How the Radical Buildings of the Bauhaus Revolutionized Architecture: A Short Introduction

When Ger­many lost World War I, it also lost its monar­chy. The con­sti­tu­tion for the new post­war Ger­man state was writ­ten and adopt­ed in the city of Weimar, giv­ing it the unof­fi­cial name of the Weimar Repub­lic. Free of monar­chi­cal cen­sor­ship, the Weimar Repub­lic saw, among oth­er upheavals, the flood­gates open for artis­tic exper­i­men­ta­tion in all areas of life. One of the most influ­en­tial aes­thet­ic move­ments of the era began in Weimar, where the Great Big Sto­ry short above opens. As the city gave birth to the Weimar Repub­lic, it also gave birth to the Bauhaus.

The Bauhaus, lit­er­al­ly “build­ing house,” was a school in two sens­es, both a move­ment and an actu­al insti­tu­tion. The style it advo­cat­ed, accord­ing to the video’s nar­ra­tor, “looked to strip build­ings from unnec­es­sary orna­ment and build the foun­da­tion of what is called mod­ern archi­tec­ture.” It was at Weimar Uni­ver­si­ty in 1919 that archi­tect Wal­ter Gropius found­ed the Bauhaus, and his office still stands there as a tes­ta­ment to the pow­er of “clean, sim­ple designs fit for the every­day life.” We also see the first offi­cial Bauhaus build­ing, Georg Muche’s Haus am Horn of 1923, and Gropius’ Bauhaus Dessau of 1925, which “amazed the world with its steel-frame con­struc­tion and asym­met­ri­cal plan.”

You can learn more about the Bauhaus’ prin­ci­ples in the video above, a chap­ter of an Open Uni­ver­si­ty series on design move­ments. As an edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tion, the Bauhaus “offered foun­da­tion train­ing in many art and design dis­ci­plines,” includ­ing mass pro­duc­tion, seek­ing to “devel­op stu­dents who could uni­fy art with craft while embrac­ing new tech­nol­o­gy.” Bauhaus thinkers believed that “good design required sim­plic­i­ty and geo­met­ric puri­ty,” which led to works of graph­ic design, fur­ni­ture, and espe­cial­ly archi­tec­ture that looked then like rad­i­cal, some­times hereti­cal depar­tures from tra­di­tion — but which to their cre­ators rep­re­sent­ed the future.

“Noth­ing dates faster than peo­ple’s fan­tasies about the future,” art crit­ic Robert Hugh­es once said, but some­how the fruits of the Bauhaus still look as mod­ern as they ever did. That holds true even now that the influ­ence of the Bauhaus man­i­fests in count­less ways in var­i­ous realms of art and design, though it had already made itself glob­al­ly felt when the school moved to Berlin in 1932. By that time, of course, Ger­many had anoth­er regime change com­ing, one that would denounce the Bauhaus as a branch of “degen­er­ate art” spread­ing the dis­ease of “cos­mopoli­tan mod­ernism.” The Gestapo shut it down in 1933, but thanks to the efforts of emi­grants like Gropius, Hannes Mey­er, and Lud­wig Mies van der Rohe, each of whom once led the school, the Bauhaus would live on.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Oral His­to­ry of the Bauhaus: Hear Rare Inter­views (in Eng­lish) with Wal­ter Gropius, Lud­wig Mies van der Rohe & More

Down­load Orig­i­nal Bauhaus Books & Jour­nals for Free: Gropius, Klee, Kandin­sky, Moholy-Nagy & More

32,000+ Bauhaus Art Objects Made Avail­able Online by Har­vard Muse­um Web­site

Bauhaus, Mod­ernism & Oth­er Design Move­ments Explained by New Ani­mat­ed Video Series

The Female Pio­neers of the Bauhaus Art Move­ment: Dis­cov­er Gertrud Arndt, Mar­i­anne Brandt, Anni Albers & Oth­er For­got­ten Inno­va­tors

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.