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100 years of Bauhaus

In 1919, architect Walter Gropius opened a small school in Weimar, Germany, that soon became a breeding ground for a new aesthetic movement – the first school of modern architecture and design. This year, Germany is marking 100 years since the founding of the Bauhaus with a countrywide centenary celebration that promises to be ‘in true Bauhaus fashion: experimental, multifarious, transnational and radically contemporary,’ according to the umbrella organisation Bauhaus 100.

During its almost 14 years of existence, the Bauhaus revolutionised creative and artistic thinking and work worldwide.

Bauhaus Germany art
Dessau-Roßlau Bauhaus building (1925–26), Architect: Walter Gropius
Photo: © Tillmann Franzen, tillmannfranzen.com © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018

1919 – 1925: The early years in Weimar
The Berlin-born architect Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1919 as a school of design that worked along interdisciplinary lines, with an international outlook. Here, young artistically gifted men and women were to bring art, architecture and craftsmanship into optimal alliance and design the building as a synthesis of the arts. The diverse education began, at least in the early phase of the Bauhaus, with the preliminary course. Here, the Bauhaus students were taught how to work with materials based on educationally innovative and experimental methods…

1925 – 1932: The Dessau years
Due to financial problems of political origin, in 1925 the Bauhaus left Weimar, the city in which it was founded, and relocated to the up-and-coming industrial town of Dessau. Dessau was tempting because of the prospect of realising Gropius’ school building, now renowned worldwide as an icon of modernism, but even more so because the local industry promised a productive collaboration.
     The Staatliche Bauhaus Weimar was rather expressionistic and artistic in its outlook, with some esoteric tendencies. At the school of design in Dessau by contrast, the maxim ‘Art and technology – a new unity’ came to full fruition. From this point on, the focus was less on the individual work of art and more on the development of well-designed everyday products, which were to be manufactured in association with industry. The majority of the best-known products and buildings that continue to inform the image of the Bauhaus today were produced during this period, from Marcel Breuer’s tubular steel furniture and Marianne Brandt’s ashtray to the best-selling product, the Bauhaus wallpaper…

1932 – 1933: From Berlin into the world
For a single semester, Mies attempted to keep the Bauhaus going as a private institution in an old telephone factory in Berlin-Steglitz. But from April 1933, the National Socialists, by sealing the building, stopping the teaching staff’s pay and ultimately by cancelling the tenancy agreement, brought about the final collapse of the Bauhaus, the dissolution of which was announced in a circular by the third and last director on 10 August 1933. Thus the school was brought to an end – though its ideas lived on… 

To read more about 100 years of Bauhaus, purchase the February 2019 issue of Creative Feel or, to continue supporting our role in the South African arts and culture industry, subscribe to our monthly magazine from only R180.00 per year!