Paving the way for modern design – what exactly is Bauhaus?
“An idea is the only thing that can come this far.” – Mies van der Rohe, last director of the Bauhaus school
Even 100 years after its founding, Bauhaus is still synonymous with an unmistakeable air of understated coolness and modern practicality. A movement founded in 1919 in Weimar – initially conceived as an experiment to bring together the arts and architecture – developed into one of Germany’s most influential styles – in spite of the fact that the art school itself only existed for 14 years.
After the opulence of the 19th century design world, Bauhaus translated a vision of minimalist contemporary design into reality.
Form follows function – what is Bauhaus?
Understated, simple, minimalist – these are all words that people often associate with Bauhaus style. But there is no single, one-size-fits-all definition for this ground-breaking design style. In fact, the movement is more about a series of style directions that sprung from the original Bauhaus concept. Walter Gropius, architect and founder of the Bauhaus school in Weimar, believed that all objects should be simple, beautiful, functional and accessible to all – and this definition of design is what continues to influence designers right up to the present day.
Why is the Bauhaus style so unique?
Gropius wanted to bring industry, science and art together, applying expressionist principles to his work: His simple, symmetrical designs, unusual materials and artistic flair still form the basic cornerstones of contemporary Bauhaus style.
The world of architecture is where the Bauhaus school really made its break-through into modern design, with revolutionary Bauhaus architects pioneering the use of new construction materials such as steel, glass and concrete. They also developed the first industrialised residential buildings to house people from the less privileged sections of society.
The iconic designers – and designs – of the Bauhaus movement
Designs like Marcel Breuer’s tubular steel furniture and Marianne Brandt’s famous ashtray were born of a desire for uncomplicated and straightforward design. The iconic design of modern Bauhaus – the legendary Wagenfeld lamp by Wilhelm Wagenfeld – is still known as the “Bauhaus lamp” and sold under this name. But all Bauhaus designs have one thing in common: They strive to reconcile existing concepts with a new, artistic interpretation of the status quo.
Streamlined geometric shapes in complementary colours were conceived to save art from industrialisation. Even today, cult design classics like Marcel Breuer’s cantilever chair or the “Barcelona Chair” by Mies van der Rohe are still produced in huge volumes. They have also inspired other designs, such as the “Pipe” desk and chair by Munich-based designer Konstantin Grcic.
100 years of Bauhaus – a truly timeless style
The actual “school of building” behind the Bauhaus movement existed for a total of just 14 years: As the original “Staatliches Bauhaus” in Weimar, as the “School of Design” in Dessau and as a private learning institution in Berlin. In spite of its short-lived existence, the ideas of the school and its students have endured long beyond the life of the organisation to the present day. In 2019, Bauhaus is celebrating its centenary.
Today, Bauhaus continues to make an impact in the worlds of architecture, performance art, photography, painting and sculptural art. Bauhaus concepts are enjoying a revival as a source of inspiration for designers and architects striving to create clear, urban and minimalist design for the masses.
The Bauhaus style divides opinion like no other – people either love it or hate it. Would you decorate your interior in a minimalist and streamlined style, or do you like things a little more flamboyant? Let us know in the comments!