a functional view of materials. To truly understand the origins of the Bauhaus and the importance of its modern implications, we must first know about the influences that its founder relied on. The Vienna Secession was formed in Austria in 1897.
The secessionist artists attempted to create their own style that had no clear relation to any historical eras. Paired with this avant-garde approach, they relied on more pure geometric designs to produce their art. The geometric approach to art proved to have lasting effects on Gropius and his contemporaries. The Werkbund was the German model of the Vienna Secession. Founded in 1907, the 12 artists and 12 industrialists who comprised it aimed to infuse industry with modern and functional designs. These designs would both foster efficiency and function and be free of traditional elements and ornamentation.
A leading artist in the Werkbund named Peter Behrens was Gropius’ mentor and employer. Along with Belgian painter Henry van de Velde, the two men were Gropius’ main influences in forming the Bauhaus. In the Bauhaus manifesto he wrote in 1919, Gropius vows to return artists to the deep seat of creativity that rests in the handicrafts, and bring together an unbiased consortium of artists who would dictate architectural style to the modern world: “By the grace of Heaven and in rare moments of inspiration which transcend the will, art may unconsciously blossom from the labour of is hand, but a base in handicrafts is essential to every artist. It is there that the original source of creativity lies. Let us therefore create a new guild of craftsmen without the class-distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsmen and artists! Let us desire, conceive, and create the new building of the future together. It will combine architecture, sculpture, and painting in a single form, and will one day rise towards the heavens from the hands of a million workers as the crystalline symbol of a new and coming faith. In the latter half of this passage, Gropius is expressing a Utopian vision that encompasses the general public: “…building of the future together…from the hands of a million workers. ” The new styles would not be just for artists, but their work would be accessible to everyone. The nature of the designs would be streamlined and simple to they could be mass-produced. The art would not only be of interest and use to a niche audience but to the majority, so they could appreciate its function and efficiency When the new conservative government of Weimar withdrew support for the Bauhaus in 1925, it found a new home in Dessau.
Out of the new home in Dessau came the radical changes in style and material of everyday items, such as tea infusers, office chairs, and table lamps. Most importantly perhaps, the Bauhaus in Dessau was the home of the first workshop for architecture, the key Gropius outlined in his manifesto that would serve as the medium for infusing function and creativity into everyday applications. The new architecture would be the first tangible contributions to industry. Prior to this point, Germany had been in the midst of a severe economic crisis brought on by World War I.
Now that there was money to be spent, new innovations in architecture began to become the standard in the modern industrial world. The first chance the new school had to prove itself, quite ironically, was by building itself. The school was to be constructed following mostly Gropius’ designs, now commonplace features of Bauhaus architecture: flat roofs, lack of ornamentation, and strict geometric lines. The first true revolution in architecture for which the Bauhaus is credited came in the form of the workers’ housing areas.
Architect and Gropius contemporary Ludwig Mies van der Rohe organized an exhibition for architects to design a modern solution for worker housing, with only one rule that each building have a flat roof. Unfortunately no groundbreaking design was hatched, but the designs helped change the culture of architecture forever. The Bauhaus was already establishing itself as a symbol of progressive art and architecture. Following the architectural and industrial boom in Germany, the Bauhaus relocated to America in 1933, fleeing Hitler and the Nazis.
New director Laszlo Moholy-Nagy founded the New Bauhaus in Chicago. The spirit of innovation that marked the original Bauhaus was just as prevalent here as New Bauhaus students developed breakthroughs in photography, film, and the use of materials. In America, the Bauhaus style is still influencing the gamut of industrial design, from towering skyscrapers that seem to be built entirely out of glass, to ‘wiggle chairs’ actually made completely of cardboard. Ultimately, postmodernists and modernists stand starkly opposed when it comes to the necessary attributes and function of designs and art.
Postmodern culture was born out of a disregard for modernist minimalism, arguably a style perpetuated if not championed by Bauhaus theory. So one can say modernism is the de facto reason for postmodernism’s existence. The practitioners of postmodernism sought to revive theories from previous centuries that appealed to the human need for comfort for the body and beauty for the eye. The true similarity between the two movements was the importance of function. Both schools of thought believed art and architecture specifically should serve to promote the building’s function. The true difference lies in aesthetics.
So in the same way we attribute postmodern styles to high art of years past, we can also attribute Bauhaus styles to the past. Gropius’ vision of a return to purer geometric forms, a proclivity for functional efficiency, and respect for materials exemplifies this. We see the strong disjunction between modern (Bauhaus) and postmodern style as the latter reacting to the former. Making this connection lets us argue that modernism and postmodernism are actually two aspects of the same movement, and thus shows us that the free-thinking, subjective aspects of postmodernism owe their creation to the logical, analytical aspects of its predecessor.
Works Referenced Bauhaus Museum. www. bauhausmuseum. com/history/manifesto Bauhaus School. March 4, 2013. http://thebauhaus. org/thebauhaus/ Chicago Bauhaus and Beyond. March 4, 2013. www. chicagobauhausbeyond. org Exhibit Bauhaus. March 4, 2013. http://bengal. missouri. edu/~kuhlerd/art327/index. html Roger Cook. Class notes. http://germanciv. missouri. edu/2320/bauhaus/index. html