What 14-year period, Adolf Hitler, who once was

is Bauhaus?

Bauhaus is much more than the
German school of design and applied arts which was established by Walter
Gropius in 1919 (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2017). Bauhaus fundamentally changed
and rethought the world of design, it completely changed the perception of what
‘good’ design looked like.

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in the Era of Bauhaus.

Bauhaus was established after the
end of World War I, the year when the treaty of Versailles was signed (BBC
News, 2017). It was a confusing time politically and economically which lead to
global depression and mass unemployment. Restorations of the towns and cities
were underway (BBC News, 2017), this gave architects and designers the chance
to rethink and transform the streets of Germany: a change which the Bauhaus
academy was encouraging. Hitler’s party was unofficially formed in 1919 when a
gang of unemployed soldiers with a similar political ideology unified
(Fcit.usf.edu, 2005). In a 14-year period, Adolf Hitler, who once was an
obscure corporal became the chancellor of Germany (Fcit.usf.edu, 2005). The
National Socialists came into power in 1933 (BBC News, 2017), the same year
that Bauhaus was shut down by the very same party (Bauhaus.de, 2018). It is
clear that the Nazis felt threatened by Bauhaus and the design movement it had
created. Bauhaus represented a vision and ideology which was the complete
opposite to the National Socialist party. The Nazi dictatorship was an
anti-intellectual movement which put the supreme dictator in the limelight as
the only source of inspiration (Cook, 2017). Bauhaus was a collaborative,
modernist movement, whereas the Nazis promoted a nationalistic and nostalgic



the ‘Bauhaus way’.

Bauhaus taught cosmopolitan,
avant-garde principles. It taught its students how design and functionality go
together hand in hand (The Art Story, 2018). In the previous era design was
heavily embellished, focusing on grandeur in order to establish one’s social
class (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2017). Bauhaus design stripped down each
element to its bare essentials, utilising easily accessible industrial ‘raw’
materials such as steel, concrete and glass to achieve simplicity and geometric
purity. Minimalism was important, as well as designing a product fit for its
purpose. The result is harsh and austere but aesthetically pleasing nonetheless
(Cook, 2017).

Aim of Bauhaus.

When looking for functional design,
we often overlook the possibility for aesthetic appeal. The main aim of Bauhaus
and its thinkers was to bring art back into contact with everyday life. At the
time, fine art was regarded as the superior branch of art, applied arts were not
given the same significance. Bringing economic awareness to design meant that
good design and aesthetics could be made accessible for all, not just the rich
and culturally dominant (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2017). The school provided
its pupils with foundation training in a wide range of art and design
disciplines (The Art Story, 2018). Not only did it promote a collective
creative environment, but it also helped its students gain an understanding of
mass production, which was a fundamental part of the curriculum.


I shall be analysing the work of
three designers which were crucial to the widespread of the Bauhaus ideology.

I shall be looking at the work of:

–       Walter Gropius, the founder of
Bauhaus and architect of the Dessau Campus.

–       Marcel Breuer, head of the
carpentry department at the Bauhaus school; designed the ‘Wassily Chair’

László Moholy-Nagy, printer and photographer as well as a
professor at Bauhaus.




sculptors, painters, we must all get back to craft! … The artist is a
heightened manifestation of the craftsman. … Let us form … a new guild of
craftsmen without class divisions that set out to raise an arrogant barrier
between craftsmen and artists!”-Walter Gropius


and architect of the Bauhaus and its campus in Dessau, Germany, Gropius
designed a campus which embodied the values and principles that Bauhaus stood
for (Bauhaus-dessau.de, 2017). It was a modern, cosmopolitan and minimalist
building which proved very controversial in a narrow-minded, strict German



Dessau, a classic German city, funded Gropius
to build the new Bauhaus school. The city was not a particularly well-known place;
however, it was an important industrial centre making it the perfect fit for
the Bauhaus ideology and aesthetic (Dessau-Roßlau, 2017). Walter Gropius was given free rein, the new Bauhaus
would be situated on a generous plot on the outskirts of the city. This allowed
Gropius to provide his students with the perfect creative space without any
limitations. Workshops, lecture theatres, offices for the professors and
accommodation for both the students and teachers were built between 1925-1926
and then inaugurated on December 4th 1926 (Bauhaus100.de,2017).


The building was not a pure geometric form as
many would have expected, it was purposefully asymmetric in order to house all
the different workshops, creative spaces and social spaces separately while
simultaneously maintaining a link between them, further reinforcing the
collective feel the school had. The space was self-sufficient, Bauhaus had
everything you needed to live contained with it, it was its own community, you
could spend days without going outside of its premises. This concept quickly
became very popular, this may have even influenced the increasing popularity in
high rise buildings and its communities in Europe in the 1970s (The
Conversation, 2016). You could live, work, socialise and create all in the same
place (ArchDaily, 2010).


The building could not be understood from a
singular angle, it requires individuals to move around it to understand its elements
and eventually piece them together like a puzzle to gain a coherent idea of its
design. It encourages a more dynamic approach to art, rather than the passive
and static way we are used to. Art needs to be experienced not only looked at. The entrance of the building is not
obvious nor grand, acting like a defence mechanism, not making it transparent
to the public how the building can be entered- a similar design to the Barbican
Estate in London which I studied and captured photographically in my personal

The glass façade of the higher academy for
the arts, contained the Bauhaus workshops (ArchDaily, 2010) and was undoubtedly
the show stopping feature of Walter Gropius’ design. Walter had experimented
before with large glass features as part of his designs, a famous example being
the Fagus Factory which was awarded a UNESCO title (Centre, 2017). Dessau
Bauhaus was his most ambitious project yet, he played with the laws of physics
to create a full glass façade that was wrapped around two of the faces of the
workshop wing and was not obstructed by any other elements. The glass provided
a sense of liberty, students were not confined to four walls, it was a metaphor
for the creative freedom the students had at the Bauhaus. If the cubist,
geometric and minimalist elements of Gropius’ design weren’t enough to
emphasise the non-conformist ideology that the academy supported, the glass
façade would put this message across loud and clear. A brave and hopeful
message at first, maybe a little too brave considering that the National
Socialists felt the need to shut down this institution.


In regard to the interior design of the
building, Gropius yet again took a pure minimalist approach. The space was big,
bright and clean, he wanted to put emphasis on the creativity that was ongoing
within the school and celebrate the work of the students. The skeleton of the
building and its industrial materials (steel pillars, nuts and bolts) were not
hidden, on the contrary they became the centrepiece of the building’s interior.
Even to this day, it is believed that we should conceal these element, Gropius
took a bold stand by revealing them. The endless windows offered light in the
open spaces of the school which inspired photographers and videographers as
well as providing transparency.

“Through the vast windows one can stand
outside and watch a man at work, or a man at rest in his private life. The
construction of each element is clear, no bolts are hidden, all metal work is
revealed. … one is strongly tempted to judge this sincerity on a moral
level.” – Adolf Erman





















am as much interested in the smallest detail as in the whole structure”-Marcel

Marcel Breuer, a Hungarian designer who began
as a student at Bauhaus (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2017). Walter Gropius
recognized his talent and very quickly promoted him to a teacher role; Breuer
was given the role of head of the carpentry department (The Art Story, 2018).  Breuer had a huge influence on the direction
of the Bauhaus movement, from designing the furniture inside the school to his
most well-known work: The Wassily chair.

The Club chair model B3 gained its more well-known
name ‘Wassily Chair’ in the 1960s when the chair was relaunched. It was a
tribute to Wassily Kandinsky, one of Breuer’s colleagues at the Bauhaus (The
Art Story, 2018). This chair has become a symbol of modernism and the best well
known item of furniture to have come from the Bauhaus movement.




The chair is made from tubular stainless
steel and leather, Breuer was inspired by the frame of a bicycle. He was also
inspired by the Russian Constructivist movement that took place around 1915 (The
Art Story, 2018).


“In the new order of society…there will no
longer be small groups producing luxuries for a restricted stratum of society,
but…work will be done by everyone for everyone.”-El Lissitzky, artist part
of the constructivist movement.


His minimalist design meant that it could be
reproduced with ease and speed- this one of the ways that the Bauhaus tried to
make its design accessible for everyone. The chair at first was fairly cost
effective to produce, making good design affordable for many. As it became more
popular, it then became more expensive and out of reach for the working
class-this was never Breuer’s intent. In fact, when he had first designed the
chair he was disappointed that it hadn’t taken off as he had hoped, he wanted
to see his design in the working man’s home. Unfortunately, his design was not
understood, it was too modern for its time and the general public disliked it
(Euromaxx, 2010).


The chair features only the bare essentials,
a lot of the chair consists of empty space making the person sitting in it look
like they are floating. One of the reasons why it was disliked and
misunderstood may have been because it could make the individual sitting in it
feel exposed and not secure. The leather rectangular elements look as if they
are suspended in mid-air. Only when looking closely, one can understand that
these leather rectangles are joined by the steel structure, as it reflects its
surroundings and may not be evidently visible. The user of the chair may
question its stability and how a simple structure such as this one could be
strong enough to support the weight of a human. When shopping for furniture, we
seek comfort; the Wassily chair did not cater for this at first sight.


furniture was bulky and occupied a large amount of space. The Wassily chair has
a discreet, seamless look.  Its angular,
tilted elements create an almost abstract combination, it doesn’t become an
object until it is being used to fulfil its purpose. When placed in an equally
minimal, modern space, the chair doesn’t seem to occupy space. The presence of
the chair is only indicated when light hits it and its shadows are cast on the floor.












László Moholy-Nagy

“Designing is not a profession but an
attitude. …It is the organization of materials and processes in the most
productive way, in a harmonious balance of all elements necessary for a certain
function. It is the integration of technological, social, and economical
requirements, biological necessities, and the psychological effects of
materials, shape, colour, volume and space.”-

László Moholy-Nagy



Moholy-Nagy was a
multimedia visual artist, he worked within many disciplines: painting,
photography, set and stage design, advertising, industrial design, film,
collage and sculpture (Guggenheim.org, 2018). His style was influenced by
Dadaism, Suprematism and Constructivism (The Art Story, 2018). He moved between
mediums with fluidity (Guggenheim.org, 2018), this gave his work a new depth, a
deeper understanding of how fine art and applied art could intertwine. Walter
Gropius invited Moholy-Nagy to teach at the Bauhaus, he accepted (The Art
Story, 2018). Moholy-Nagy was passionate about the power of education and the
influence it could have.



The work of Moholy-Nagy was centred around light.
Transparency, opacity, light and dark, shadows, distortion, shine and glare. He
manipulated light to create complex, eye catching compositions. In combination
with the manipulation of light he utilised industrial objects and technology to
create a juxtaposition between the natural and the man made, a combination
which works together beautifully.



Composition A 19 (1927) was one of the more
traditional mediums (Oil on Canvas) that Moholy-Nagy utilised (The Art Story,
2018). It is one of Moholy-Nagy’s first abstract paintings, undoubtedly
inspired by the suprematist movement. The compositions of Kazimir Malevich seem
to have influenced this work.

Both works feature a collection of geometric
forms in complimentary colours and hues. These geometric elements work together
to create a sense of balance and calm within a big, bold and busy composition.  


The way in which Moholy-Nagy’s work differs
to the work of Malevich is again, the use of light. Personally, I believe that
Composition A 19 is more profound than the one by Malevich. Moholy-Nagy has
taken his work one step further by experimenting with form and its
transparency. Translucent layers overlap each other to create new forms and new
colours. The more you look at the composition, the more variations and other
compositions you will see within it.


Clear leading lines exist within the
composition. Long, diagonal rectangles from each corner of the painting
intersect to create a diamond shape in the middle, bottom third of the piece.
The white tinted, translucent circle in the top left corner of the piece
highlights the lines and geometric shapes within it. The grey tinted ‘negative
space’ acts as the pacifier of this bold composition, bringing balance to the


Clean minimal lines in combination with
geometric clutter balance each other out and create a busy yet organised view.
This piece reminds me of the rise of new cosmopolitan cities, it could be a
representation of the industrial boom and the new exciting technology that came
with it. The circle could be a metaphor for the Nazis and how their ideology
limited us at this time of new exciting opportunities and confined creative,
avant-garde minds to nostalgic principles and aesthetics.














Bauhaus unquestionably altered design
and our attitudes towards applied arts forever. Its visual impacts can be seen
in our everyday lives, from the design of the buildings we find in our cities
to the design of the domestic appliances we use in our homes.


 Seamlessness, functionality and minimalism are
the new chic. The pioneering ideas of the Bauhaus thinkers were ground breaking
for their time. 100 years later, these designs have become the new norm, our
society has finally caught up. Low end and high-end home wear brands produce Bauhaus
inspired objects. This is further implementing the way in which the Bauhaus thinkers
wanted us to live our lives, stylishly and efficiently. We can see the
influence of Bauhaus in brands such as ‘ikea’ and ‘flying tiger’, these are
brands which are accessible to all due to their low price point. Although it wasn’t
the intent of Bauhaus to produce expensive design, the innovative thinking of
this school influenced the ostentatious brands also. Put in perspective, the
fact that the ‘pretentious’ designers which cater for the rich and culturally
dominant took inspiration from Bauhaus, is a huge compliment. We can also see
the influence of Bauhaus in the architecture of the high-rise buildings which
are flourishing daily in our cities. The evident industrial materials and large
glass façades are prominent elements of the
Bauhaus movement. One way or another, Bauhaus has made its way into our lives
through its unique modern visuals as well as through the efficient lifestyles
we have adopted.


Bauhaus achieved what it set out
to do, after the Nazis closed its doors in 1933 the Bauhaus ideology was being
spread wider and faster than before. Marcel Breuer continued his work in Europe
and László Moholy-Nagy began his own design school in the United States. If anything, the Nazis
encouraged the omnipresence of the Bauhaus ideology. Bauhaus-style design
(‘good design’) has become available to everyone!






















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