Bauhaus, in full Staatliches Bauhaus, was a school of design, architecture, and applied arts that existed in Germany from 1919 to 1933. The Bauhaus school was founded by a young architect Walter Gropius and was based in Weimar until 1925, Dessau through 1932, and Berlin in its final months.
The Bauhaus was founded with the idea of creating a 'total' work of art in which all arts, including architecture, would eventually be brought together. A severe but elegant geometric style carried out with great economy of means has been considered characteristic of the Bauhaus.
The Bauhaus style became one of the most influential currents in Modernist architecture and modern design. The Bauhaus had a profound influence upon subsequent developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design and typography.
Beginning in the mid-19th century, reformers led by the English designer William Morris had sought to neutralise the devastating consequences of mass production on the quality of produced goods by emphasizing high-quality handicrafts in combination with design appropriate to its purpose. These efforts had led to the Arts and Crafts Movement. While extending the Arts and Crafts attentiveness to good design for every aspect of daily living, the forward-looking Bauhaus rejected the Arts and Crafts emphasis on individually executed luxury objects. Realizing that machine production had to be the precondition of design if that effort was to have any impact in the 20th century, Gropius directed the school’s design efforts toward mass manufacture. On the example of Gropius’ ideal, modern designers have since thought in terms of producing functional and aesthetically pleasing objects for mass society rather than individual items for wealthy elite.
The Bauhaus was the first model of the modern art school. The Bauhaus curriculum combined theoretic education and practical training in the educational workshops. It drew inspiration from the ideals of the revolutionary art movements and design experiments of the early 20th century.
Before being admitted to the workshops, students at the Bauhaus were required to take a six-month preliminary course. The workshops — carpentry, metal, pottery, stained glass, wall painting, weaving, graphics and typography — were generally taught by two people: an artist (called the Form Master), who emphasized theory, and a craftsman, who emphasized techniques and technical processes.
The Bauhaus included among its faculty several outstanding artists of the 20th century. Some of its teachers were Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger, Oskar Schlemmer, Marcel Breuer, Herbert Bayer and László Moholy-Nagy.
In 1919, the economy in Germany was collapsing after the crushing World War I.
Architect Walter Gropius was appointed to help rebuild the country and form a new social order. Bauhaus called for a new, rational social housing for the workers. Its architects rejected bourgeois details such as cornices, eaves, and decorative details. They wanted to use principles of Classical architecture in their most pure form: without ornamentation of any kind.
Bauhaus buildings have flat roofs, smooth facades, and cubic shapes. Colours are white, grey, beige, or black. Floor plans are open and furniture is functional.
In its initial years, the Bauhaus held an Expressionist and utopian view of design, but it later moved toward a functionalist approach. Bauhaus artists and designers sought to achieve a new unity between art and technology and to create functional designs — often utilizing the pure forms of Modernism.
In 1923 the Hungarian Constructivist László Moholy-Nagy joined the faculty. Among his numerous contributions, Moholy-Nagy introduced a theoretical approach to visual communications. Important in his theory was the use of photomontage – a composite photographic image made by pasting or superimposing together different elements – as an illustrative medium. He also promoted the integration of words and images into one unified composition and the use of functional typography.
The Bauhaus design philosophy includes elemental forms shorn of ornaments, forms selected and arranged in order to serve a functional purpose (“clarity of information”) and a visual hierarchy of size and placement in descending prominence from the most important to secondary facts.
When the Nazis rose to power in Europe during the 1930s, Modernist experiments were denounced, and many artists, architects, and designers immigrated to the United States. This migration, along with their professional and teaching activities, would play a major role in shaping postwar American art and design. Very soon, during World War II, posters would be used once again as a major form of political propaganda.
The Bauhaus had far-reaching influence. Its workshop products were widely reproduced, and we can still witness a widespread acceptance of functional, unornamented designs for objects of daily use.
Bauhaus teaching methods and ideals were transmitted throughout the world by faculty and students. Today, nearly every art curriculum includes foundation courses in which, on the Bauhaus model, students learn about the fundamental elements of design. Among the best known of Bauhaus-inspired educational efforts was the New Bauhaus (later renamed the Institute of Design) in Chicago in 1937.