The Bauhaus was founded in Weimar, Germany in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969). Gropius sought to rethink the material world and aimed for the material to reflect the unity of all the arts: architecture, sculpture and painting. Gropius strove to create a unified style that brought together the three elements of art, design and industry.
Other masters and students of the school included artists and designers such as Paul Klee, László Moholy-Nagy, and Josef and Anni Albers. These individuals combined the know-how of traditional craftspeople with contemporary machine processes to create modernist pieces across all of the art forms.
Gropius wanted the function of material art and design creations to reflect the underlying nature of the object. In 1926 Gropius wrote in Bauhaus Dessau – Principles of Bauhaus Production: "An object is defined by its nature. In order, then, to design it to function correctly – a container, a chair, or a house – one must first of all study its nature: for it must serve its purpose perfectly, that is, it must fulfil its function usefully, be durable, economical, and 'beautiful.'"
The movement taught “truth to materials” as a central principle. They believed that material should be used in the most ‘honest’ way possible. In this way the nature of the material should not be modified in any way. For example, supportive materials such as steel should be exposed rather than hidden within the form of the furniture or building.
The Curriculum Of Bauhas
Gropius conceived of the curriculum in terms of a wheel diagram. The outer ring represented the vorkus a course designed by Johannes Itten. The course was intended to run for six-months and teach practical formal analysis, in particular contrasting properties of forms, colors and materials.
The two middle rings of the wheel represented two three-year courses formlehre and werklehre. Formlehre focused on problems related to form where werklehre was a practical workshop that taught technical craft skills.
The center of the wheel and the curriculum were courses specialized in building construction. The overall pedagogical approach was to nurture individual creative potential and minimize or eliminate competition.
Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus building
Gropius was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. As the Arts and Crafts movement had done, Gropius aimed to unite artists and craftspeople, furthermore he wanted arts and crafts people to embrace technological developments.
Gropius believed that building should be at the center of the teaching of all arts, an idea that was influenced by his own training as an architect. The name Bauhaus (House of Building) reflects Gropius’ belief.
Designed by Gropius the Bauhaus had a feeling of simplicity, clean lines and openness. The workshops, studios, offices, living spaces and classrooms were all contained within an asymmetrical structure. There is a glass curtain wall suspended in front of the load-bearing framework which defines the exterior of the workshop wing. This structure reveals the constructive elements of the wall. The Bauhaus style of architecture became known as the ‘international style’. This style was to have a great influence on future designers and architects.
Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Gropius stepped down as director of the Bauhaus in 1928 and was succeeded by architect Hannes Meyer (1889-1954) Meyer emphasized mass-producible design. In 1932 the Bauhaus moved to Berlin under the new direction of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Rohe advocated functionalism.
Emigration to the United States
During the dangerous years of World War 2 many of the influential people in the Bauhaus emigrated to the United states. The ideas and teaching philosophies of these individuals had a great influence on a generation of young architects and designers in the United States.
The idea of being true to one’s materials and to craft your product in accordance with the essential nature of the materials was key to Bauhaus thought. These ideas and the clean lines and simple style of Bauhaus influenced many subsequent generations.